When manufacturers need to track inventory or retailers need to count up their sales, they need a way to do these tasks quickly. Even more importantly, they need to take human error out of the equation. Custom QR code labels can eliminate most errors even as they allow staff to scan items quickly, saving time and money in the process.
But why not use barcode labels? Don’t they accomplish the same thing?
There are several differences between these types of tracking labels that make printing custom QR code labels the best choice for today’s products.
Custom QR Code Stickers Versus Barcodes
As former Capterra analyst Andrew Marder points out, barcodes can only contain information in the horizontal direction. QR codes, however, can contain information in both the vertical and horizontal directions. That means that custom QR code labels can hold much more information than do barcode labels.
With the advent of blockchain technology comes the ability to timestamp each step along the supply chain. That’s a game-changer for the food, beverage, and healthcare product industries – as well as many more.
How Can Blockchain Technology Help?
Instead of simply tracking when an item leaves the factory, when it arrives at the store, and when a customer purchases it, blockchain makes it possible to record each time the item changes hands, every person who touches it, and a wealth of other information. This extra information is critical in case of recalls – or in case someone with a highly contagious disease touches foodstuffs or medical products.
In fact, complete transparency is a must to stay compliant with many FDA regulations and the food industry’s standard, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). With all the steps that occur along a product’s production – from raw materials to sitting in a customer’s pantry, a way to keep track of all those steps is essential. With QR, companies have just that.
QR Codes Information
Not only can these codes hold information both vertically and horizontally, but it can also structure that information, says Marder. These codes can structure data “in relative positions,” such as below, above, and next to another critical data point.
This structure also allows people along the supply chain to scan custom QR code stickers from a variety of angles, streamlining the scanning process. For enterprise-level companies that must scan thousands of codes – or even more – a day, the time they can save by using QR code labels can add up quickly.
What About Data?
QR codes hold data in a pattern of small black and white squares. Those squares lie in a grid with a handful of reference points scattered throughout, giving them more flexibility than a traditional barcode and meaning that they can be scanned from multiple angles.
Furthermore, custom QR code stickers can also hold text, allowing customers to link an OTC medication, for instance, to safety and drug interaction information. Combined with the traceability of blockchain, this information can even indicate whether the medication is genuine.
For mechanical products, QR code labels can link owners with diagrams, owners’ manuals, and troubleshooting guidelines. If the product doesn’t come pre-assembled, the QR code can link to a list of parts and assembly instructions.
Also, QR code labels are mobile-friendly for shoppers. When shoppers scan the label, the encoded data can take them to a list of ingredients, the product’s original source, and other pertinent information that can help them decide whether to buy the product.
Barcodes Do Have Their Uses, Though – Particularly In-House
Even though custom QR code stickers can hold a wealth of information, barcodes do have their place, which is why so many products carry both barcode and QR labels. For warehouses and retailers, as Marder contends, barcodes are a necessary tool of the trade.
The reason? Their long-range scannability. Although the custom QR stickers contain more information, barcode labels are more efficient for certain in-house tasks, such as scanning an item at the point of sale or while taking inventory.
For instance, a salesperson or inventory worker can only scan a typical QR code from ten inches away or less. The same item, with a barcode label also attached, can often be scanned from as far a distance as 54 feet.
Barcode scanners, therefore, are the typical devices that retailers and other sellers use to differentiate their wares. Retailers use them to decode a product’s Universal Product Code (UPC) number, which provides them with the manufacturer’s unique identifier, the item number, and a verification digit.
Other familiar barcodes that retailers and manufacturers use include EAN codes for consumer products in Europe and elsewhere, ISBN codes to identify books, and POSTNET codes that the U.S. Postal Service uses on pieces of mail.
Barcodes, then, are usually indispensable for major retailers. However, in today’s market, more than only barcode labels are necessary.
Barcode Labels Not Enough for NextGen Retailers
QR code labels, for instance, are easier to read with a phone. For smaller retailers that use a phone rather than a laser scanner to scan products, QR code labels are necessary for keeping electronic tabs on their inventory and sales.
Furthermore, some shady wholesalers try to pass off counterfeit products on retailers, duplicating the barcode label of the original product. Insisting on products with QR labels as well as barcode ones ensures that retailers are getting genuine merchandise since they can easily trace the product back to its source.
In the next decade, the need for traceability will become more crucial, as supply-chain transparency and sustainable sourcing take on more importance in consumers’ minds. Too, as QR technology advances in scope, it will become a critical component of manufacturing, wholesale, and retail labeling.
Get the Best of Both Worlds with Both Barcode and QR Code Labels
Since barcodes are inexpensive and save time yet QR codes provide more extensive information, they both have their uses on packaging. Using them both gives you the best of both worlds – and an eye to the future.
For these reasons, we recommend that businesses use both barcode and QR code labels on their products. If you’d like more information on which types of labeling will work best for your products, get in touch with our knowledgeable team today!