How to Implement Efficient Barcoding Methods for Managing Retail Product


Choosing the best barcoding methods for managing your retail product can be tricky. How can you determine which one is right for your business model? What’s the best way to tell each unit apart when you’re doing inventory?

Understand the Different Barcoding Methods Available to You

There are two major different types of barcoding methods. Depending on how you run your store, you might use both of them.


Stock Keeping Unit, or SKU, is a code that you as the retailer will use to track everything related to products. It’s an internal code that identifies things like the color, size, and style of your products.

SKUs can be generated manually, but trying to do so is a mistake. It’s better to use an inventory tracking software that can create barcodes that will generate these for you once you put in all the product variants available at your store.


Many people use the term UPC and barcode interchangeably. However, many barcodes will change slightly if both SKUs and UPCs are used as identifying marks.

The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is a universal identifying system that gives all items the same codes. This will be true across the country. That’s why a bag of chips in California will have the same barcode as a bag of chips in New York.

If you are running a retail supply chain that spans several states, you are required to use UPCs. However, you do also have the option of using SKUs to simplify your inventory keeping process.

Along with the two major methods above, there are a couple of other more specific methods that might come up in your barcoding efforts.


If you sell internationally, International Article Numbers or IANs are 13-digit versions of UPCs. If you are selling in Europe, but not in other parts of the world, you can also get a European Article Number (EAN). The GS1 website will tell you how to buy these codes for your products so you can sell them in multiple countries.


International Standard Book Numbers or ISBNs are barcodes used only for books. No other products will have ISBNs.

How to Choose Which Method is Best For Your Product

The type of product you sell will definitely have an impact on what system you use. For example, if you sell books, it makes sense to use ISBNs. If you sell products internationally, you will need to use IANs or EANs. And if you only sell in one location, using only SKUs can simplify your selling and inventory process.

Before committing to one or another type of barcode, check your requirements to see what you’re required to do. Then, use the system that makes the most sense for your circumstances.

Asset Panda’s inventory tracking system is set up to help you generate and print barcodes. Simply enter all of the relevant information into the platform, and it will help you generate barcodes with SKUs, UPCs and any other code you need.

You may also need to buy UPCs. You can do that from the GS1 website, as well as from several other places. Make sure you own the UPC you are using, or that one is already generated for the product you sell before you commit to using it in your barcode.

Want to see Asset Panda’s barcoding skills in action? Sign up for a free guided tour today!

Mel Van De Graaff

Mel creates research driven content for companies in the health and wellness field, and specializes in creating action driven blog posts for Mental Health and Self Help topics as well as creating white papers and case studies.

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