Barcodes have been used in business for more than 60 years. Their usefulness and importance to commerce are both undeniable. From scanners at the grocery store to automated inventory systems, businesses continue to find new and innovative ways to utilize these powerhouses of information.
Now, more than ever, there is a need for them in the workplace.
Barcodes remain relevant worldwide, helping individuals, companies and corporations make daily purchases, sending items across the globe or communicating with new customers at the scan of a product label. The relevance of barcodes has only become more germane to every enterprise, as the basic job of a barcode is to keep operations running more efficiently.
There have been a few changes and upgrades to barcodes over the years. Consider the information below to gain a better understanding of where the barcode is today and where barcode trends of the future might be heading.
Standard barcodes use 20 characters to relay information with a quick scan. A lot of information can be communicated with just 20 characters, but with advances in barcode technology, we can do a lot more!
Two-dimensional barcodes have been around for a few decades, and they continue to be a strong force behind the success of many businesses. Two-dimensional barcodes differ from one-dimensional barcodes in a few ways. However, the main benefit is they can hold up to 7,089 characters. This allows the encoding of a lot more information.
In a world where consumers are almost always relying on their phones for up-to-the-minute information, having the option to scan something like a 2D barcode is simple and straightforward, with an almost immediate reward. Many companies use the most common variant of the 2D barcode, the QR (Quick Response) codes, to interact with consumers. By downloading a simple reader to smartphones, a consumer can scan a QR code to get immediate access to a web-site, current sales, promotions, product information and more.
In the fast-paced consumer world, the QR codes continue to flourish because they can offer real-time information. Businesses can take advantage of sharing their websites, social media platforms and other information at the scan of their barcode.
It’s some of the simplest, yet most effective marketing to be had, so companies seek out quality labeling that can print out clear, easy-to-scan QR codes for their businesses’ needs.
In addition to companies using QR codes to interact with their customers, many industries use 2D barcodes for sophisticated inventory systems, shipping labels and airline boarding passes, to name a few. The possibilities for QR codes in business are endless. If a business or industry wants to keep track of anything, a barcode can be used to do it!
Growing Reliance on Barcodes in the Healthcare Industry
It’s clear in all industries that the need for reduced human error and better work efficiency continue to increase. Any tools that can help to ensure a smooth, error-free process from one step to the next are invaluable.
Barcodes are used in the healthcare industry in many ways. They are used from patient identification to updating medical records.
When it comes to the healthcare industry, the need to remove human error is of the utmost importance. One wrong move could mean the difference between saving a life and losing one. In the healthcare field, the goal has always been to continue to find methods to help patients in the quickest way possible.
Barcodes have become one of the most popular methods to hold information about an individual. Information encrypted in the barcodes will permit smooth admittance to the hospital or other healthcare facility, provide complete and up-to-date medical and personal information and record a patient’s stay from admittance to discharge.
This trend of barcodes in the healthcare industry has become even simpler, with the use of smartphones and tablets to scan codes and gather information. Generally, healthcare professionals can scan codes before they even meet with a patient, thereby cutting costs and saving time, as well as improving patient and caregiver safety. It has been reported that transcription and medical errors can be reduced by as much as 41% with the use of barcodes.
With quality-printed barcode labels, patient status, dosage amount changes and more are instantly available. The information is up-to-the-minute, fast and reliable with the help of smart barcodes. All of these updates make worrying about gathering information obsolete; now, caregivers can simply worry about offering the best care possible.
Need for Smarter Barcodes
As with all things, once we get used to the latest model on the market, we’re already looking for the next best thing. While the basic barcode is still just as valued as it was when it was first invented, people expect, and companies continually look for, technological improvements.
A new trend in barcode printing is the continuing refinement and development of smarter barcodes. Businesses eagerly embrace any type of barcode that adds value, such as the two-dimensional design with the much larger data holding space.
Today, people are looking for barcodes to do much more than just hold information. In fact, consumers want barcodes to include variable data that not only encrypts data but protects it as well.
Security has become a top priority for businesses. So many companies rely on online resources to transmit information, as that thefts and hacking have become so widespread. The ability for a barcode to not only hold, but also protect its information, is very important.
This kind of protection aspect is especially critical in sectors like healthcare, banking and business. Developers have started designing smarter barcodes to make certain that only authorized individuals can retrieve the barcode data to ensure better consumer protection.
Product Production Information
Smarter barcodes allow a barcode to hold much more information about the production of a product. Previously, barcodes would offer end-state information and skip all the details about the product’s previous status.
That is no longer the case.
For example, smarter barcodes would inform us about where the product was assembled, where its parts are from, the supply chain it worked through and other data. This could be extremely helpful to companies, especially for those attempting to track where their products are coming from and for companies trying to adopt an eco-friendly production process.
Having this kind of supply chain information helps companies improve productivity and stay competitive, along with helping with customer relations.
Changing Consumer Habits
Barcodes aren’t just for scanning products a consumer has already decided they want. Barcodes have the power to upsell to consumers in very discreet and convenient ways. Growing trends in the barcode industry are embracing the two-dimensional barcode as a means of communicating on another level with customers, even after they’ve already chosen their purchases.
Because two-dimensional barcodes are capable of being scanned by smartphones and tablets, companies are taking advantage of the design by adding in extra information and perks from their company straight to their consumers’ phones. The information can be anything, from day-of promotions to coupons and information about future sales.
This kind of trend is increasingly important, as more and more consumers are likely to have their smartphones and tablets on them at all times, making it the perfect tool for companies to take advantage of to help their businesses.
Customers are enticed to scan barcodes throughout the store or at checkout, and, as a reward, can apply discounts on their current purchases or download coupons for future use.
Companies can also use these in-store and online barcodes to lead customers to a store’s online presence, whether it be a website, social media platform or another form of communication. This kind of approach helps keep clients engaged with the company’s brand, making existing clients more likely to remain loyal.
Increased Inventory Accuracy
Inventory accuracy has always been an important part of any successful business’ operations. Every day, customers or warehouse employees will endeavor to determine if a specific product is available for purchase or needs to be shipped to a store or warehouse. An accurate inventory system, built using barcodes, will determine if the supply chain is meeting the needs of the end user.
Store workers can use programs that will tell them whether an item is in the store, how many sizes are available, what colors and whether the item is in stock and where. Enterprises enhance customer experience by instantly determining if a wanted item is at the current location or perhaps in stock at partner stores in the area.
Inventory accuracy is vital to meeting the daily sales goals for retail stores. If a store scan reads there is a specific item in-store, but it cannot be found, there’s likely going to be an unhappy customer. Keeping inventory in check is crucial to making the sales. Barcodes help accomplish this.
It’s not just in retail malls where inventory accuracy has become a necessity. Any business that manufactures goods needs a highly efficient inventory system to meet consumer needs daily. For companies with online stores, this requirement is a necessity if the business wants to stay competitive.
In e-commerce, barcode scanning and inventory counts occur multiple times per hour in many cases. Whether it is clothing, home décor or pet food, having the proper inventory accuracy can mean the difference between a smooth day of shipping and a product management nightmare.
As e-commerce continues to be a growing trend for shoppers (worldwide e-commerce sales reached over $1 trillion in 2016), huge masses of inventory must be handled, imported, exported and stored in the most efficient way possible.
Growing barcode trends help businesses find larger, smarter and safer models that can ensure proper management of a business’ inventory without errors, excessive cost, and lost time. Newer barcode updates work to connect the business and consumer, making transactions as flawless as possible.
For those companies just beginning to build their business, it’s important to take barcoding seriously. Barcodes are not simply for scanning a product to purchase—they contain every piece of data related to the particular item, from the time the product is made, throughout the shipping, delivery and ultimately the consumer purchase steps.
Implementing barcoding has become a necessity for any company in today’s high-tech world.