3. Determine Barcode Type

There are many formats of barcodes. The barcode formats you need for products scanned at point of sale (or checkout) are different from the ones you need for products scanned in a distribution center or a warehouse. So your first step is to consider where your barcode will be scanned:



Point of sale (checkout)

Checkout Counter Image Point of Sale Barcode Image

If your product will be sold at retail point of sale (or checkout), you’ll want to use a UPC-A barcode. It’s the most common barcode required by retailers in North America. U.P.C. barcodes help to ensure that all products are properly identified at retail point of sale. The U.P.C. barcode promotes rapid product scanning, resulting in more accurate data that can be used by your trading partners.


Online

Mobile purchase image

Many online retailers use the same process as physical stores. Most require that you assign a Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®) to your products. In fact, you should use the same GTIN online as you use for physical stores. As for barcoding your products, many online retailers require that a U.P.C. barcode be placed on your items. As a best practice, you should review your customer’s vendor requirements to help you get started.

Inconsistent or incorrect usage of U.P.C.s/GTINs can make finding and buying products online difficult for consumers—and when consumers can’t find what they want when they want it, brands and retailers lose an opportunity for their products to be discovered.


Warehouse

Pallet image

ITF 14 image

GS1 128 image

If your products will pass through a warehouse, you’ll need to identify units such as cartons, cases, and pallets. There are two different barcodes that are most commonly used to identify cases: ITF-14 barcodes and GS1-128 barcodes.

ITF-14 barcodes will contain only the GTIN. The advantage of ITF-14 barcodes is that they can be pre-printed directly onto corrugated material, such as boxes. This saves you time and money.

GS1-128 barcodes also contain the GTIN, but can also encode additional product information, including batch/lot number, weight, or expiration date. This is done by using Application Identifiers, or AIs, with the barcode. When scanning, AIs are used with the barcode to communicate specific types of information related to your product, such as batch number, weight, or expiration date, and are used in multiple industries.


Resources


Once you’ve selected the barcode you need, you’re ready to find out how to:

In this publication, the letters “U.P.C.” are used solely as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code”, which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to certify compliance with a Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO.