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Barcode Labels: What Are They and How Can Your Business Use Them?

Written by: Nicole Plyler

Published: 05 August, 2021


Enterprises and small companies that produce physical products often need to include barcode labels. They are a familiar sight to most consumers and provide specific information that’s necessary. You can consider them a “license plate” linked to data for goods. They are both practical and can offer ways to enhance your brand image. No matter how or why you use them, it’s critical to select the right kind and the best printer to deliver a quality product.

Here’s everything you need to know about barcode levels.

What Are Barcode Labels?

Barcode labels, which have black and white lines and typically a number underneath, contain information in the image. These labels are scannable, which then can retrieve information. The most common use case is scanning at a register for the price. A fun fact about barcodes is that the white areas are scanned, not the black lines!

However, they can contain more information about the product itself, such as origination. Many companies use them to track products through the supply chain.

Types of Barcode Labels

There are several types of barcode labels, including:

  • Code 39: One of the oldest types, mainly used in electronics, healthcare, and government.
  • Code 128: It uses the ASCII 128-character set and appears mostly on packaging and shipping applications.
  • Interleaved 2 of 5: This is a numeric-only barcode for encoding pairs of numbers. It's prominent in warehousing, distribution, and manufacturing.
  • Universal Product Codes (UPC): These are on almost all retail products.
  • International Article Number (EAN): These are a subset of UPC, used by retailers, libraries, and universities to track books.

  • PDF417: This is a stacked, linear 2-D barcode found on a driver’s license or USPS packages.
  • Data Matrix: It’s the most common 2-D barcode and can encode a vast amount of data. Because of this, electronics manufacturers and healthcare use it.
  • Quick Response (QR) codes: The newest type of barcoding allows users to scan it with a smartphone. This then directs people to a website. It started as a marketing tactic, but during the pandemic became more tactical, as a way to look at restaurant menus or gather other information that would typically be on paper printouts.

When Should You Use Barcode Labels?

How and if you need a barcode label depends on your business. Large commercial companies use them in many ways. They need a UPC on the physical product so that it scans for pricing. They also adhere them to shipping boxes and freight for trackability and inventory. Additionally, they may use barcodes internally while product sits in warehouses before distribution.

Small businesses also need barcodes for some of the same reasons, just likely not at scale. Small businesses that have physical retail locations use them for pricing. The alternative is to handwrite labels, which is time- and labor-intensive.

A small business that manufactures its own products may also find they are a critical way to track inventory. You don’t have to be a corporation to apply these tools to your business. It’s beneficial if you ship products to other retailers to monitor how products are doing in different markets.

What Companies Use Barcode Levels?

Since there are so many types of barcodes that serve different roles, many industries leverage them for multiple purposes.

  • Retail: Retail shops use barcode levels to manage pricing and inventory.
  • Hospitals: Healthcare organizations use 2-D barcodes for labeling vials, medications, and information packets. They play a key role in patient safety. They even use them to track newborns in the nursery.
  • Schools and universities: They use them for books as noted and other assets, which is helpful during audits.
  • Financial and banking: These organizations also use them for asset management. They can also streamline ordering and receiving to ensure fewer unnecessary orders.
  • Government: These entities need them for accuracy in managing assets.
  • Entertainment: For any venue that has front-end inventory (bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, golfing ranges, etc.), they need to make sure it’s returned, and barcodes can help.
  • Manufacturing: Barcodes are part of the process to track products and include information that might be a requirement regarding country of origin.

The Benefits of Barcodes

While barcode adoption is high, small business owners may be hesitant to do so. Here are some reasons why it can benefit your company:

  • You don’t need technical aptitude to create barcodes.
  • The data encoded is scalable to fit your specific needs.
  • They can help you stay competitive, especially as you grow into new markets.
  • They are affixable to almost any surface, and they don’t leave residue when removed.
  • It will reduce human error that occurs if you still handwrite the labels.
  • They provide asset and security tracking, which could help with reducing loss and liability.
  • You can have a more accurate count of inventory that you’d never achieve through manual tracking.
  • They are cost-effective, typically costing pennies per label or less.

Can You Create Custom Barcode Labels?

You can customize your barcode labels. They don’t just have to include the actual barcode and number. Some brands use them to be creative, adding a unique design or element.

Barcode labels also don’t have to be rectangles or squares, even though they are the most common shapes. The barcode itself will remain that shape, but you could choose to print them in circlesovals, or with rounded corners.

Another option is to do a die cut in any shape, which ties back to your brand. It could be adding your logo at the top or adding something clever like shaping them in a bone if you’re a pet brand.

Are Barcode Labels Appropriate for Outdoor Use?

Barcode labels are usable in outdoor settings. You may have assets that remain outside or have retail locations that are partially or sometimes outdoors. The key is to ensure you order barcode labels that are moisture-resistant and waterproof. These durable labels won’t lose their adhesive or be unscannable because of weather conditions.

Where Can You Buy Barcode Labels?

You can purchase barcode labels in a variety of ways. The volume you need, the type, and the design will factor in where you decide to buy them. An alternative is to print your own, but that requires equipment, time, and costs that you likely don’t want to entertain.

Ideally, you’ll want to order barcode labels from a reputable label printer that offers high-quality materials, fast turnaround times, affordable pricing, and an easy process.

Ordering Barcode Labels from Stickerbeat

We make it easy and convenient for you to purchase barcode labels. It begins with your custom design, which you upload. You’ll also enter the quantity, which can range from a few to thousands, and determine the shape.

Then our graphic artists will review it and send you a proof. Once you approve it, then production begins. We use 3M vinyl for label printing, which is durable and includes a laminate covering, making it resistant to weather and scratching. This is important because the barcode needs to remain scannable.

We ship them to your business in rolls so you can start adhering them to your products, packaging, or other surfaces. Start shopping today