What makes a good barcode scanner? (Buyers Guide)

woman scanning a barcode with a barcode scanner

Anyone who runs his Ecommerce or Stationary Business and has to manage inventory will sooner or later have to get a barcode scanner. This inconspicuous device has a significant impact on your business and whether your employees work efficiently or not.

Generally, a good barcode scanner for Ecommerce should have Bluetooth function and be cordless. Battery capacity, drop and impact resistance, and the ability to read barcodes in various lighting conditions are also important. Optionally, it is worth looking for a scanner that can read 2D barcodes

There are many factors to consider when choosing a scanner. If you want to know the types of these devices and their functions, in this article we will focus on what makes the barcode scanner worth your attention.

Are all barcode scanners the same?

Like any other device, barcode scanners have been created with different usage environments and business needs in mind. Therefore, there are many types of scanners on the market.

Familiarize yourself with their features to choose the scanner that best suits your needs.

What are the features of a barcode scanner?

Scanners may differ with:

  • Type of supported barcodes
  • The way to read a barcode
  • Resistance to environmental conditions (dust and water)
  • Battery Capacity
  • Impact resistance
  • Possibility of storing data in memory and sending them to WMS, POS, or other software.
  • Size and mobility.
  • Complexity (with or without display)
  • Additional options such as a GPS module or a fiscal printer.

What should I look for when buying a barcode scanner?

When choosing a barcode scanner, you should, first of all, think about the way you work in your business. It is important to define in advance how employees will scan products, whether you need to serve customers in direct sales or only scan products at the workstation.

You will need a different Scanner for a warehouse employee who often walks around a small warehouse, another for a large warehouse worker who needs to see the data of the scanned product immediately and another for a self-checkout or self-check lines in a stationery Store.

What are the different types of barcode scanners?

Below we present the most important division of scanners in terms of their features.

1. Way of working with the scanner

Handheld Barcode Scanners – This is a wide range of scanners that are used by holding them in your hand and aiming a laser beam or lens at a barcode. They can have a pen or a gun form. These scanners can be found everywhere and their prices range from $ 20 to $ 700.

Stationary Barcode Scanners – Such scanners are used at checkouts in shops and shopping centers, in Self-check lines or passing gates, e.g. at airports or in cultural facilities, as validators of passes. They work well where traffic moves in some direction and we need to quickly scan the codes in bulk.

2. How they read the codes

Laser Scanner – The classic way of reading codes using a laser beam. They are the most widely used scanners in warehouses and small businesses. Such scanners can only scan 1D codes unless they are equipped with an omnidirectional beam.

The laser beam reads the distance between the individual lines of the barcode and Converts them into numbers.

Therefore, if your products only have 1D barcodes, e.g. the most popular UPC or EAN, such a scanner is enough for you to work efficiently without unnecessary costs for advanced scanners.

Image Scanner – These scanners read both 1D and 2D barcodes, i.e. modern QR codes. Such scanners capture the entire image of the code, and then the software processes this image and read the data stored in such code based on the analysis of this image.

Due to the fact that the whole image can be read, the information can be stored in 2 planes/axes. This solution allows you to store much more information in a 2D code than in classic 1D codes.

3. Connection type

Wired – The scanner must be connected to a computer, workstation, or cash register by means of a cable. These scanners do not store information and are quite economical. Their downside is the lack of mobility. But they do not require any batteries.

Wireless – The most popular wireless barcode scanners on the market are handy and mobile. You can walk around the warehouse with them by scanning the necessary barcodes. They can be equipped with an additional display or quite simple.

4. Storage and transmission of information

Storing data in internal memory – These scanners can store a large number of scanned barcodes in internal memory. When we are far from a workstation or computer, and the distance from it does not allow us to use Bluetooth communication or even Wi-Fi, such a scanner will be the best choice.

Data transferring via Bluetooth communication – These types of barcode scanners are a very good solution for medium and small Ecommerce warehouses, where the distance from the receiving station or computer is not too great, and the scanner remains within Bluetooth range all the time.

Such Scanners are the most convenient and do not restrict the work with any cables.

Data transfer via cable – Here, the data of the scanned product goes directly to the program that processes the data via the cable. Most often it is a POS or WMS system. These scanners are reliable, but the only limitation is the reach of the cable itself. They are best for stationary positions and cash registers.

5. Resistance to working conditions

Standard Scanners – These are classic and economical scanners that we will use in optimal weather conditions and without risking falls or impacts. The housing of such devices is made of plastic and is not reinforced with anything.

Rugged Scanners – Such scanners are adapted to work in harsh weather conditions. Examples include low temperatures in a cold store, or working with a scanner in the field. Their structure is reinforced to protect the scanner against impacts and falls from greater heights. They are also resistant to dust and dirt.

6. Advanced Additional Features

Simple Handheld Barcode Scanners – These simple handheld scanners only have to scan barcodes and forward them into the system. The most common are simple trigger scanners.

Android Barcode Scanners – These scanners come with Android and a touch screen and are sort of independent computers. They have built-in memory, a Wifi module, GPS, Bluetooth, an Autofocus camera, and 4G communication. They are most often used by courier companies because they allow you to work regardless of location.

What is the difference between a barcode reader and a barcode scanner?

Barcode Reader and Barcode Scanner are two different terms for the same device. Both terms refer to scanning a barcode with a laser beam or a camera and generating a product code on this basis.
Further processing or comparing the code with the product is a job for POS, WMS, or ERP programs.

What is Barcode Verifier

It is a barcode scanning device that immediately verifies their correctness and legibility for barcode scanners. Such a device is recommended in B2B companies that offer their products to other sellers.

To make sure that the next sellers can read your barcodes correctly with their scanners, use the Barcode Verifier, which will tell you if the code is readable if it is incorrectly emitted or if the print is of poor quality.

What information does a barcode hold?

1D barcode

A one-dimensional bar code stores numbers or characters in the form of graphic bars (most often black bars with white spaces between them). Due to the fact that the data is stored in a one-dimensional data string, in such codes, we can store up to a maximum of 48 characters in the case of the code “CODE 128”.

The most commonly used UPC and EAN barcodes can only store up to 13 digits

2D barcode

Two-dimensional barcodes can store up to 3067 alphanumeric, 3832 numeric, or 1914 Bytes of data. They are most often useful for placing links to manuals, guides, or links to websites. To read them, however, you need a special scanner that reads images or a smartphone with an application that reads such codes.

smartphone scanning a QR code
2D barcode in ecommerce

Both types of barcodes store the data needed for proper customer service or for efficient warehouse management. However, this is such a large topic that I describe all types of barcodes in a separate article.

What is the best barcode scanner to use in Ecommerce?

The Ecommerce business is characterized by the fact that we must be able to efficiently manage products in the warehouse to serve our customers quickly and efficiently. For this purpose, we most often need handheld barcode scanners.

Your barcode scanner will depend on the specifics of your business. It must be adapted to the way your employees work and internal processes in the warehouse. Wireless scanners with Bluetooth communication or handheld scanners with touch screens work well.

To make it easier for you to choose a scanner for your Ecommerce business, we have compiled a comparison of the most popular barcode scanners.

By the way, I also wrote about 10 ways how barcodes benefit customers Ecommerce Guide And if you want to learn more about barcodes, I encourage you to read this article.


Before you equip your business with a barcode scanner, you should first of all focus on defining your needs and the way you work . Then choose a product from the market that will be good enough to easily meet your requirements, and at the same time not burden you financially with unnecessary functions.

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

Recent Posts