Barcodes are a fundamental part of retail automation solutions. Advanced retail operations use barcodes to guide and document nearly every operation, from initial packaging and shipping, through supply chain management, delivery, in-store inventory placement, and the point-of-sale transaction.
Mobile computing and data capture solutions (including barcodes) provide retail companies with better visibility and control over inventory and stock levels, improved employee productivity, and a better overall customer experience. However, not all retail barcode solutions are created equal. Here are three things to look for in a barcode system:
1. Intelligent Order Entry
This functionality is important both for suppliers that have field sales representatives visiting retail clients, and for retailers who are able to place replenishment orders from the sales floor. Field sales personnel need a real-time view of customer and product information to do their jobs effectively. Phoning and faxing orders from the road is inefficient and can lead to errors, delays, and lost sales opportunities.
An intelligent order entry solution eliminates “blind ordering” from the field by enabling two-way communication between the sales team and your enterprise systems. As orders are sent in from customer sites, product, customer and pricing information can be updated on their mobile computers.
For retailers, using mobile computers to place new orders based on in-store inventory scans can result in more accurate and timely replenishment and fewer out-of-stocks.
2. Inventory Management
The key to having the right item on the shelf at the right time is through effective inventory management. Automatic data collection solutions (such as barcodes and RFID), combined with wireless networks, can help manage the inventory flow from the receiving area to the stock room, and even to the shelf.
Nearly every level of packaging includes a barcode, so retailers can use the technology to maintain tight and accurate control over inventory. At the warehouse, every pallet, case, and unit-level item can be scanned as they enter and exit the facility, providing an accurate shipping record.
When goods arrive at the retail location, store staff can scan the products as they enter the stock room or when they go on the shelf. These records can then be compared with point-of-sale scans at the register to maintain highly accurate inventory data.
Having all of these scans linked to an online portal can provide every stakeholder with updated shipment status and sales data. Scan data can also be used to generate automatic replenishment orders and maintain a continuous inventory record.
3. Leading Edge Data Collection and Mobility
Mobile computers and tablets are playing a lager role in retail operations as well. In the field, sales staff can use handheld computers to scan on-shelf inventory, accept customer signatures, process payments, and send orders directly to the back-end enterprise solution.
At a retail store, mobile associate solutions can improve stock management by allowing staff to use barcodes for inventory and for price checks. Associates can also use their mobile computers to check backroom stock for customers, order merchandise from a supplier or initiate a transfer from another store location.
Many retailers have also leveraged tablet technology to rapidly increase their checkout capacity during peak times/seasons by providing the ability for associates to accept payments on the sales floor. These line-busting applications can be rapidly scaled up or down to meet demand.
Barcoding technology can deliver higher same-store sales, fewer out-of-stocks, and increased inventory turnover, while also providing long-term efficiencies for retailers. When selecting a retail barcode solution, make sure to carefully evaluate all of the features and functions, and find a solution that will help take your retail operations to the next level.