Barcodes: everything you need to know

April 27, 2023

How do barcodes work?

Barcodes consist of black and white bars that can be read by the barcode scanner. The light absorbs the black bars while the white bars are reflected. The specific combination of white and black bars is read by the scanner as a code, or as data, which is then translated into your POS. 


The most common type of barcode is the UPC, or Universal Product Code, which consists of the black and white bars and the 12-digit code just below. What does the code mean? The first six digits of the UPC is the identification number of the item’s manufacturer. The next five digits are the item number, assigned by you or whoever is in charge of your stock. Each item should have its own unique number, including the different variations such as color and size. The last digit is an error-checking digit. 


While a UPC is a universal code, an SKU is the code assigned by your unique company. 

Why should you use a barcode?

Faster checkouts

One of the main benefits of using barcodes is the efficiency. Instead of searching for items in your POS register, manually selecting their variations and adding them to the cart, you can speed up the process tenfold by simply scanning the barcode. This is especially useful if you’re ringing through a sale with multiple items. 

Improved accuracy 

Scanning products is much less prone to human error than manual entry. With barcode products, the likelihood of accidentally selecting the wrong item, ruining your inventory and charging your customer the wrong amount is much lower. 

Easier to learn

Scanning barcodes is much easier to learn than an entire POS navigation. If your POS has an intuitive interface like Oliver, it shouldn’t take long to pick up anyway. However, you can get new employees behind the counter in no time if you have a barcode scanner.

Improved inventory management

With all your items numerically identified, and easily scannable with their barcodes, it becomes much easier to keep track of your items and to count inventory. 

How to get started with barcodes

There are a multitude of plugins that will generate barcodes and printable labels for you, such as YITH WooCommerce Barcodes & QR Codes. Use a plugin like this to automatically generate a barcode, or manually create a barcode, for all of your WooCommerce products. Then you can print out your barcode label stickers and apply them to your products.

The next step is to get a barcode scanner. The Oliver Scanner is accurate, affordable, and built to last. If you’re not using the Oliver Mini or the Oliver Combo in your store, the Oliver Scanner is compatible with the devices you already have.

Or, if you’re of the mindset that less is more, our mobile POS the Oliver Go has a built-in barcode scanner and receipt printer, so you can scan your items on the go for convenient sales. 

Here’s more information on how to use barcode scanners with Oliver POS.