Introduction to Barcodes
What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a symbol that can be easily read by a scanner or smartphone. Barcodes link to a globally unique number. Retailers use this number to enter product information into their database. Barcodes do not contain information. They just represent the number. Barcodes are most commonly used at store checkouts to quickly retrieve the name and price of a product. Barcodes also track products as they move through the supply chain. Once scanned, the store can be alerted to low stock levels of a particular item. This prompts the store to reorder. Every variation of a product (e.g. each size and colour) requires its own barcode.
Do I Need a Barcode?
If you have a product you wish to be stocked at a retail store, you will almost certainly need barcodes. Different retailers and regions have varying standards. It is important to pick the right barcode type to avoid unnecessary hassle and confusion when your products arrive in store. Each product and variation will require its own unique barcode. For example, if you have three different products, and each has five different colours, you will need 3 x 5 = 15 barcodes.
Types of Barcodes
EAN-13 Barcodes / International Article Number
International Article Numbers, formerly EAN (European Article Numbers), are 13 digits long. They are used worldwide on all retail products, excluding books and magazines. They are the most widely used barcodes globally. The USA and Canada prefer UPC-A (Universal Product Codes) barcodes. In the UK, EAN-13 is probably the barcode you need for selling retail products in the UK.
The EAN-13 number is encoded into a barcode image. When the barcode is scanned into store systems, price and inventory data related to your product are recorded by the retailer. A different EAN-13 number, therefore, is required for each unique product(SKU). Click Here to purchase EAN-13 barcodes.
12-digit UPC Barcodes are used predominantly in the USA and Canada on all retail products, except for books and magazines. If you are selling in the US or Canada, you may want to use a UPC-A code rather than an EAN-13 code. Click Here to purchase UPC-A barcodes.
A smaller, globally unique barcode intended for VERY SMALL products. EAN8 barcodes are difficult to obtain. They are only available from GS1. GS1 is a membership organisation. EAN8 barcodes are only eight digits long. This means that there is a limited number of them. Hence GS1 guard them carefully. So to obtain these, you need to submit proof that your product is very small and wait to see if GS1 approve.
Book and Magazine Barcodes
International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) barcodes are used on all book formats. A hardcover would need a different ISBN number to a paperback or e-book. ISBNs usually start with 978 or 979. ISBNs are distributed by ISBN agencies in each country (see isbn-international.org/agency). They can also be obtained through independent publishing agencies such as bookisbn.org.uk, used for self-publishing authors. Note: Crossword, puzzle and colouring books are not published books, so do not use ISBN barcodes. They use standard retail barcodes instead (EAN or UPC).
We cannot provide you with an ISBN. Only your national ISBN issuer can give you the ISBN number. Nielsen controls ISBN distribution. You can also get an ISBN from the Independent Publishing Network. What we do is make the ISBN barcode image once you have received your ISBN. Click Here for more information.
An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique 8-digit number used to identify periodical publications such as magazines and journals. They can be applied for at issn.org/services/requesting-an-issn.
Only apply for an ISSN if your publications are either:
• a serial (journals, newspapers, magazines, monographic series etc.)
• ongoing integrating resources (websites, databases etc.)
Click Here for more information.
EAN and UPC barcode numbers make the ITF14 carton number. Carton codes are only used in warehouses on wholesale cartons containing a specific quantity of the product barcode represents. Point-of-sale systems do not use carton codes. For example, a case of wine sold as a single unit would need a retail barcode. You may need an ITF-14 code if you have a shipping carton of wine bottles that are being taken out and sold individually after they arrive at the shop. Click Here to purchase ITF-14 barcodes.
Quick Response Codes
QR Codes are square barcodes. They can link to a website URL or contain information. QR codes are often used on posters, pamphlets, and advertising material. You can also use them on retail products, for example, to take a customer to your website. However, the product will also need a retail barcode on it, scanned by the retailer for pricing etc., at the checkout. Click Here for more information about our QR code services.
How to Use Your Barcode
Barcode products in 3 easy steps:
1. Buy a barcode:
• Establish where you will be selling your product to determine if you require EAN-13 or UPC barcodes.
• Decide how many barcodes you need. Remember that each different size, colour and flavour requires a different barcode number.
• Purchase your EAN or UPC barcode on our website.
• Receive an email with your barcode number/s with the barcode images in 4 image formats.
2. Add your barcode to your product:
• Choose whichever barcode image format (e.g. jpeg, pdf) you prefer.
• Resize the image to fit into your product packaging. Please keep in mind the Barcode Dimensions: The standard size is about 38mm wide x 25mm high. The smallest recommended size is 80% of the standard size – i.e. about 30mm wide x 20mm high.
• Add the barcode to your product packaging in an easily visible, flat location. Don’t print too close to the edge or over any seams.
- Positioning on a curved surface, e.g. a bottle, it is best to rotate the barcode. i.e. like a ladder (vertical) instead of a fence (horizontal).
- You can print the barcode onto adhesive labels. You can then stick the barcode labels onto your product. Follow the same principles outlined above.
- Check your label artwork BEFORE printing your product packaging.
- Ensure the barcode numbers are correct. The barcode image should be high quality and within the official size range.
- Do a sample print.
- Check that the barcode prints and scans correctly.
3. Send your product to retailers:
Send the barcoded products and product information to your retailers. The retailer will scan the barcode into their system. Stores enter the specific product name and price into their database. Your product information will now appear in the store database.
Additional Services We Offer
Once a barcode is purchased, you have the option to assign product and company information to your barcodes, such as the product’s country of origin, description and manufacturer’s contact details. You can then register your barcode number and product details on the International Barcodes Database (barcodesdatabase.org). Global barcode databases then store this data.
To register your barcode number, please Click Here
Registration is optional. It may increase your product’s profile on the internet.
Benefits of barcode registration:
• reduces illegal use of your barcode (an internet search will show if the number is already in use).
• greater online visibility of your product, including apps that use barcode databases.
Note: Barcode registration does not send product data to your retailers. You still need to send each retailer your barcode numbers and product information. Each retailer has its own system, so you need to submit your products to their database.
If you have a barcode that you purchased elsewhere but wish to register, you can buy barcode registration by Clicking Here.
Barcode verification is a test of how well your barcode scans. Only a few FMCG stores require barcode verification. However, this is country and retailer-specific. We can provide barcode verification if you need it. Please contact us if you need verification. To learn about barcode verification, please Click Here. For information about the stores that require verification, please Click Here.
Printed Barcode Labels