Barcodes: Your complete guide


Barcodes: Your complete guide

Whether you’re looking to learn more about how barcodes work, want to get all the information on what barcodes can do to help your business or why you should use barcodes in the first place, our complete guide has all you need to get you started. Providing you with valuable insight into exactly why those little black and white bars are so important in the first place.


What is a barcode?

Defined by eCommerce giant Shopify as a ‘square or rectangular image consisting of a series of parallel black lines and white’, the humble barcode is often overlooked when it comes to product sales and business transactions; but with these images built in to practically every product’s packaging on the market, it’s more than just blank space. They’re the primary way to record sales of a product, requiring just a simple scanning system that takes seconds to complete.


How do barcodes work?

Two types of barcodes exist, both of which provide information when scanned with a scanner at checkout or in a store. This includes 1D, the very basics of barcode information that exist in almost every store, and 2D, that provides additional information on anything from price to quantity which requires a digital scanner or smartphone. Once scanned, data can be relayed into a store’s system to register it as purchased, returned or whatever else within an internal database.


What do the numbers mean on a barcode?

It’s all in the code – the numbers on a barcode represent the specific pattern of lines and spaces within the image itself, and these are known as an 8 or 13 digit GTIN. This code, below the image itself, is then displayed in a GS1 barcode – which known as an EAN-8 or EAN-13 barcode. These codes must be 100% accurate as any differences may lead to an item or product scanning differently, as advised by the GS1. Other codes include ISBN numbers, which are often used for books.


How are barcodes read?

In the majority of cases, barcodes are designed for use in point of sale – from corner shops to supermarkets, e-commerce to online marketplaces. This system allows them to be accurate to many different locations, with each product holding a unique code. The magic happens when the code itself is scanned, though – it’s at this point that those bars are decoded into a unique product profile, which acts as a key to grant access to extra information. The rest is all done internally, with the update of stock levels and the continuation of the sales process changing on a per-store basis. In cases where the barcode cannot be scanned, entering the code below can achieve the same results.


How can I get a barcode for my product?

There are a couple of options available to you if you wish to purchase a barcode for your product. The first is to purchase a brand new code through GS1, which is especially relevant for those who need to buy in bulk; as it requires you to sign up to the organisation in order to help standardise all codes before providing you with the identification codes you may use. The alternative is working with an authentic reseller for certain codes, such as EAN codes, with a full list of legitimate resellers available at the Authenticated UPC Registration Directory.


Why use barcodes?

For many businesses, it’s a natural choice, as it offers an easy and practical way to standardise your product details, which is especially applicable if you’re selling through multiple stores or even aiming to do so. It also gives you a practical way to register your full range of products in a similar way and further adds functionality to the packaging of your product. For some, it can seem more professional to include a barcode on their packaging, as it makes their product feel more legitimate. Whatever your reasoning, there are many benefits to using a standardised method, and barcodes are a readily accepted one.


How can I print barcodes for my products?

Often, barcodes are fully incorporated into the packaging for products, and can even be used in design elements to add to the overall feel of your product. There are two options to choose from in this case; either using a label that includes the barcode, alongside other information and details or to print a barcode separately. The most important thing is to ensure your printing is clear, easy to read and has excellent contrast, to ensure it scans the first time correctly.

If you’re looking for a company that can help you make barcode labels that look great, last the full-shelf life of your product and scan first time, every time, then Tanto Labels has all you need. Contact us today to find out more about our barcode labels printing service, and how we can help your packaging look professional and your barcodes on-brand.

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