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5 Reasons Why Retailers Should Stop Using Barcodes?

5 Reasons Why Retailers Should Stop Using Barcodes?

Are barcodes becoming outdated in the world of retail? Many retailers are starting to think so.

Barcodes have been, for long, the go-to option for retailers for product labeling and categorization. The first barcode, scanned in a commercial setting, was on a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum in 1974, at an Ohio supermarket. Since then, barcodes have become an important part of the retail industry, helping to track inventory and sales. However, they are becoming outdated as they are no longer the most efficient way to track products. With the rise of RFID technology, the glaring inefficiencies of barcoding systems are hard to ignore.

Barcodes consist of some other limitations and challenges that are limiting retailers' ability to use a barcode in the long run. It is simply not profitable to use barcode for retail inventory and item-level tagging in retail stores.

5 Reasons Why Retailers Should Stop Using Barcodes?

Here are 5 reasons why barcode is not an efficient technology for retail operations anymore and why retailers should consider losing barcodes for RFID labels:


1. Barcodes have limited data storing capacity

Barcodes, while efficient for basic data encoding and identification purposes, have limitations when it comes to storing information. Traditional barcodes, such as the 1D, have limited data storage capabilities and typically can store up to 85 characters. It is among the limitations of barcodes to encode large amounts of data, such as detailed product information or complex alphanumeric identifiers. Therefore, the UPC-12 barcode, which has been the preferred option for retail items, is suddenly losing its charm.

As a result, businesses are now using some other alternative technologies, like
QR codes, which can store up to 7,089 characters, or RFID, which is preferred due to its superior memory capacity and versatility.

2. Barcodes require Line-of-Sight Scanning

Another reason for retailers to consider is the inefficient scanning ability of the barcode readers. A direct line of sight must be established between the barcode scanner and the printed barcode to accurately capture the encoded information. It can be challenging in scenarios where items are not easily accessible or the barcode is damaged, which may result in misreads, which leads to errors in data collection.

The line-of-sight requirement restricts barcode scanning systems, particularly in environments where real-time and seamless data capture are essential.

Alternative solutions such as RFID eliminate the need for direct line-of-sight for communication, and QR codes also eliminate the line-of-sight requirement. Despite being rotated or partially damaged, the QR code can be scanned using a QR code scanner or smartphone camera with a 360 degree scanning ability. In case of RFID tags attached to retail items, retailers can use a handheld RFID reader to remotely scan multiple tags attached to multiple items at one go, sometimes 1200 tags per second, which is simply impossible with barcode scanners. RFID Fixed Readers installed at gates can accurately detect all RFID tagged items passing through the gate, which improves the warehouse management and retail store management immensely.


3. Barcoding Technology is inefficient in  Item-level Search

Barcode based inventory management systems are useful in inventory management but have some limitations in searching for items within inventories. As of now, we know that the barcode scanner requires a direct line of sight with the barcode to retrieve information. In situations where items are tightly packed, stacked, or stored in less accessible locations, the scanning process requires labor support and becomes a time-consuming process.

For example, suppose you have to find particular apparel in a particular size, in a large retail store at customer’s demand, you can check the item in the store management software for availability but actually finding the item in the store is like finding a needle in a haystack.

To deal with these limitations, businesses are exploring alternative technologies such as RFID and QR codes. RFID technology uses radio frequency to operate and can be read through RFID readers from various angles and through materials. RFID enables rapid and simultaneous scanning of multiple items, even in densely packed or hard-to-reach areas. We can even enhance RFID capabilities by combining it with IoT technology and various ERP systems. We can use IoT-enabled devices and CCTV cameras to search for a particular item more quickly in retail stores. QR codes, on the other hand, can be retrieved with a simple scan using a QR code reader or a smartphone camera; detailed information about the item, including specifications, location, and inventory status, can be instantly retrieved.


4. Barcodes don’t provide real-time inventory visibility

In warehouses, barcodes don’t provide real-time inventory visibility, which is a major concern for retailers. The barcode technology, by design, depends upon manual scanning processes, making it challenging to provide instant updates on inventory levels. For example, an item moves within the supply chain or is sold. Then the data retrieved from barcodes become outdated until the next scanning point.

Unlike barcodes, RFID tags and QR codes provide dynamic and instant access to inventory data.
RFID based inventory management system can provide real-time inventory visibility in large warehouses. RFID tags, equipped with unique IDs, enable continuous and automatic tracking of items throughout the supply chain. Similarly, QR codes facilitate quick and comprehensive data retrieval with a simple scan, offering visibility into product details and stock levels. 


5. Barcoding  offers limited Read Rate (Barcode Reading Speed)

Barcoding in retail is also becoming irrelevant because of its limited read rate, a challenge in high-volume and time-sensitive environments. The process of scanning barcodes requires precision, as the barcode scanner must align accurately with the barcode to capture the encoded information. In some cases, where numerous items need to be processed rapidly, such as in busy retail checkouts or logistics operations, the time it takes to individually scan each barcode creates delays and drops the overall operational speed. In retail stores, it results in bad customer experience.

To address these problems, businesses are focusing on alternative technologies like RFID or QR codes. QR codes can be quickly scanned using smartphones or dedicated scanners, allowing for rapid data retrieval. RFID, on the other hand, operates without any need for direct line-of-sight, enabling multiple tags to be read simultaneously and at a faster pace.
RFID Readers by Zebra and other prominent RFID manufacturers support significantly high read rate, going up to 1800 tags per second, which makes RFID an efficient choice for retail applications.

In conclusion, technologies like RFID, QR code, IoT, and AI are steering retailers away from traditional barcode technology for several reasons. One of which is the limitations in storing data. Often, restrictions in handling variable data also create challenges in completing the demands of modern retail operations. The requirement of a direct line-of-sight for scanning is a time-consuming process, particularly for a retail store. Also, the barcode has limited read speeds and cannot provide a seamless search and retrieval of items in large inventories. Retailers require more adaptable and advanced solutions such as QR codes and RFID are their superior choices as compared to using barcodes in their retail stores.

If you’re looking to adopt RFID technology for retail and other business needs, provides all kinds of RFID and QR products and solutions at best prices.


Frequently Asked Questions


Q1) What stops barcode scanning?

Any opaque material placed over a barcode will stop it from being scanned. For example, masking tape, cardboard, paper, and denim.


Q2) How do the limitations of storing data impact retailers using barcode technology?

Barcode technology has limitations in the amount of data it can store, restricting its ability to encode detailed information about products. Retailers find it a limitation, especially in current scenarios where detailed product information is essential for modern consumer expectations.


Q3) How do QR codes and RFID handle the limitations of barcode technology for retailers?

QR codes and RFID provide better solutions than barcode technology. They offer improved data storage capacity, non-line-of-sight capabilities, and faster read speeds, making them more suitable for the dynamic and data-intensive demands of modern retail operations.

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  • Created on Jan 02, 2024

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