Increased accuracy, simplified monitoring, effective inventory management, improved customer experience — there are several benefits that barcodes entail for a business. These codes provide an easier way to track and store information, from individual items to large stocks of thousands or even millions of items, which in turn offers benefits over manually entering information.
But how do businesses create and use barcodes effectively?
Without ado, let us see how.
Firstly, let us understand barcodes, their components, and their types. A barcode, consisting of bars and spaces, is a machine-readable representation of numerals and characters that can be read with an optical barcode scanner.
Components of a Barcode
Quiet Zone: It is a blank margin located at either end of a barcode.
Start Character/Stop Character: These characters represent the start and the end of the data.
Check Digit: It is a digit for checking whether the encoded barcode data is correct.
Data: This part contains the main message or information on the code.
There are two major categories of barcode:
1D barcodes — These are one-dimensional barcodes. They consist of vertical lines of varying widths with specific gaps resulting in a particular pattern.
2D barcodes —These are two-dimensional barcodes and are more complex. They encode data generally in square or rectangular patterns of two dimensions.
Note: 2D barcodes can represent more data per unit area than 1D barcodes. Also, the 2D barcodes are relatively new barcode types and need support from more complex scanning devices.
Choosing the Right Barcodes for Your Business
There are more than thirty types of barcodes so picking the right one becomes crucial for any business. You can choose the right type of barcodes based on three parameters: the type of barcode scanner you will use, how you will print the data, and whether you fall under any industry standard that requires a specific barcode. Such as below:
Code 39: Automotive and defense
Bookland EAN-13: Book publishing
Code 128: Supply chain management
Codabar: Logistics and healthcare
Data Matrix: Electronics, government, and retail
Your barcode choice also depends on the size you need — Data Matrix barcodes can go on small items while Code 39 barcodes must be larger to scan correctly — and how much information it stores.
Creating Barcodes for Your Business
Step 1: Creating a Product Code
The first step in creating barcodes for your business is to register with Global Standard 1 to get a unique code for your company. This code can be used to identify and track products across the globe. After signing up for a GS1 prefix for your barcodes, you can create UPC or EAN barcodes one at a time by using an online generator, or you can create a printable list of CODE128 barcodes using Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.
A UPC is typically 12 digits long and used for external use. It can protect your company’s brand from theft, allow you to sell on Amazon, allow customers to access information about the product online, and they can be used in most inventory management systems.
You also have the option of using a custom SKU number for your products. SKU codes can be created manually or in inventory management software. A SKU is unique to a company, used for internal operations like keeping track of stock and are typically eight digits.
From there, you need to create a barcode for each product code. You can use an online barcode generator to create a barcode for free or utilize barcode software.
Step 2: Printing Your Barcodes
Next, you need to print your barcode. Most standard inkjet and laser printers can print barcodes with a label sheet. However, thermal printers are best for printing barcode labels. The recurring costs for thermal printers are much lower than inkjet and laser printers. Not only that, but thermal printers are very easy to maintain, have a longer run life compared to other printers, and are fast and quiet.
Step 3: Getting a Barcode Scanner or Barcode Scanner SDK (Software Development Kits)
Having barcodes won’t do a business much good if you don’t have a scanner to get the information from the barcode. There are a few different options when it comes to buying a barcode scanner.
If you are looking for mobility and flexibility, you can get a wireless scanner. These scanners require batteries, and you will need to ensure you always have backup batteries ready. There is also the option for a wired scanner. Wired scanners are usually more inexpensive than wireless, but they do not offer as much flexibility. The scanner will need to be plugged into an outlet and the computer that you are storing inventory information on.
However, wired, or wireless, handheld scanners only work well if you are a small business. But when a business has bigger business operations with a greater number of products and requires more data capturing, handheld scanners will not work. Big businesses will need a comprehensive barcode reader SDK. So, if you are one such business, you must consider the priorities and the features that matter most pre-integration factors while picking a barcode SDK for integration into your software. Here are some of such factors:
- How accurate is the recognition?
- How fast is it?
- How many barcode types does it recognize?
- How versatile is recognition?
- Is it easy to integrate?
- What programming languages does it support?
- Does it offer developer support?
Effectively Using Barcodes for Your Business
- Effective Product Tracking
The best way to utilize barcodes is to deploy them in your inventory management. It will help you to track goods throughout their life cycle, from manufacture to distribution to purchase to service and repair.
- Creative Marketing Campaigns
Consumers finally have learned how easy it is to scan Dynamic QR codes with a camera app on their mobile devices. Once scanned, codes can send the user to a PDF, landing page, or video, or prompt a text message conversation, and much more. This feature can be leveraged by you in attracting leads and converting more.
- No-error Inventory Management
Your warehouses, for example, can scan barcodes on packages as they enter and exit the facility to maintain a record of every package housed at the warehouse. When these packages arrive at retailers, store staff can scan the products as they go on shelves and compare those records with records of barcodes scanned at the register to maintain inventory data.
- Enhanced Shopping Experience
QR Codes can be displayed at almost any touchpoint in the retail environment, from product packaging to point-of-sale product displays, to standing banners. Utilizing these codes bridges the gap between the digital and in-store shopping experience very effectively, enhancing the customer journey and facilitating retailers’ opportunity to brand their customer experience initiatives.
Besides, there are other ways in which barcodes can be leveraged by businesses:
Asset Monitoring: Barcodes help track the movement of portable assets used by the employees in an organization.
Package Information: Logistics teams can use barcodes to get all information on the package by just scanning it. Document Identification: Barcodes can be used on invoices to store items, customer, and order-related information.
You may also use dynamic QR codes to track, analyze, and retarget your customers. All you need is a dynamic QR code generator.
Andrej Fedek is a digital marketer. He recently started his own blog about digital marketing called InterCool Studio. His passion is to help startups grow and thrive in a competitive environment.