Custom Barcodes

SKUs printed as barcodes on packaging are relatively common, especially in certain industries and retail environments. Here are several factors that influence the prevalence of SKUs printed as barcodes on packaging:

1. Industry Practices

  • Retail: In retail, especially in larger chains and warehouses, SKUs printed as barcodes are very common. This helps with inventory management, price checking, and streamlining the checkout process.
  • Manufacturing and Wholesale: Manufacturers and wholesalers often use SKU barcodes to keep track of large inventories and ensure accurate order fulfillment.

2. Business Size and Type

  • Large Businesses: Large businesses with extensive product ranges and complex inventory systems are more likely to use SKU barcodes. This helps in maintaining a unique identifier for each product variant.
  • Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs): While some SMEs also use SKU barcodes, it’s more variable and often depends on the level of inventory management sophistication.

3. Logistics and Warehousing

  • Efficiency: Warehouses and logistics companies frequently use SKU barcodes to track items throughout the supply chain. This aids in reducing errors and improving efficiency.
  • Automation: Automated systems for sorting, packing, and shipping often rely on SKU barcodes for accurate processing.

4. E-Commerce

  • Online Retailers: E-commerce platforms, like Amazon and those powered by WooCommerce, often use SKU barcodes to manage their inventory. This ensures that products are easily tracked and managed from warehouse to customer.

5. Customization and Flexibility

  • Custom Products: For businesses selling custom or unique products, SKUs allow for greater flexibility in tracking inventory. Printing these SKUs as barcodes helps maintain this system’s efficiency.
  • Promotions and Bundles: SKU barcodes make it easier to manage special promotions and bundled products, as each unique configuration can be tracked with its own SKU.

6. Technology Adoption

  • Point of Sale (POS) Systems: Modern POS systems often rely on SKU barcodes to quickly scan and manage product information during sales transactions.
  • Inventory Management Software: Many inventory management systems are designed to work with SKU barcodes, making them a natural choice for businesses looking to streamline operations.

7. Packaging and Labeling Trends

  • Packaging Standards: Many businesses have adopted the practice of printing SKUs as barcodes directly on packaging to comply with industry standards and improve operational efficiency.
  • Labeling Technology: Advances in labeling technology have made it easier and more cost-effective for businesses to print SKU barcodes on packaging.


SKUs printed as barcodes on packaging are quite common, particularly in industries and businesses where efficient inventory management is critical. The use of SKU barcodes helps streamline operations, reduce errors, and improve overall efficiency in various aspects of business, from manufacturing and warehousing to retail and e-commerce.


  • Retail Chains: Large retail chains like Walmart or Tesco use SKU barcodes extensively to manage their vast inventory, ensuring each product can be quickly identified, tracked, and processed.
  • E-Commerce Giants: Companies like Amazon use SKU barcodes to manage their inventory across numerous warehouses, facilitating quick and accurate order fulfillment.

Overall, while the prevalence of SKU barcodes can vary by industry and business size, they are a widely adopted practice in environments where precise inventory control is necessary.

The WooCommerce app scanner may prefer using SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) barcodes over EAN (European Article Number) for several reasons related to flexibility, customization, and business needs. Here’s a detailed explanation:

Business-Specific Identification


  • SKUs are Customizable: Unlike EANs, which are standardized and globally recognized, SKUs are created by businesses and can be tailored to fit their inventory management needs. This allows businesses to incorporate specific information such as product category, location, or other relevant details within the SKU code.
  • Internal Tracking: SKUs can be designed to fit the internal tracking systems and nomenclature that a company uses, making it easier for staff to understand and use.

2. Inventory Management

Control and Flexibility

  • Granular Control: Businesses have full control over the creation and management of SKUs, allowing for more detailed inventory categorization and tracking.
  • Non-Standardized Items: SKUs can be used for items that don’t have an EAN, such as custom or in-house products, making them more versatile for businesses with unique or varied inventory.

3. Avoiding Duplication and Conflicts

Unique Identification

  • Preventing Overlap: Since EANs are globally standardized, the same EAN can be used by different products across various businesses, leading to potential conflicts. SKUs are unique to a business, preventing such overlap.
  • Multiple Suppliers: A single product might come from different suppliers with different EANs. Using SKUs allows a business to maintain a consistent identifier across all sources.

4. Integration with Existing Systems


  • ERP Systems: Many enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and inventory management software use SKUs as the primary product identifier due to their customizable nature.
  • Legacy Systems: Businesses with existing legacy systems often use SKUs, and maintaining consistency is crucial for smooth operations and data integration.

5. Operational Efficiency

Speed and Accuracy

  • Streamlined Processes: Using SKUs can streamline the scanning process by reducing the need to match multiple EANs to a single SKU in the inventory system.
  • Accuracy: Custom SKUs can reduce errors in product identification and inventory discrepancies, enhancing overall operational efficiency.

6. Flexibility in Pricing and Promotions

Dynamic Pricing

  • Promotions and Discounts: SKUs allow businesses to easily apply pricing changes, discounts, or promotions to specific products or categories without affecting standardized EANs.
  • Bundling Products: Custom SKUs enable businesses to create bundles or kits from multiple items, which might not be feasible with EANs alone.

Example Scenario:

Imagine a business that sells custom gift baskets. Each basket might contain various products, some of which have EANs and some that do not. Using SKUs, the business can assign a unique identifier to each gift basket, regardless of the individual products’ EANs, facilitating easier inventory management and sales tracking.


While EANs are useful for standardized global identification, SKUs offer more flexibility, control, and customization for individual businesses. This flexibility makes SKUs preferable for many inventory management systems, including those used by WooCommerce, to ensure efficient and accurate product tracking and management.


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