Wasp Barcode Technologies: The Barcode Solution People

How Barcode Technology Levels the Playing Field

iStock_000045661962 It can be intimidating for small and medium-sized business to go up against corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Those large retailers set the standard for turning a profit, thanks to their massive infrastructure, workforce and leverage. Fear of having to compete with established bastions of business may prevent people from starting small local shops, or deter established firms from expanding to other markets. [Tweet "Local businesses can offer better personalized customer service than a faceless corporation."] Despite a recent dip in small business optimism (according to a report by the NFIB Research Foundation), there is reason for hope going forward. Smaller businesses do have advantages over larger ones, for example, local businesses can offer better personalized customer service than a faceless corporation, and can more easily monitor quality or pivot their focus. The question is, how can smaller firms make up the difference in terms of big business’ ability to lower their price points, or produce on a grand scale? [su_divider top="no" size="2"]

Related Article: Barcodes & Books: How Scanners Saved the Day

[su_divider top="no" size="2"] The answer lies with a seemingly simple technology that has been around for decades: barcodes. Both the traditional barcode and the 2D barcode are used to great effect by companies like Amazon, they’re a part of inventory control, fixed asset management and much more. Now small and medium-sized businesses, from retailers to distributors and everything in between, can take advantage of this same technology to level the playing field. Barcodes are small images that are machine readable and represent a number or code that corresponds to more information (such as price or remaining stock) in a company’s database. The lines and spaces of the traditional barcode only hold about 40 characters, which for retail purposes is sufficient, while 2D or QR codes have a more complex design that hold thousands of characters. By using a barcode scanner, mobile computer or smartphone with barcode-reading app, companies can easily transmit data from the object in question to the database or cloud and back again. How do barcodes save businesses money and make them more efficient? There are a number of perks to a barcode-savvy model. iStock_000056208984

They’re easy and inexpensive to start using

There are many different “standard” barcode types, such as UPC codes used in retail or ISSN codes for periodicals. If you want your product featured on the shelves of top retailers around the world (in the near future or even in the distant future), you’ll need a GS1 barcode from the Global Supply Chain Registry. Those are the gold standard, unique to every product and a sign of credibility. The registry takes care of assigning you a permanent code that will help identify your company anywhere around the world. That being said, you don’t need a GS1 barcode on every level, or for every industry. You can have a smaller, inexpensive barcode database assign you barcodes, or you can even design and print your own using everything from a small desktop barcode printer (great for small, at-home businesses) to an industrial style used in manufacturing and distribution. Either way, joining the ranks of the barcoded is an inexpensive endeavor, and one that pays massive dividends.

They’re essential for quality inventory and asset management

Barcodes are perfect for asset management, both inventory and fixed assets. By applying barcodes to fixed assets (the pieces of equipment used in creating inventory, such as computers or vehicles), companies can track when workers check them in or out, preventing unnecessary loss or theft. As part of a larger fixed asset management system, barcodes help companies track when equipment needs service, when warranties will expire, how far along the asset is in its depreciation (and thus when it’s time for a replacement) and whether or not the asset even exists at all, ghost assets, which are assets that appear on the general ledger but can’t be located, are a huge tax and insurance liability for businesses that try to audit their assets manually. For inventory, businesses can affix barcodes to their inventory anywhere along the supply chain, from the time it first arrives as raw materials to the point it’s delivered to a waiting customer. Nearly half of manufacturers lack supply chain visibility, which makes it difficult to know when materials will arrive or when a product is expected to ship. Additionally, inventory control includes the ability to balance your inventory turnover ratio (which ensures that you have enough product on hand to meet demand, but not too much that you’re weighed down by holding costs) and to access real-time data to aid in customer service issues and production dilemmas.

They’re great for social media and marketing

2D barcodes, mainly QR codes, the pixelated squares that when scanned bring users to websites or instantly impart information, are great for marketing and communicating with consumers. Though only a small fraction of U.S. smartphone users have utilized QR codes in the past, some companies have seen great success with them, and there are programs that businesses can use to create their own code in seconds and for free (though a more thought-out QR code campaign is likely preferable). Using QR codes, companies can offer coupons, discounts and prizes, as well as quickly send new or returning customers to important and relevant new pages. As long as businesses can find compelling ways to capture attention and give users a reason for visiting, 2D barcodes take care of the logistics of turning piqued interest into action.

They open the door to the sharing economy

While still in its nascent stages, the sharing economy is already beginning to revolutionize the way we do business and while larger companies are at the forefront of utilizing it, smaller firms still have an opportunity to grow with it. Uber, for example, built an infrastructure for shuttling people from location to location, and its new Uber Rush service allows people to use that infrastructure to send packages from place to place. In order for small businesses to join in, they need to have a similarly trustworthy system in place, and barcodes provide that. Whether they use Uber or build their own freelance delivery service, barcodes allow for accountability that customers can trust and the company can use to monitor deliveries, ensuring efficient routes and safe transportation. The ability to send an order to a nearby customer at a moment’s notice is a reality that companies like Amazon are building towards, but small and medium-sized businesses can also help build that reality with barcodes, barcode scanners and cloud computing. While it may feel like the gap between the big and small companies is widening all the time, technological advances are actually making it easier for savvy smaller businesses to survive and thrive. Barcodes in particular have long been relegated in the minds of business owners to the retail check-out counter, but the more companies think outside the box in regards to this reliable and inexpensive technology, the easier it will be to compete, now and in the future. How would adding barcodes to your inventory help your business save time and money?