FAQ about Barcodes

What is a barcode?

A barcode is a visual representation of data in the form of parallel lines or dots. It is scanned by a barcode reader or scanner to quickly and accurately retrieve information encoded within the barcode. Barcodes are used in various industries for tasks such as product identification, inventory management, and price scanning.

What is the Barcode System?

The barcoding system, invented by George Laurer in the 1970s, is a global method used to track items and prices in inventory systems worldwide. It has become universally adopted by retailers. The system ensures that each barcode is unique to a specific product, eliminating the possibility of multiple products sharing the same barcode within a store. It encompasses both UPC-A and EAN-13 numbers, allowing for comprehensive coverage and compatibility across different regions and markets.

What is the difference between an EAN-13 and UPC barcode?

Both UPC-A and EAN-13 barcodes are commonly used in retail stores around the world. However, UPC-A codes with 12 digits are mostly used in the USA, while EAN-13 barcodes are more common in other countries. The encoding of these barcodes is quite similar, and in fact, a UPC-A barcode can be represented as an EAN-13 barcode by adding a ‘0’ at the beginning. The visual appearance of the barcode remains the same in this case. Barcode scanners can typically read both types of barcodes easily. If your product is primarily for the USA, it is recommended to use a UPC-A barcode. For products selling in other countries, an EAN-13 barcode is best.

What type of barcode should I get?

The type of barcode you should get depends on various factors, including the geographic location where your product will be sold and the specific requirements of the retailers or industry you are targeting. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. UPC-A Barcode: If your product is primarily intended for sale in the United States, a UPC-A barcode is recommended. UPC-A codes consist of 12 digits and are commonly used by retailers in the USA.
  2. EAN-13 Barcode: If your product will be sold in countries outside of the United States, an EAN-13 barcode is preferable. EAN-13 codes are 13 digits long and are widely used in most countries around the world.

Most types of retail products (including food, beverages, homeware, tools, technology) need either a UPC-A or EAN-13 barcode. If you are selling a book you’ll need an ISBN barcode, and magazines require an ISSN barcode. I==

How many barcodes should I get?

You need a different barcode for every different product, and product variation (size, colour).

Where can I buy barcodes?

The best place to buy retail barcodes (UPC-A or EAN-13 format) is from the International Barcodes website (internationalbarcodes.com) or from an authorised member of the International Barcodes Network (IBN). The IBN have members in countries all over the world, and they provide authentic globally unique barcodes that can be registered for free on the International Barcodes Database. Their barcodes are suitable for use in retail stores worldwide as well as on online Ecommerce platforms.

What types of barcodes are there?

EAN-13 barcodes 13 digit retail barcodes

UPC-A barcodes – 12 digit retail barcodes

ISBN Barcodes – 13 digit barcodes based on a book’s ISBN number

ISSN Barcodes – 13 digit barcodes based on a magazine’s ISSN number

ITF-14 Carton Codes – large 14 digit barcodes that are scanned when a delivery box of products enters a warehouse.

QR Codes – 2D barcodes that usually connect to a URL website.

How can I register my barcodes?

Instructions for how to register your barcodes are here.

Barcode registration is the process of submitting your product information and barcode number to an online barcode database. One of the best online barcode databases is the International Barcodes Database (barcodesdatabase.org). Information submitted to that database also feeds through to several other databases including the International Barcode Registry (ibnreg.org). Find out more about registration and barcode databases here.