Best Ways to Use Barcodes in Retail

barcode use in retail

The barcode has created a multi-billion-dollar market that is expected to continue four percent CAGR growth through 2021. Around now for decades, barcodes continue to create opportunities for usage. For example, nearly 30 million Internet users scanned a QR code on a smartphone in the Spring of 2017. The retail industry is one of many that relies on barcodes. So, what are some good ways to use barcodes in retail?

Use Already-Provided Barcodes

Amy McNulty points out on Chron.com to consider using the provided barcode to save time. Just about all packaged items a retailer sells comes with a barcode on the packaging. Still, there are retailers that want to use their own barcode over the top of existing barcodes. A lot of times this is to suit existing software requirements but, it obviously adds a lot of time spent on prepping barcodes. You must print your own, populate data, etc. It not only takes time, it adds to your retail costs.

By skipping the process of creating your own barcodes, you can eliminate additional hardware uses, the extra time of printing barcode labels and affixing them, and so on. Instead, try to get software that can adapt to using barcodes already provided.

QR Codes vs. 1D Barcodes

The 1D and 2D barcodes are the two major barcode types. The 1D barcode, or one-dimensional barcodes are linear barcodes made of vertical lines of varying widths with specific gaps. The 2D barcode, or two-dimensional barcodes, are more complex and encode data generally in square or rectangular patterns of two dimensions.

In general, 2D barcodes can represent more data per unit area and usually support a bigger character set than 1D barcodes. The QR code is a 2D barcode designed to allow high-speed component scanning. With a special barcode reader, it can decode up to 30 QR codes per second with up to 100 characters in each barcode.

The QR code has a high data density. It can encode 7,089 numbers or 4,296 English letters. It has four levels of error correction. Even if a QR code is damaged or broken, it can often still be read correctly. A comprehensive guide on barcodes is available here.

Embrace the QR Code to Provide Enhanced Experiences

Retailgeek wrote about Best Buy adopting QR codes in its stores. While it’s been a long time since this effort began, it’s still today something more brick and mortar retailers can use to help combat online sales. Best Buy likely understood that more and more consumers are doing research online before purchasing. By allowing customers to do the research in stores rather than leave to do it at home, perhaps the chance for a sale is increased.

As pointed out, Best Buy used the QR codes so customers could get detailed information about a product right from their smartphone. This includes being able to read consumer reviews or to compare features with similar products. You could even e-mail the information to yourself or a friend, business partner, etc. The QR codes are displayed on shelves, by where the product is located.

So, upon scanning a QR code customers are sent to a web-page that is optimized for smartphone use. Or, to the Best Buy app if you have one installed. Probably to entice people to install the app, it provides a slightly richer experience than a mobile web page.

Storefront Displays, Promotions or Giveaways

QR codes are now often used for storefront displays. You can place a QR code on a window, banner or sidewalk stand in front of a store. This can be useful in many ways. For example, customers can scan it to learn about special business hours during the holiday season. You might use it to send customers to a web page for store specials for the month.

Who doesn’t like a giveaway? Use QR codes in front of your store to entice customers to do more. Offer a giveaway to bring customers inside. For example, if you sell shoes, perhaps offer a free pair of socks with the purchase of a pair of shoes.

Once customers are inside the store, you can do even more. Use QR codes to provide a map of your store so customers can quickly find sections they need to go to. Like Best Buy did, you can use them to provide additional product information too.

Chain Store Age points out how Macy’s once used customized QR codes and texting for a campaign to deliver exclusive and engaging video content to users’ mobile phones. CSA also points to how Target did a QR code campaign for its home furnishing department. It worked on similar principles and embedded QR codes in national print advertisements.

The ability to link QR codes to enhanced content that supports product sales is almost endless. For pre-sales, you could link QR codes to favorable product reviews by third parties, whether an article or video review. For post-sales, if your product requires support, QR codes can be handy here too. For example, if the assembly or technical setup is required, link QR codes to instructions or video tutorials. This not only saves on paper expenses, it can reduce support incidents.

Barcodes have certainly been around a long time. Now, mobile technology has breathed new life into them. And, they still dominate usage in legacy applications such as inventory management. But QR codes and mobile technology have broadened the reach of barcode use. The retail industry is no stranger to barcode use over the years. If properly used, now barcodes in retail have infinitely many more uses.

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