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What is Barcode Technology, and How Does It Impact Retailers?

What is Barcode Technology, and How Does It Impact Retailers?

Star Micronics has the latest in retail barcode technology solutions with a range of desktop, USB handheld, and wireless handheld scanners.

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Barcode technology, a cornerstone of modern retail, offers a systematic approach to tracking a wide array of inventory items through unique numerical values represented by parallel bars. This innovative method has facilitated the rapid processing and easy readability of product information by both computers and humans. Its simplicity and efficiency have made barcode technology a staple in inventory management across diverse sectors, including grocery, retail, hospitality, and cannabis.

The Evolution and Accessibility of Barcode Technology

Initially adopted by large enterprises, barcode technology has significantly evolved, becoming more sophisticated and accessible to companies of all sizes. The reduction in the cost of handheld barcode scanners has democratized advanced inventory management systems, allowing small and midsize businesses to reap the benefits as well.

These devices can now feature more compact designs, portability, and increased storage capabilities, expanding their utility beyond traditional settings to encompass a wide range of retail applications.

Beyond Point of Sale: The Expanding Role of Barcode Scanners

Today’s barcode scanners have transcended their original use as mere checkout tools. These versatile devices now serve as essential components in enhancing customer engagement, offering features like displaying customer reviews, providing virtual product demos, and verifying item pricing and availability. Furthermore, they have become indispensable in inventory management, helping to identify sales trends and tracking items throughout the supply chain.


mPOS: A New Frontier for Barcode Technology

Combining mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems and cloud-based technologies has transformed barcode scanners into powerful tools for real-time information access. Armed with mPOS-enabled scanners, warehouse workers and sales associates can now address customer inquiries, locate inventory, and access product details instantly, improving service quality and operational efficiency.

Creating Connected Environments With Cloud Technology

Cloud technology continues to enhance the capabilities of barcode systems. By connecting barcode scanners to cloud-based POS and inventory management systems, retailers can achieve real-time visibility into stock levels, sales data, and customer preferences. Their ability to scan and track items mitigates potential losses by reducing errors and improving cash flow, margins, and response times.

This connectivity enables more accurate forecasting, streamlined operations, and more personalized customer experiences.

Find out more about Star’s CloudPRNT technology >

Improving Customer Experience

Commercial-grade barcode technology can improve the customer experience in numerous ways. Omnichannel retailers use barcodes to locate in-stock items and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) orders quickly. Customers can present a barcode on their smartphone at a counter or kiosk for fast order fulfillment.

In addition to increasing efficiency and order accuracy, these tools drive employee satisfaction, customer retention, and positive reviews. By automating manual tasks such as inventory tracking and order processing, barcode technology can free up employees’ time for more value-added activities, like attending to customer needs.

Hardware Innovation: Improving Barcode Scanners for Retailers

As barcode technology continues to advance, the development of smart barcode scanners has introduced new functionalities to meet the complex demands of the retail environment. These devices, equipped with wireless connectivity and capable of integrating seamlessly with POS systems, offer retailers a comprehensive solution for inventory management and customer service.

Star Micronics has the latest in retail barcode technology solutions with a range of desktop, USB handheld, and wireless handheld scanners.
Star Micronics offers a wide range of desktop, USB handheld, and wireless handheld barcode scanners.

Smart Scanners for Advanced Applications

The leap from basic to smart scanners marks a significant milestone in barcode technology, with new models offering enhanced scanning capabilities, ID verification, and wireless operations. These features support a broad spectrum of retail activities, from checkout efficiency to dynamic inventory control.

Durable and User-Friendly Designs

Recognizing the demanding nature of retail settings, manufacturers have prioritized durability and ease of use in scanner design. Many models now feature rugged construction to withstand drops and spills, ergonomic designs for comfortable all-day use, and intuitive interfaces that require minimal training.

Multifunctional Capabilities

Contemporary barcode scanners are multifunctional tools supporting a wide range of barcode types, including 1D and 2D barcodes. Advanced imaging technology allows them to scan codes from various surfaces, including screens, essential for mobile couponing and digital loyalty programs.

2D scanners are equipped with cameras and high-performance CPUs, enabling applications such as QR code scanning, ID verification, data parsing, and price checking.

Star Micronics has the latest in retail barcode technology solutions with a range of desktop, USB handheld, and wireless handheld scanners.

QR Codes and the Expansion of Barcode Applications

Barcode technology innovations in the 1980s led to QR codes, a derivation of 2D barcodes with enhanced storage capacity that represent data horizontally and vertically. Patented by Denso Wave, QR codes were initially designed to automate inventory management but found their way into mainstream usage, giving customers and businesses new ways to connect and transact. Here are some examples:

  • Loyalty Solutions: Scan a QR code directly from a customer’s phone to connect a purchase to their loyalty account. Starbucks, an early QR code adopter, championed this approach by enabling customers to display unique codes to receive discounts and free drinks.
  • Payment Solutions: Scan a QR code from a customer’s phone to facilitate payment from a digital wallet or mobile app. Stores like Walmart use QR codes to reduce checkout line bottlenecking. In addition, consumers can scan QR codes for cashless payments that speed up checkout queues.
  • Confirmation Tracking: QR codes provided to shoppers can be scanned at the store for online order pickups and proof of purchase/delivery. Concert halls, sporting events, and festival venues have used QR codes to speed check-ins by scanning customer tickets directly from their phones.  
  • Omnichannel Ordering: QR codes provided to shoppers can facilitate out-of-stock item orders by directing customers to ecommerce websites. In addition, QR codes on posters and merchandise displays can bridge in-store and digital commerce with offers and discounts.  
  • In-Store Navigation: QR codes can also be placed around the store to provide a platform for customer reviews and engagement.

These are examples of how barcode technology can help you grow and scale. Advanced scanners seamlessly communicate with smartphones, using barcodes and QR codes as a common language. Basic 1D laser scanners were sufficient for scanning paper coupons, but you will need 2D commercial-grade imagers to scan QR codes.

Emerging Scanning Technologies

The future of barcode scanning hardware lies in merging with newer technologies like RFID, NFC, and artificial intelligence (AI). These unions promise to unlock new capabilities, such as near-instantaneous scanning of multiple items and the ability to glean deeper insights from the encoded data.

Enhancing Retail with AI and Machine Learning

Incorporating AI and machine learning into barcode scanners can significantly enhance the retail experience. AI algorithms can analyze purchasing patterns, optimize inventory management, and even predict future trends based on the data captured through barcode scanning.

RFID and NFC: Beyond Traditional Barcodes

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication) are wireless communication technologies for tracking and identifying objects. RFID utilizes electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. At the same time, NFC enables close-range communication between compatible devices, allowing for secure data exchange with a simple tap.

RFID and NFC technologies complement traditional barcode scanning by enabling touchless transactions and more dynamic customer interactions. These technologies can streamline checkout processes, enhance security measures, and provide customers with richer product information, all contributing to a more engaging and efficient shopping experience.

Selecting the Right Barcode Scanner for Retail Success

Star Micronics offers a wide range of 1D/2D barcode scanners in desktop, USB handheld, and wireless Bluetooth handheld models.
Star Micronics offers 1D/2D precision scanners - desktop, USB handheld, & wireless handheld.

With so many benefits of QR and barcode technology, you’ll want futureproof scanners that seamlessly adapt to your needs. As you reflect on your business, consider what you want from a scanner, including how it will serve your employees and customers.

Today’s high-performing scanners accurately process high-density, high-volume, and distorted barcodes printed on paper or screens. Models built for high-traffic environments have an IP42-rated design or higher and at least 1.2m drop resistance. As you assess available models, here are a few questions to help you find the suitable scanner for your business:

  • What will my scanner empower me to do?
  • Will this scanner help with inventory management, and is it safe to take mobile?
  • Does it connect with my POS to create a connected workspace?
  • Does this scanner fit into my budget?

Embracing the Future of Barcode Technology in Retail

As we look toward the future, barcode technology remains at the forefront of retail innovation, offering scalable solutions for inventory management, customer engagement, and operational efficiency. With ongoing advancements and the adoption of AI and machine learning, barcode scanners are set to redefine retail as we know it.

Investing in the latest scanning solutions will be vital to achieving operational excellence and delivering superior customer service.

For more information about the future of barcode technology and about barcode scanners in general, please explore our guide:

The Ultimate Guide to Barcode Scanner Types and Applications

This guide has everything you need to know about barcode scanners in one place. Discover the different types of barcode scanners and a brief history, as well as applications and evaluations required to consider when purchasing a barcode scanner.

Proven Technology

Are you looking for barcode scanners to create a connected store and cover all your scanning needs? Check out Star Micronics 1D/2D Scanners, or talk to a member of our friendly Sales Team to find out where you can purchase Star’s scanners today!

Article originally written by author published on July 13, 2022.

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