Retailers can extend the benefits of their point of sale bar code scanners by using them to scan coupons and other promotions. Since a bar code scanner really just interprets the bar code into text as if it was typed on the keyboard, scanners can be used to enter just about any value into any data field. For example, instead of selecting or typing a Price Change “Reason Code,” the Reason Code can also be scanned. Think of it as scanning a coupon, but the same could be applied to using promotional gift cards or scanning any media.
The only challenge is in knowing how to create a bar code that can be read by the existing scanner. Not all bar codes are the same, and not all scanners will read all bar codes. Some bar codes support different types of characters – for example, UPC-A bar codes must be numeric. In addition the UPC-A bar codes are limited to 11 digits in length (using leading zeros for smaller values) followed by a “check digit” which the program calculates based on the first 11 digits.
The safest bet is to use the the bar codes just as they are used for inventory. For Merchant Plus!, that means using a numeric value up to 11 positions (the twelfth check digit value is not defined in the system). In Merchant Plus!, the Price Change Reason Code can be up to 20 characters and it can be alphanumeric but it can be easily changed to match the numeric bar code. Merchant Plus! also assumes that the bar code is terminated with a “Tab” function to advance operator control to the next field.
If an alphanumeric value (up to 20 characters) is desired, the Code 128 bar code symbology can be used. Especially, when alternative symbologies are used, the scanners should be tested as they may or may not be programmed to properly read all types of bar codes. We do not recommend that most users try to change the programming in the scanners to prevent changes from conflicting with other scanning functions.
We strongly recommend that the value used is not also used for inventory or other fields where an operator might accidentally scan the bar code (Cashiers, Associates, Customer Codes, etc.). This means that we do not recommend creating a dummy SKU in the system to represent the bar code – besides, copying the image from a printed bar code adds a step and often produces a less than crisp image.
Fortunately, there are a ton of free Internet sites that can be used to generate an image file (like a “.jpg” format) that can be used by the marketing folks. Just look for the format desired. The bar code is generated and can be saved to a file that can be printed on any printer so it can be tested before being sent in for production.
Most definitely, it is important to test the bar code before having it printed in production.