Which Barcodes Are Right for Your Retail Business?

| Retail

choosing right barcode

In 1974, barcodes began to revolutionize the retail landscape. These innovative representations of data brought speed and efficiency to retailers spanning the globe. And the fact that we still use them as the primary identification method for products is a testament to how incredibly useful barcodes are in retail environments. But considering the vast number of barcode symbologies available today, many retailers struggle with finding the perfect barcode type for their unique needs and constraints. That’s where Scandit comes in.

As a leading developer of mobile data capture solutions, Scandit brings simplicity to the world of barcode scanning for the retail industry. Our barcode scanning software delivers peerless performance across Android, Windows and iOS platforms, transforming smart devices into enterprise-grade barcode scanners for retailers and their customers. We’re also proud to support retailers with all of the resources they need to understand and harness the full potential of the barcodes that appear on the products they sell. So today, we’ll be walking through the primary retail-compatible barcodes to help you find the best barcode symbologies for your business.

One-Dimensional (1D) Barcodes1D

barcodes use parallel lines with varying spacings and widths to represent product data. This barcode type encapsulates a number of unique codes that are suitable for different purposes. For example, UPC barcodes are used around the globe in retail environments for labeling and scanning consumer goods at points of sale. While these codes typically have twelve digits, they can use as few as eight, which is invaluable for retailers selling very small products. And while UPCs work exceptionally well with some retail products, they aren’t a catch-all scanning solution. Take Code 93 codes, for instance. These barcodes are typically used to identify retail inventory packages, employing shorter labels and additional security measures within the codes themselves to deliver optimal results.

Because they represent data in a linear fashion, 1D barcodes grow too wide when tasked with accommodating large, complex pieces of data. This can become problematic for retailers that need to mark incredibly small objects. And while we have seen a gradual shift toward 2D barcodes over the past decade or so, 1D barcodes bring a few important advantages to the table. The most significant difference is that one-dimensional barcodes can be processed using camera-based or traditional laser scanners, while 2D barcodes are only compatible with imagers.

Here’s a list of the main 1D barcodes used in retail, and their primary applications:

  • UPC Codes: Labeling & scanning consumer goods at retail points of sale
  • EAN Codes: Labeling & scanning consumer goods for point-of-sale scanning
  • Code 93 Codes: Used in logistics to ID packages in retail inventory
  • GS1 DataBar Codes: Identifying consumer coupons, produce and perishables


Two-Dimensional (2D) Barcodes

2D barcodes utilize specific patterns of dots, squares, hexagons and other geometric patterns to convey data. Unlike 1D codes, two-dimensional barcodes can contain hundreds upon hundreds of characters without compromising their small size, which makes them ideal for holding large amounts of data. 2D barcodes also offer a higher level of error correction than 1D codes, meaning that they can more reliably stand up to damage without sacrificing readability. Best of all, two-dimensional barcodes are highly flexible in terms of scan direction. This trait makes 2D barcodes a great choice in applications where users will be forced to scan products from various angles.

There are fewer types of 2D barcodes used in the retail industry compared to 1D codes, but they’re just as beneficial to modern enterprises. For example, QR barcodes are the perfect solution for tracking and marketing via magazines, advertisements or business cards. Then we have Data Matrix barcodes. This code type pairs a tiny footprint with high fault tolerance, making it a natural choice for labeling small products, such as minor electronic components. Both of these 2D code types have extremely fast readability, a huge boon for retailers striving to maximize processing efficiency.

Choosing the Right Barcode Types for Your Retail Needs

Now that you have a solid grasp on the retail barcode options at your disposal, it’s time to parse out exactly which symbologies suit your business best. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to choose between 1D or 2D barcode scanning; they aren’t mutually exclusive. Both approaches are a highly practical, cost-effective way to label and track items. It really just comes down to what types of data you need to encode and how your items will be scanned.

We recommend using UPC and EAN codes for any retail products that will be scanned at the point of sale. (The only meaningful difference between the two is that EAN codes are more prevalent in certain countries.) You’ll also want to think about which character sets your scanning operations will need to support. For instance, QR codes work best with alphanumeric characters. One of the most important considerations we’ve touched on is the size of your retail products. If you don’t have a wealth of space available, then you should prioritize Data Matrix, UPC-E (the six-digit UPC codes) or EAN-8 (the eight-digit EAN codes) barcodes due to their small size.

Make Retail Barcoding Simple With Scandit

Thinking through the points we discussed above will go a long way in guiding you toward the exact symbologies your retail business should look into. If you would like more information, then feel free to check out our eBook, Choosing the Best Barcode for Your Business. In this free resource, we dive even deeper into the common barcode types to identify which solutions can maximize the efficiency and profitability of your workflows.

If you need additional guidance or advice on the subject, then don’t hesitate to call or message Scandit. Our team is committed to positioning your enterprise for success, and helping you find the right barcode types for your specific requirements. You can also reach out if you’d like more information on our leading-edge data capture and retail management solutions. We look forward to hearing from you soon.