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Barcoding 101: How You Can Benefit From a Barcode System

Posted by Matthew KostaneckiLast Updated May 29th, 2024
— 8 minutes reading

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a business with stocked products that wouldn’t benefit from barcoding. Yet there are still quite a surprising number of companies that aren’t benefiting from the convenience and accuracy afforded by barcodes simply because they still operate on pen and paper or Microsoft Excel templates.

The most common objection is that a barcode system might be too expensive or difficult to implement.

Well, here’s something many people don’t know: not only is it inexpensive to set up a barcode system, it can be pretty easy to implement, too! Depending on your needs, a few hundred dollars could set you up with a complete system.

Why would you care about barcoding? Well, in a nutshell, it allows you to run your small business more accurately and efficiently, getting you ready for growth. You’ll look more professional too! Especially if you run a store and scan items at your checkout.

If you’d like a quick overview of some of the most widely used barcoding acronyms, then you can check out our barcoding glossary. Or, if you’re interested in a more in-depth look at how you can get started barcoding your small business, be sure to check out our Ultimate Barcoding Guide. It covers absolutely everything barcode related.

Barcoding will increase your inventory accuracy

Setting up a barcode system can dramatically increase your inventory accuracy. Barcodes on your items make them instantly readable to a computer paired with a scanner. It lets your computer do all the heavy lifting for you!

While computers aren’t perfect, they are significantly more accurate than any human ever could be. Studies show that even the best-trained data-entry person will make at least one mistake every 250 keystrokes.

But don’t just take our word for it — take our video, too! We’ve made a great three-minute video about how a barcode system can help your business:

How To Set Up A Barcode System | inFlow Inventory software

Save time and increase efficiency by scanning barcodes

Using barcodes allows you to process your inventory much faster than any other manual method. Think of the length of most universal product codes (UPCs), which are 12 characters or more. You could type those numbers into your system, or you could activate a scanner with one press of your finger and have the computer do the typing for you.

All of those saved keystrokes add up to a surprising amount of extra time for you to do other things for your business!

Barcodes allow you to grow your business easily

You might have just a few products now, but what happens when your inventory grows? By integrating a barcode system sooner rather than later, you’re building scalability into your business.

Scalability means the barcode system will work the same, regardless of whether you have one item, 100 items, or 10,000 items. A barcode system will help your company avoid growing pains as you add more products.

Having a barcode system also makes training new team members much more manageable. Instead of memorizing products and product descriptions to look up items, your new team member can quickly scan the product and have the computer bring up the relevant product details.

Products with barcodes look more professional

A good barcode system has a two-fold advantage: it increases your inventory accuracy and dramatically decreases the time a customer spends at checkout. A customer will have a better first impression if you can quickly and efficiently process their purchase using a scanner system instead of waiting while you manually type codes into a system at checkout.

An image of barcoded stock

How do I set up a complete barcoding system?

You can set up a complete barcoding system with just three items:

The initial setup cost for a complete system would start as low as $89/month for the software, $133 for a Dymo barcode printer, and $79.99 for a USB scanner.

If you’d like a complete overview of setting everything up, you can download our free ebook entitled “Barcode Your Small Business.” The book will walk you through the entire process in detail. For now, you can read on for a quick overview:

Generate your barcodes

In its simplest form, a barcode is just a picture that represents numbers, text, or both. A scanning device can read this picture, and the information is almost instantly transmitted to a computer.

You have two main options when it comes to setting up your small business items with barcodes. You can make your own barcodes using a barcode font (or web service like the one from ID Automation) or buy barcodes from a universal database such as UPCs.

If you’re using the barcode system internally, you can use any barcode type. The most common is named Code 3 of 9. You can generate Code 3 of 9 barcodes using an online barcode generator or a barcode font. You can print these on standard label stickers, stick them on your product, and you’re all set!

If you’re a manufacturer and want your products sold on Amazon or any big retailer, you must purchase registered barcodes. You can buy UPCs directly from GS1 US, which now offers single UPCs for $30 with no renewal fee. Curious why GS1 barcodes are so essential? We recently interviewed GS1 US to learn why small businesses should consider using official GS1 barcodes.

To make the process of buying official GS1 barcodes even easier for our customers, we recently opened our inFlow GTIN Barcode Shop. The best part about it is we’re doing this partnership at no additional cost, which means you pay the same at our store as would if you bought your barcodes directly from GS1.

Print your barcodes

The second step to barcoding stock is getting yourself a barcode printer. You won’t need anything too fancy for this. In fact, a simple inkjet printer used in most people’s home offices would do the trick. However, we think it’s worth investing in a dedicated label printer. These printers are specifically designed to print high-quality, scannable barcodes of all sizes. They come in various price points, and many you can find for relatively cheap.  

Printing them out should be pretty straightforward and will depend on which program you’re using to create your barcode labels. Some printers come with software you can use to create your labels. You could also design your labels in a program like Word if you’re looking for a low-cost alternative. 

If you’re using inventory management software, there is a chance it may have a label design feature built into the software.  inFlow, for example, allows you to create custom barcode labels directly in the app, where you can print them out with just a few clicks.  

Get yourself a barcode scanner

Once you’re done barcoding your stock, the next step is to get a barcode scanner. You’d typically want one that connects over USB for simplicity’s sake. You’ll find them in wired and wireless options ranging from $50–100. To learn more about scanners in general, click here.

inFlow Smart Scanner in action.

We also make a USB barcode scanner that you can purchase at Our scanners come with a two-year guarantee and are available in seven unique colors.

Get barcode software to make sense of it all

One of the most common misconceptions when implementing a barcode system is that people think a simple barcode contains all the product’s data.

For example, some people think that when you scan a barcode, all the relevant data should instantly appear on screen. Unfortunately, this is not the case unless you’re using super-specialized barcodes and scanners that are outside the small business realm.

If your products already have barcodes, you’re already well on your way to setting up a complete barcoding system. But even with a scanner, you’ll need to set up a database with all your product information and connect those products with their respective barcodes. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to bring up all product information you’ve programmed into your database by simply scanning the barcode.

A barcode typically represents an alphanumeric code and the software on your computer links that code to a product record. For this to work, all your product details have to be saved somewhere on your computer in advance. This is true for most major retailers. Even when using universal product codes (UPCs), the product information has to be pre-loaded into a database.

Of course, you can still scan a barcode into a computer without software, but it will just type out a jumble of numbers and letters. However, scanning a barcode into inventory management software like inFlow Cloud will bring up that specific product record while making a sale or looking up a product.

inFlow makes barcoding easy by tying barcodes straight to your products

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