Do I Need a Barcode for My Product? (Why is it Important)

hand sticking a barcode sticker

Nowadays, almost everyone has got used to the fact that each product has a barcode which, after scanning, will show us the price of the product and its name. This has been the case in classic stores for a long time. What about ECommerce stores? Do You need barcodes at all to be able to sell products? And if so, where to get such codes?

Barcodes are not required for products but they are highly recommended. Most products have them. Barcodes are helpful for customers and in product management tasks. Having Barcodes like the 2 most common known EAN / UPC improves Your sales and customer experience and lower operating costs.

In this article, we answer questions that sellers often ask. We will dispel your doubts as to whether you need barcodes or not in Your business.

Do I need a barcode to sell a product?

There is no obligation to label products with barcodes. Barcodes often only help in sales as well as in servicing and managing the warehouse. However, most manufacturers use EAN and UPC codes depending on the location of sale.

Theoretically, we could end this article with a “You don’t have to, but you can” statement, but let’s take a deeper look at it and try to understand why most products still have a barcode on them.

Barcodes are useful not only for sellers but also for buyers. More than once, in a larger store, you have probably wondered what the price of a given product is and subconsciously you were looking for a barcode reader hanging on the wall. This is the simplest example of the usefulness of these codes.

Now imagine a situation where an employee at the cash register tries to manually enter the price on the cash machine while looking for the product name and its price in the catalog. It would look comical in a store with thousands of items of assortment.

Instead, all you need is one beep and you know everything. It is safe to say that barcodes have revolutionized our trade and the world.

What information do barcodes contain?

It may seem to us that after scanning a barcode, the scanner magically reads all information such as name and price stored in the barcode. Nothing could be further from the truth. 1D barcode (the classic barcode we all know) contains only numbers (8-25 characters). This code can be read using a barcode scanner.

All the magic happens with software such as POS (Point of Sale), WMS (Warehouse Management System), PIM (Product Information Management), or ERP (Enterprise resource planning). Whatever the program is, it must contain the product data entered into the database.

In such a database there is information assigned to a given barcode, and what that information is, will depend on the level of advancement of the software.

Hence, situations that you may know from your own experience when the scanned product is not found in the database and the seller cannot sell it to you. Because he simply does not know how much it costs or what its name is, and whether it should be on the shelf at all.

Do I need a barcode to sell online?

Knowing how a barcode works, we can answer the question of whether you need barcodes for an online store. Theoretically, all data associated with the barcode is in your database. And since you have this data, you can present it to the client without showing the code. Technically, it doesn’t matter if the product has an assigned code or not.

And it is so often that customers do not wonder if the data of this particular product is assigned to some barcode. You can very often encounter offers without Barcodes where:

  • You sell packaged products – by weight.
  • You sell handicrafts or unique products
  • The products are of natural origin and this affects their shape, weight, and appearance. In a word, each item is different

The subject becomes more complicated in a few cases, but it is better for our products to have a barcode assigned to them.

The simplest case will be when you want to launch your product on an Amazon or eBay marketplace. Technically, by flexing and sweating, you can do it without a barcode. Either way, you will be assigned with their FNSKU internal code (on Amazon).

All this happens so that their system could compare two identical products with each other. It does just that with barcodes/product codes. Thanks to this, Amazon knows whether your product is expensive or cheap. Not only that, it is up to you to have this code, because thanks to this, customers can evaluate your product, leave reviews and search for it by its barcode.

Another such example is advertising your products in Google Ads product campaigns. If the product does not have a barcode, the Merchant Center system (through which we import our products to Google Ads) will start to cause us problems.

Additionally, your customers can search for a product by barcode simply by entering EAN or UPC in the Google search engine or in the internal search engine in your Online Store.

When You can sell products without barcodes?

Products without a barcode can be sold stationary or on your own online store in practically any case. On the other hand, the everyday practice is that certain types of products have barcodes. You can simply go onto a random Ecommerce page and see.

However, there are types of products that will surely be more convenient to sell without barcodes. Such products will be:

  • Packaged products
  • Scattered on scales or poured into smaller capacity tanks
  • Products of natural origin – plants, plant litter by weight
  • Mats, tarpaulins, foils, etc. Cut from a larger sheet or roll.

However, in all these cases, it is worth considering whether to assign a bar code to one unit of measurement. E.g. ft2, m2, L, Gallon, Pound,

What is the difference between an SKU and a barcode?

SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is a stock code used to identify products in stock. BARCODE is a visual representation of the Manufacturer’s code, eg EAN, UPC, or others. It can be read with a barcode scanner. Both SKU and Barcode can be assigned to product characteristics.

Can I create my own barcodes for products?

Yes, you can create your own barcodes for products. Depending on your needs, you can create any unregistered code or license barcode from the GS1 database.

1. Barcodes for Personal Use.

You can create such code with Free Barcode Generators available everywhere on the internet. Those codes will be useful for tracking products in the warehouse.

An example of a company where this will be useful will be a manufacturer who produces a given product for several brands. By the way, let’s face it, this is an ordinary case. There are plenty of private label companies.

In this case, the company buying from the manufacturer will want to assign its own GTIN code, i.e. the code registered in the GS1 database. Therefore, the manufacturer will prefer to use its internal barcode.

Additionally, barcodes do not necessarily have to be assigned to products. They can also be assigned to specific tasks for employees, or be used to signal that a given production step has been completed. The employee simply scans a certain barcode with a scanner and the system sees that it is done.

2. Barcodes Registered in GS1 Database

Such codes are assigned by manufacturers to products that will eventually hit the market. Such a code is registered by us along with its features, name, manufacturer’s name, and variants.

You are able to do such registration yourself without major problems after paying a small fee. How to do it? Read the article to the end.

There are many benefits to such registration, ranging from standardizing the product to making it easier to sell. We list the exact benefits in the following paragraphs.

How do I get barcodes for my business?

1. Register an account with GS1

If you need a barcode for Your business you must first register an account at This is the official website of the institution that grants unified and unique codes in the GTIN standard such as EAN-13 or EAN-8 or UPC

2. Enter your company details

You need to enter your company details into the GS1 System. This allows you to identify the company that registered the product and code. If you have your own separate Brand, you can register it later.

3. Calculate how many barcodes you need

Each color variation or size of a product should have its own barcode number. Therefore, calculate well the number of codes you need.

4. Select the appropriate package

Depending on how many codes you need, you can purchase a different code package. The basic fee for UPC codes is $ 30. In this, you get 9 codes to use. There are also packages for 10, 100, and even 10,000 codes.

Remember that you are getting pure code here with no barcode graphic representation of that code. You will have to generate it later.

5. Enter the Product data

When assigning a product to a given code in GS1 and thus registering it, try to enter as much truthful information as possible. Attach a photo of the product, if possible, and a link to the website.

6. Get the code

Remember to download the code to your local disk. Also, keep a code list in the spreadsheet just in case.

7. Use the Barcode Generator

It can be a free generator of this type: Click Here to open a free Generator or a native generator on the GS1 website. It does not matter. All you need to do is choose the right type of code, paste your code in the appropriate field, choose the format and it’s ready for download.

Download the barcode to Your disk, and from now on You can use it in production.

Can 2 products have the same barcode?

The same barcodes can only be at two items, but not different products. This means that every same product in the same variation will have the same barcode number. Two different products should have 2 separate barcodes even if they differ only with color or size. That helps with sales, product management, and clarity of offer.

When registering codes in the GS1 database, it is not possible for the system to generate two identical codes for different products.

What are the benefits of using barcodes?

Product Information at hand

This is an advantage for both the seller and the buyer. Just scan the barcode and we immediately know the name of the product and what is its price.

Saving Time

Product data is entered only once to the system. Then, using the barcode, we can access the product data in a short time. It is very beneficial because we care about fast customer service and minimizing the time needed to search for product data in the database.

Error Filter

During the picking and packing process in an Ecommerce Warehouse, barcodes help to prevent sending the wrong products to your clients. If the picker is picking a product from the shelf, then he simply scans the barcode with a barcode scanner and the system will display an error if this is not a proper product.
That solution prevents You from mistakes.

Stocks management

Managing your warehouse and products would be a nightmare without using barcodes. Due to the fact that they exist, we can easily find products in the system and on shelves. In addition, we can track expiry dates, quantities of products, and even whether they are selling or not.

Reducing Costs

Thanks to the fact that we can scan the barcode and read product information in an instant, we save not only time but also money. Employee time costs money. It is easier to train an employee working at the cash register to scan the barcode than to know the products or be able to determine whether a given product has a given price or not.

Additionally, searching for information in the system for too long results in impatient customers and this leads to a drop in sales, trust, and revenues. We don’t want that, so using barcodes is indispensable nowadays.

Read also an interesting article about 10 ways how barcodes benefit customers

What is the disadvantage of barcodes?

It’s hard to find the disadvantages of such a simple solution as barcodes. Perhaps such a downside may be the fact that we must first generate or register this code before launching the product on the market.

We will also have some work to enter product data so that it can be assigned to barcodes.

Another downside may be that if there is no code entered into the database, and the product is in the store, stationery stores usually will not sell this product to clients. Unless we are talking to the manager or store manager.

To sum up

Bar codes accelerated global trade and unified product information. The appearance of them can be considered an industrial revolution and having them on your own product rather brings only benefits. So let’s take the effort and make sure that Your barcodes are correctly entered and registered in GS1.

Jakub Szulc

I am an active Ecommerce Manager and Consultant in several Online Stores. I have a solid background in Online Marketing, Sales Techniques, Brand Developing, and Product Managing. All this was tested and verified in my own business activities

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