New technologies allow small businesses to compete with their larger counterparts in many different ways. Yet one of the most productivity-enhancing technologies for retailers remains sorely underused: a point of sale barcode scanner.
In fact, a point of sale barcode scanner can be a productivity booster. Pointing out the many benefits of barcodes:
- Barcodes improve the customer experience by speeding up the checkout process.
- Barcodes make it easy to change prices, avoiding the need to retag items manually.
- Barcodes let you update your inventory in real time and set reorder points so you can replenish items automatically when they run low.
The most common use case for barcode scanners is as an adjunct to cash registers, but technology’s greatest benefit to many retailers is its ability to link transactions to inventory, a capability not all barcode scanners support. When Supply Chain Digest examined 20 years of inventory data, they determined that U.S. retailers were holding $1.43 in inventory for every $1 they recorded in sales.
The cost to businesses of maintaining excess inventory can be the difference between success and failure. Entrepreneur cites a study conducted by the National Retail Federation that estimates the amount lost by U.S. retailers annually as a result of excess inventory is $224 billion, and they lose an additional $45 billion each year due to out-of-stock items. Companies also benefit from barcode scanners by having to conduct fewer manual inventory counts, particularly when their POS system is linked to wireless portable scanners.
The Many Uses of a Point of Sale Barcode Scanner for Small Businesses
Inventory management is far from the only money-saving application of barcode scanners for retailers and other businesses. For many retailers, the ability to capture data about their customers is one of the most valuable features of point-of-sale barcode scanners. Integrated POS systems allow businesses to view customer histories whenever the customer checks out, which allows store clerks to recommend items that clients may be interested in based on their past purchases. The scanners also tie into promotions and loyalty programs that allow retailers to reward their best customers.
In addition, POS barcode scanners are used frequently by businesses for invoicing, tracking payments, and other accounting functions. Common applications for barcode scanners beyond transaction processing include the following:
- Employee timekeeping and record-keeping.
- Maintaining the company’s physical assets, such as office and warehouse equipment.
- Combating “inventory shrinkage,” whether due to shoplifting or employee theft.
- Tracking the location of portable equipment and other items that regularly move from place to place.
There are several characteristics of a small business that would benefit from the use of a point of sale barcode scanner:
- The business sells products.
- Its operation requires an extensive inventory.
- Accurate inventory counts are imperative.
- The business has multiple retail or storage locations.
- Much of its equipment and supplies move from place to place.
- It works with many vendors and other third parties.
- The business is growing or plans to grow in the future.
- It isn’t a one-person operation.
- Its customers spend too much time in checkout lines.
- The operation needs to become more “professional.”
How Point-of-Sale Barcode Scanners Work
Barcodes are made up of equally spaced blocks, each of which represents a number between 0 and 9. Each block is divided into seven equally sized vertical strips that are black or white to create four wide or narrow stripes that represent a specific digit. For example, the number “1” is represented on the barcode by two white stripes, then two black stripes, then two white stripes, and finally one black stripe.
You would think a simple barcode system would require only a few “blocks” or digits to accommodate the inventory of a typical retail operation. Yet barcodes are usually a dozen blocks long or longer because they represent three different kinds of information:
- The first part of the barcode indicates the country in which it was issued.
- The second part represents the manufacturer of the product.
- The third part identifies the product itself.
Most barcodes are based on the universal product code, or UPC, which usually includes numbers below the code so the product can be entered into the system manually if the code is misprinted or damaged. Another type of barcode that is gaining popularity in the retail industry is two-dimensional barcode, or 2D, the most common of which is called a QR code. These codes are shown in square boxes filled with black and white patterns that are able to represent much more data than standard barcodes. They also feature built-in error-checking, and they are easier to read, so smartphones and tablets with built-in cameras are able to “scan” them.
Features to Look for in a Point-of-Sale Barcode Scanner
The most common type of POS barcode system uses a hand-held wand scanner attached via cable to the main POS unit. The wand reads the barcode by flashing a red LED light on it to reflect the pattern back onto a light-sensitive charge-coupled device (CCD) or photoelectric cells. Other POS systems use a laser scanner that is fixed to the checkout counter under a pane of glass through which the reading beam is shone. Some systems rely on a small video camera to scan the code, similar to reading codes with a smartphone’s digital camera.
Today’s barcode scanners are so accurate they make mistakes only about once per 70 million scans. Most mobile POS systems are able to generate barcodes automatically and feature a label printer to generate barcodes in various sizes that can be attached to products and tags. The barcode software interprets the codes and displays information about the item, including its price, size, shape, color, model number, category, department, manufacturer, quantity, and warranty details.
Among the advanced features that retailers and other small businesses require in a POS barcode scanner are the ability to set price, cost, and quantity for hundreds of variations of products, and to make pricing decisions at the point of purchase by offering custom items and variable pricing. Other useful features are the ability to bundle different products automatically, create discounts for specific dates and times, and sync product tracking across multiple locations.
One of the best ways for small and midsize businesses to compete with the retail giants and national chains is by making their operations as efficient as possible. POS barcode scanners help even the playing field by helping retailers improve the level of service they offer their customers while also enhancing their inventory management and other business processes. A first-rate POS barcode scanner ensures that your retail operation is optimized for success.
Learn more about how the talech POS system helps retailers optimize management of all their vital business processes. We work with you to determine the best ways to meet the needs of your customers and employees so your business can thrive. We take the time to learn your business so we can balance your specific needs with your budget and comfort level in a custom POS system implementation. The result is a valued investment that will pay for itself in short order. Reach out to us today to sign up for a free demo and learn more about how talech can be your valued partner in the POS world.