Introduction to Barcodes
What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a symbol easily read by a barcode scanner or smartphone app and links a globally unique number. Retailers use this number to enter product information into their database- the barcode itself doesn’t contain information apart from the number it represents. Barcodes are most commonly used at checkouts in retail stores to quickly retrieve the name and price of a product at the checkout and to track products as they move through the supply chain. Once scanned, store owners can be alerted to low stock levels of a particular item, prompting them to reorder in good time. Every product variation (e.g. each size and colour) requires its own barcode. For more detailed information about barcode history and current use, Click Here.
Do I Need a Barcode?
If you have a product you wish to be stocked at a retail store, you will almost certainly need barcodes. Different retailers and regions have varying standards, and it is essential to pick the right barcode type to avoid unnecessary hassle and confusion when your goods make it to a store. Each product and variation will require its own unique barcode. For example, if you have three different products, each with five different colours, you will need 3 x 5 = 15 barcodes.
Types of Barcodes
EAN-13 Barcodes / International Article Number
International Article Numbers, formerly EAN (European Article Numbers), comprise 13 digits. They are used worldwide on all retail products excluding books and magazines. They are the most widely used barcodes globally, except in the USA and Canada, where UPC-A (Universal Product Codes) barcodes are more common. In Singapore, the EAN-13 is probably the barcode you need if you have products you wish to stock at a retail store.
Each EAN-13 is product-specific and encoded into a barcode image. This means that when the barcode is scanned into store systems, the retailer records the price and inventory data related to your product. A different EAN-13 number, therefore, is required for each unique product. Click Here to purchase EAN-13 barcodes.
12-digit UPC Barcodes are used predominantly in the USA and Canada on all retail products, except books and magazines. If you sell in the US or Canada, you likely want to use a UPC-A rather than an EAN-13 code. Click Here to purchase UPC-A barcodes.
A smaller globally unique barcode intended for VERY SMALL products – difficult to obtain and only available from GS1. GS1 is a membership organisation. – EAN8 barcodes are only eight digits long, meaning there is a limited number of them, and hence GS1 guard them carefully. So to obtain these, you need to submit proof that your product is very small and wait to see if GS1 approve this.
Book and Magazine Barcodes
International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are barcodes for both hard copy and e-books. ISBNs usually start with 978 and are distributed by ISBN agencies in each country (see isbn-international.org/agency). They can also be obtained through independent publishing agencies such as bookisbn.org.uk, used for self-publishing authors. Note: Crossword, puzzle and colouring books are not published books, so do not use ISBN barcodes. They use standard retail barcodes instead (EAN or UPC).
It is important to note that we cannot provide you with an ISBN. Only your national ISBN issuer can give you that. You can get an ISBN number from the Singapore National Library in Singapore. They will issue you the ISBN (for free). Once you receive your ISBN, come back here and purchase the ISBN barcode images.
email [email protected]
Once you have the ISBN, please return to our website and order the barcode image or labels for your ISBN. Click Here for more information.
An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique 8-digit number used to identify periodical publications such as magazines, newspapers and journals.
The Singapore National Library issues the ISSN. They will give you the ISSN (for free). Once you receive your ISSN, come back here and purchase the ISSN barcode images. Email [email protected]
Only apply for an ISSN if your publication meets the following criteria:
• They are serials (journals, newspapers, magazines, monographic series etc.)
• They are ongoing integrating resources (websites, databases etc.) Click Here for more information
ITF-14 Carton Codes are created from EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes. They are only used in warehouses on cartons containing a specific quantity of the item that the product barcode represents. These codes are not for products sold individually at a retail level. For example, a case of wine sold as a single unit would need a retail barcode. You may need an ITF-14 code if you have a shipping carton full of wine bottles which will be taken out and sold individually after they arrive at the shop. Click Here to purchase ITF-14 barcodes.
Quick Response Codes
QR Codes are square barcodes that look a bit like a maze. They can be used to link to a website URL or to contain information and are often used on posters, pamphlets and advertising material. For example, you can also use them on retail products to take a customer to your website. However, the product will also need a retail barcode on it, which is scanned by the retailer for pricing etc., at the checkout. Click Here for more information about our QR code services.
How to Use Your Barcode
Getting barcodes onto your products and into retail stores involves three easy steps:
1. Buy a barcode:
• Establish where you will sell your product to determine if you require EAN-13 or UPC barcodes.
• Decide how many barcodes you need based on product variations. Remember that different sizes, colours and flavours each require separate barcodes.
• Purchase your EAN or UPC barcode in the correct quantity online.
• Receive an email with your barcode number/s plus files with the corresponding images in the file format of your choice.
2. Add your barcode to your product:
• Choose whichever barcode image format (e.g. jpeg, pdf) you prefer.
• Resize the image to fit into your product packaging. Please remember the Barcode Dimensions: The standard size is about 38mm wide x 25mm high. The smallest recommended size is 80% of the standard size – i.e. about 30mm wide x 20mm high. For full specifications, see: internationalbarcodes.com/ean-13-specifications
• Add the barcode to your product packaging in an easily visible, flat location. Don’t print too close to the edge or over any seams.
- If you place your barcode on a curved surface, e.g. a bottle, the barcode should be rotated to resemble a ladder (vertical) instead of a fence (horizontal).
- Check your label artwork BEFORE printing your product packaging.
- If you want the barcode printed onto adhesive labels to be manually applied to your product, follow the same principles outlined above.
- Check that the barcode numbers are correct and that the image is high quality and within the official size range.
- Do a SAMPLE PRINT and check that the barcode prints and scans correctly.
3. Send your product to retailers:
Once you’ve printed your packaging, send the barcoded products and product information to your retailers. The retailer will scan the barcode into their system and enter the specific product and price information for that item into their database. Your product information will appear whenever the barcode is scanned in that retail store.
Additional Services We Offer
Once a barcode is purchased, you have the option to assign product and company information to your barcodes, such as the product’s country of origin, description and manufacturer’s contact details. Register your barcode number and product details on the International Barcodes Database (barcodesdatabase.org). This data is then automatically submitted to the leading barcode databases worldwide.
To register your barcode number, please Click Here
Registration is optional, but it can increase your product’s online profile.
Benefits of barcode registration:
• To reduce illegal use of your barcode (an internet search will show if the number is already in use, discouraging unauthorised use).
• For greater online visibility of your product, including apps that use barcode databases.
Note: Barcode registration does not send product data to your retailers. You must still send each retailer your barcode numbers and corresponding product information. Each retailer has their own system, so you must register your products with them individually.
If you have a barcode which you purchased elsewhere but wish to register, you can buy barcode registration by Clicking Here.
Barcode verification is a test scan of your barcode to ensure it will scan well in different scanning environments. Verification is not usually required. However, this is country and retailer specific. We can provide barcode verification if you need it (please get in touch with us if you need your barcodes verified). To learn about barcode verification, please Click Here. For information about the stores that require verification, please Click Here.