Adventures in ecommerce barcoding

Adventures in ecommerce barcoding

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“Have I paid that vendor yet?” you ask yourself as you sort through the dozens of invoices you’ve received this month. Definitely not the way you wanted to spend your Friday afternoon.

As your small business grows, manually managing accounts payable (AP) processes becomes more challenging, time-consuming and error-prone.

Enter accounts payable software. These platforms can automate processes like invoice management and payment processing while syncing to your accounting software to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

This article offers an overview of the six best accounts payable software solutions for small businesses so you can find just the right platform for your needs. We’ll also give you a list of the features you should look for when choosing a platform, plus tips for how to make your decision.*

Financial admin eating up too much of your time? We can take it off your plate

Automate your accounts payable processes with Juni and free up your day for more impactful work.

Sign up for free

*The information about all the platforms discussed in this article was collected between 9 January 2024 and 11 January 2024. This article was written and approved by Juni and is intended as marketing material.

Accounts payable software comparison: The best solutions available

Juni
Pleo
Spendesk
Sage Intacct
SAP Concur
Visma
Automated invoicing/ payments
Accounting andfinancial software integrations
Flexible financing options
Analytics and reporting features
Mobileapp

6 features to look for in accounts payable software

Whenever you’re researching software, whether that be an accounts payable solution or inventory management platform, you need to be clear on what functionalities your business needs. So before we get into our list, here are some features you should prioritise when selecting accounts payable software:

  • Invoicing automation features: This includes payment scheduling and auto-fill for payment details so you can spend less time on AP processes.
  • Auto-pull and matching to transactions: You want the platform you use to pull in your invoices and automatically match them to payments to reduce your manual work.
  • Simple international transfers: If you work with international vendors, you want to make sure it’s easy to pay them (and that the transfer fees are low).
  • Integration capabilities: The platform you choose should integrate with whatever accounting tool you use, as well as your storefronts and other software.
  • Financing options: As a small business, cash can get tight, so look for AP software with financing options to ease your cash flow.
  • Mobile app: You may not be at your desk when you want to check the status of an invoice payment, so find a platform with a mobile app that gives you visibility wherever you are.

6 top accounts payable software platforms

Let’s take an in-depth look at our list of software. For each platform, we’ll list its features (as well as its limitations), explain how pricing works and point out what kind of business it’s best fit for.

1. Juni: Accounts payable (and much more) for ecommerce brands

Schedule invoice payments with Juni to make sure you never fall behind.

Juni’s platform for ecommerce entrepreneurs comes with automated accounts payable features that can help you run simpler, tighter and more accurate financial admin. With Juni, it takes just seconds to auto-collect, pay and even finance your invoices.

By collecting and scanning your invoices automatically, then pre-filling all the important payment details, Juni saves you time and reduces the risk of human error. You can also automatically import your receipts and invoices with your dedicated Juni inbox for effortless spend management, plus match receipts to transactions.

What’s more, if you need to reduce pressure on your cash flow cycles, Juni offers financing options for certain types of payments, giving you up to 120 days to pay.*

The platform goes beyond accounts payable features, also offering business accounts and cards, features to optimise cash flow management, powerful accounting automations, fast transfers and storefront integrations.

Most suitable for: Ecommerce entrepreneurs and small businesses

Our user reviews speak for themselves—we offer our customers quick and comprehensive support to help them make the most of Juni.

Key features

  • Invoice automation to auto-collect and pay invoices, as well as schedule payments in advance.
  • Dedicated receipt inbox for automatic imports and matching to transactions.
  • International transfers with low, transparent FX fees (up to 0.5% for accounts payments and 1.5% for credit card payments) and multi-currency accounts.
  • Accounting software integration with platforms like Xero, Netsuite and Fortnox, plus integrations with payment gateways, storefronts and other tools.
  • Flexible financing options to ease your cash flow.
  • ecommerce business solutions like expense management, business accounts and cards and data insights.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.
  • 24/7 live chat support.

Limitations

  • Available to all industries, but built for ecommerce businesses primarily

Pricing

Juni has two plan options:

  • Scale: 79€/month, a better fit for small business owners and costs
  • Prime: Bespoke pricing, geared toward larger organisations

You can try our Scale plan for free for the first 30 days.

2. Pleo

Like Juni, Pleo also integrates with various accounting software platforms, meaning all your data is connected.

Based in Copenhagen, Pleo is a business spending solution with built-in AP automation software. Pleo’s invoice management features make it easy to capture, process, approve, pay and bookkeep invoices in a central location. With over 50 supported currencies, Pleo users can seamlessly pay vendors across the world.

Most suitable for: Companies that need to pay invoices in several currencies

Key features

  • Automated invoice processing for less manual work and fewer errors.
  • Real-time payment status updates for increased transparency.
  • 50+ supported currencies for international payments.
  • Instant data exports to simplify reporting.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.

Limitations

  • No financing options

Pricing

Pleo has three plan options:

  • Starter: Free for up to three users
  • Essential: 45€/month when billed monthly, 3 users included and up to 12.50€/month per additional user
  • Advanced: 89€/month when billed monthly, 3 users included and up to 14.50€/month per additional user

3. Spendesk

Spendesk’s accounting software integrations means no more manual data entry.

Spendesk is a spend management platform with accounts payable features like invoice automation and approval workflows, giving you greater control over the invoicing lifecycle and your AP processes. By using Spendesk, you can minimise (or eliminate) manual data entry for your invoicing processes, plus get real-time insights into your spending patterns.

Most suitable for: SaaS, tech and fintech companies

Key features

  • Invoice automation for streamlined processes and time savings.
  • Real-time spending insights for better budget control.
  • Approval workflows to reduce risk and stay ahead of excess spending.
  • Integrations with accounting systems for more efficiency and accuracy.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.

Limitations

  • No financing options

Pricing

Spendesk doesn’t list its pricing options, so you’ll have to reach out to sales to get a quote

4. Sage Intacct

Use Sage Intacct to automate invoice management, significantly reducing your AP processing time.

Sage Intacct’s cloud-based invoicing software helps small business owners and finance teams automate invoice management with the power of AI. For example, simply upload or email an invoice, and the software will automatically extract details and populate fields for your approval. The platform can also detect duplicate invoices, helping you stay in control of your expenses and avoid costly errors.

Most suitable for: Businesses that need powerful analytics tools

Key features

  • AI-powered AP automation and duplicate invoice detection for increased accuracy.
  • Real-time payment tracking for better cash flow management.
  • Recurring invoices settings so you never miss a payment.
  • Advanced reporting, metrics and analytics features for in-depth financial insights.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.

Limitations

  • Not available in all EU countries (for example, not available in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden)

Pricing

Sage Intacct has three plans for its accounts payable software. All plans come with three months free:

  • Accounting Start: £14 +VAT/month for a single user
  • Accounting Standard: £28 +VAT/month for unlimited users
  • Accounting Plus: £36 +VAT/month for unlimited users

5. SAP Concur

Automate supplier invoices and get more time back in the day with SAP Concur.

While SAP Concur isn’t specifically designed for small businesses, it’s still a good fit for solopreneurs and SMBs looking to automate their AP processes. The platform automates invoicing processes, meaning you can pay suppliers quickly without constantly having to double-check invoices and complete transactions yourself.

Most suitable for: Businesses with immediate plans to scale

Key features

  • Automated matching functionality to pair invoices with purchase orders and goods received.
  • Streamlined approval workflow to simplify the review process.
  • Accounting software integrations to automatically sync data across your tech stack.
  • Reporting dashboard with spend overviews for better financial insights.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.

Limitations

  • Not available in all EU countries (for example, not available in Austria, Iceland, or Portugal)
  • No financing options

Pricing

SAP Concur doesn’t list its pricing options, so you’ll have to reach out to sales to get a quote.

6. Visma

Pay invoices instantly with Visma eEkonomi.

Visma is the parent organisation for a number of accounting and invoicing solutions across Europe. It has designated products for 15 different EU countries, such as Visma eKonomi, its designated Swedish accounting platform. Visma eKonomi has basic AP features for paying vendors, but it has a range of other accounting features that can help you streamline your financial admin as a whole.

Key features

  • Centralised supplier invoicing to streamline your AP processes.
  • Recurring and automated customer billing for hands-off financial admin.
  • Integrations with popular banks, payment gateways and storefronts.
  • Access to Visma Spcs company card to sync all your payments to the platform.
  • Mobile app to give you access to the platform wherever you are.

Most suitable for: Small businesses in Sweden

Limitations

  • No financing options
  • Only available in Sweden (though other Visma products are available across a range of European markets)

Pricing

Visma platform prices range depending on which country you operate in and the Visma product you select. Visma eEkonomi has three plans that come with supplier invoicing features:

  • Accounting: 169 SEK/month
  • Smart: 249 SEK/month
  • Pro: 399 SEK/month

How to choose an accounts payable software platform in 4 steps

You can have all the software comparison guides in the world available to you, but if you aren’t intentional about your decision, you may end up choosing software that falls short for your needs. Here are a few steps you can take to help you make the right decision when selecting an accounts payable platform for your small business.

  1. Identify your challenges. Do you often make mistakes when transferring invoice data into your accounting software? Find yourself forgetting to pay vendors? The first step in choosing the right AP automation solution is to identify where you need the most help.
  1. List out what features are most important to you. Now it’s time to list out the must-have features you want in a platform. For example, if you know you need to make payments in various currencies, ensure that’s a feature the software you choose offers.
  1. Set a budget. You want your AP automation solution to help you save money, not drain your profits. Set a realistic budget of how much you can spend per month and, whenever possible, try out a platform for free before signing up.
  1. Consider scalability. You’re a small business now, but you might have plans for growth. So take time to investigate whether the software you choose will be able to scale with your business.

Minimise financial admin and focus on growing your business with accounts payable software

By digitising the traditionally paper-intensive process of handling invoices and payments, AP software is not only more efficient than manual processes, but also minimises the possibility of errors, like a missed or incorrect payment. Having more visibility over invoices, due dates and your general spending patterns can help you maintain tighter control over your financial operations.

But to get the most out of a platform, you need to make sure you’re choosing the right one for your needs. For example, if you run an online storefront, you’ll want to choose a solution like Juni that has the specific needs of ecommerce entrepreneurs in mind.

By choosing a software solution that’s a good fit for you, you’ll make your business more agile, resilient and competitive. Meanwhile, you’ll get back more time in the day to focus on what you most love about running your company, whether that’s marketing your product, interacting with customers or finding ways to scale.

Financial admin eating up too much of your time? We can take it off your plate

Automate your accounts payable processes with Juni and free up your day for more impactful work.

Sign up for free

*Juni Invoices is available for EU-based companies only. Media financing is available for companies registered in NL, SE, DE, FR, ES, IT, FI and NO, upon eligibility. Fees and terms and conditions apply. Click here for more details.

Frequently asked questions about accounts payable software

What is accounts payable automation software?

Accounts payable automation software helps businesses manage and track the money they owe to suppliers, vendors and other parties. Essentially, this type of software helps business owners and finance departments handle their payment processes by recording invoices, tracking due dates and organising information.

How do you keep track of accounts payable?

While you can manually manage your accounts payable process, this approach can be time-consuming and error-prone. A better way to keep track of accounts payable is by using specialised accounts payable software that tracks and pays your invoices for you.

Can you automate accounts payable?

You can automate accounts payable processes by using specialised software. These platforms handle a number of tasks, including:

  • Invoice recording
  • Payments and transfers
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Data sharing with accounting platforms

"Only six more to go," you tell yourself as you upload yet another receipt to your accounting software. We all know the pain of searching for receipts across emails and platforms and trying to match them to expenses.

This becomes even more challenging the larger your business becomes and the more vendors you have to pay. You can avoid most of that frustration and wasted time with the right spend management software.

But not all spend management platforms will be a good fit for your business. For example, digital commerce companies need solutions that take into account sector-specific expenses like ad receipts and multiple platform payments, while small businesses need tools that simplify their financial admin, not complicate it.

This article takes a look at the six best spend management software solutions so you can find just the right platform for your needs. We’ll also give you a list of the features you should look for when choosing a platform, plus tips for how to make your decision.*

Spend less time on spend management

With real-time spend overviews, receipt matching automation and powerful integrations, Juni will make you forget what a hassle managing your expenses used to be.

book a demo

*The information about all the platforms discussed in this article was collected between 17 January 2024 and 19 January 2024. This article was written and approved by Juni and is intended as marketing material.

Spend management software comparison: The best platforms available

Juni
SAP Concur
Zoho Expense
Expensify
Quick Books
Fortnox
Spend overviews
Receipt matching
Virtual cards
No, but you can connect your corporate cards to the platform
No, but you can connect your corporate cards to the platform
No, but you can connect your corporate cards to the platform
Multi-currency accounts
Mobile app

6 features to look for in spend management software

Before taking a closer look at the tools on our list, here are six features your spend management software (also known as expense management software) should come with:

  1. Spend overviews: You want whatever solution you choose to pull all your transactions onto one intuitive dashboard.
  2. Receipt management: Having a platform that autocollects, uploads, scans and matches receipts will save you hours on financial admin.
  3. Virtual cards: The ability to create multiple virtual cards means you can have complete control over employee spending and where it takes place.
  4. Multi-currency accounts: If you’re paying vendors across various countries, you’ll want to have access to accounts in different currencies.
  5. Customisable permissions and controls: If you’re not the only person who will have access, make sure the platform you choose lets you control who’s spending what and where.
  6. Integration capabilities: The solution you choose should integrate with whatever accounting tool you use, as well as your storefronts and other software.

Bonus: Look out for spend management platforms that come with built-in accounts payable and invoice automation features, which will help you centralise your financial admin and save time.

6 top spend management software solutions

Now, let's explore the solutions on our list in depth. For each platform, we’ll list its key features (as well as its limitations), explain how pricing works and point out what kind of business it’s best fit for. 

1. Juni: Spend management software for digital commerce brands

Juni spend management software
Juni gives you a clear overview of your monthly spend and allows you to create unique virtual cards for designated expenses. Source

Juni helps businesses in digital commerce manage their cash flow, track their expenses and optimise their profits with features that are specifically designed with ecommerce companies in mind. 

While it’s not specifically expense management software, you can use the platform for your spend management needs. Juni's goal is to give everyone in digital commerce, from the CFO to the accounting team to marketing managers, everything they need to focus on business growth.

Juni’s expense management features are especially valuable for users who have multiple receipts coming from different media buying channels and online transactions. With Meta and Google Ads integrations, plus powerful receipt matching, expense management suddenly becomes easy. On top of that, you can also manage your unpaid invoices and accounts payable processes within Juni, bringing your financial admin under one roof. 

All of this comes with easy access to media and inventory financing for up to 2 million EUR, helping you free up your cash flow and grow your business.*

*Juni Invoices is available for EU-based companies only. Media financing is available for companies registered in NL, SE, DE, FR, ES, IT, FI and NO, upon eligibility. Fees and terms and conditions apply. Click here for more details. 

Most suitable for: SMBs and mid-market companies in digital commerce

Key features 

  • Real-time spend overview that draws from your bank feeds, credit card transactions and other accounts so you can easily keep track of expenses in one place. 
  • Receipt inbox so you can automatically import receipts and invoices, plus match receipts to transactions. 
  • Virtual cards with group and user permissions to help you categorise your company spending and get better control over your expenses. 
  • Flexible business credit lines on cards with interest-free financing. 
  • Multi-currency accounts so you can spend in the currency that makes the most sense while also immediately grouping all transactions in each currency. 
  • A range of integrations with accounting platforms, storefronts, bookkeeping tools, banks and payment gateways. 
  • Mobile app so you can manage your expenses wherever you are. 
  • 24/7 live chat support so you can always make the most of the platform. 

Limitations

  • Available to all industries, but built for ecommerce businesses primarily

Pricing 

Juni has two plan options: 

  • Scale: 79€/month for up to three users
  • Prime: Bespoke pricing with custom terms for businesses with 3M+ EUR AR

2. SAP Concur

SAP Concur spend management software
Minimise manual financial admin with SAP Concur. Source

SAP Concur helps you streamline processes to deliver efficiency savings, with a focus on eliminating manual data entry, lost receipts and unclaimed VAT refunds. As such, it’s best suited to larger organisations. The platform helps you reduce the risk of human error and compliance issues with automations, plus the software can identify potential mistakes and discrepancies in real-time. 

Most suitable for: Larger and enterprise organisations

Key features 

  • Receipt capture and submission via a native app to eliminate manual entry. 
  • Automated expense rules for business-wide consistency and fewer errors. 
  • Syncs with data feeds from banks, credit cards and some third-party businesses to give you a holistic view of your finances. 
  • Automatic expense review processes for less manual financial admin, freeing up your team to focus on growth. 
  • Smart dashboard with real-time insights so you can track expenses against budgets. 

Limitations

  • Not available in all EU countries

Pricing 

SAP Concur doesn’t list its pricing options, so you’ll have to reach out to sales to get a quote.

3. Zoho Expense

Zoho Expense spend management software
Get a clear overview of how much you’re spending on the Zoho Expense dashboard. Source

Zoho Expense is the business expense tracking app from the Zoho suite of business tools, which means it integrates with Zoho’s other financial management apps. It’s a reasonably priced platform suited to handling all aspects of expense management and reporting for SMBs. Zoho Expense automatically records expenses from receipts, simplifying and automating the expense reporting process. 

Most suitable for: People already using other Zoho products (namely Zoho Books)

Key features 

  • Receipt scanning via iOS or Android devices to eliminate the need for manual entry.
  • Automated expense reporting with receipt matching to reduce human error and time-consuming processes. 
  • Ability to pull in credit card feeds and automate reconciliation for enhanced accuracy. 
  • Simplified and automated approval processes for a quicker workflow and increased overall efficiency. 
  • Built-in purchase requests for more control over expenses, ensuring employee spend aligns with budget. 

Limitations

  • While Zoho Expense has a UK-specific version, users in many EU countries must use the generic global version of the software 

Pricing 

Zoho Expense has three plans for its spend management software:

  • Free: £0 for up to three users
  • Standard: £7/month per active user when billed monthly (unlimited users)
  • Premium: £10/month per active user when billed monthly (unlimited users)
  • Enterprise: £12/month per active user when billed monthly (unlimited users)

4. Expensify

Expensify spend management software
Filter your expenses into records of transactions, receipts and documents for a clear view of exactly what your business is spending. Source

Expensify is a spend management solution for keeping track of business expenses on the go. Most of the expense management functionality can be done on your phone, while a series of handy integrations help to automate and streamline processes around uploading and allocating receipts. Plus, it’s easy for employees to create and submit expense reports for quick reimbursement. 

Most suitable for: Small businesses with lots of employee expenses

Key features 

  • Receipt scanner in the native app to reduce manual entry and human error. 
  • Expensify CorporateCard for automated expense tracking, with cash back and custom limits. 
  • Custom approval workflows for expense policies that fit your company’s unique needs. 
  • Integrations with Sage, QuickBooks, Xero and Oracle to simplify taxes and financial admin. 
  • Receipt integrations with Uber, Trainline, The Parking Spot and more so every employee purchase is tracked digitally. 

Limitations

  • No extended financing options on the Expensify CorporateCard

Pricing 

Expensify has two plans:

  • Collect: £8/month per active user when billed annually 
  • Control: £14/month per active user when billed annually 

5. QuickBooks

QuickBooks spend management software
QuickBooks gives you a clear overview of your cash flow, expenses, profit and loss, invoices and sales. Source

One of the many features of smart accounting software QuickBooks is its built-in expense management tool. There are obvious advantages to expenses being handled via your accounting platform, like how easy it is to claim business expenses for tax purposes. And when you connect your bank to the platform, QuickBooks automatically matches and organises your receipts to transactions. 

Most suitable for: Businesses who want more comprehensive accounting tools built into their spend management software

Key features 

  • Automatic organisation and matching of receipts to transactions for less manual input. 
  • Connect your bank and credit card feeds for greater visibility over your spending. 
  • Instant expense sorting into the correct tax category to simplify your tax processes. 
  • Ability to email photos of your receipts to your QuickBooks account or upload via the mobile app. 
  • In-app collaboration with your accountant with real-time figures, giving you a clearer picture of your expenses. 

Limitations

  • Does not have a built-in credit card with financing options

Pricing 

Quickbooks has five plans:

  • Self-Employed: £10 +VAT/month for a single user
  • Simple Start: £14 +VAT/month for a single user
  • Essentials: £28 +VAT/month for up to three users
  • Plus: £38 +VAT/month for up to five users
  • Advanced: £90 +VAT/month for up to 25 users

6. Fortnox

Fortnox spend management software
When you use the Fortnox Company card, all purchases and receipts are automatically recorded on the platform. Source

Fortnox is a cloud-based accounting software platform based in Sweden that helps businesses manage their accounting and bookkeeping processes, as well as other financial admin like spend management. Users can take photos of receipts and instantly upload them via a mobile app, and the platform automatically fills in date, amount and VAT.  

Most suitable for: Businesses that operate in Sweden

Key features 

  • Automated receipt handling and matching for fewer manual processes and reduced risk of error. 
  • Fortnox Company card that integrates seamlessly with the software and can be used just about anywhere. 
  • Real-time expense tracking for visibility and forecasting, helping you and your team stay under budget. 
  • Broader accounting and payroll features to consolidate financial admin and keep your processes under one roof. 
  • Mobile app for easy uploads of receipts, plus payment collection and salary features. 

Limitations

  • No extended financing options
  • Designed primarily for Swedish businesses, so it may not suit companies in other countries

Pricing 

Fortnox has three plans:

  • Fortnox Bas: 199 SEK/month
  • Fortnox Standard: 299 SEK/month
  • Fortnox Plus: 399 SEK/month

How to choose a spend management software

The information in this guide can help you make your decision, but ultimately, you need to factor in considerations about your business and its needs when choosing a platform. Here are three things you can do to ensure you’re choosing an ideal solution. 

Find the right platform for your business size and industry 

As you’ll notice from the list above, different software solutions are more suitable for different business industries and sizes. For example, Juni is spend management software built with the needs of ecommerce companies in mind. So when researching a platform, pay close attention to what type of business (big or small, ecommerce or SaaS) it’s best suited for. 

Do a cost-benefit analysis

While it shouldn’t be the only factor that guides your decision, you can’t ignore pricing when choosing a solution. You need to find a healthy balance between a platform you can afford (and doesn't go over budget) that still gives you all the key features and functionalities you need to run smarter, more efficient financial admin. 

Research how the solution can grow with your business

You may be a small business now, but if you have plans of scaling in the future, you want to make sure your expense management solution can scale with you. Juni, for example, caters to both SMBs as well as mid-market companies, meaning we can provide the solutions you need from the time your business is founder-led to when it has 100+ employees. 

Get better control over your expenses with spend management software

While you can never remove expense management from your to-do list, you can find a platform that does most of the work for you. The best spend management software is one that not only simplifies financial operations but also contributes to strategic decision-making and the long-term financial health of your organisation.

To find a platform that does all that, you need to make sure you’re making your selection with the unique needs of your business in mind. For example, if you operate in digital commerce, you want to choose a solution like Juni that comes with ecommerce-specific capabilities, like features designed specifically for media buying and online transactions. 

So take your time finding the right platform—doing so can lead to significant time savings and valuable insights into spending patterns, helping you improve the overall financial health and success of your business.

Spend less time on spend management

With real-time spend overviews, receipt matching automation and powerful integrations, Juni will make you forget what a hassle managing your expenses used to be.

book a demo

Frequently asked questions about spend management software

What is spend management software? 

Spend management software is a platform or tool that helps businesses manage and control their expenses. This type of solution usually includes features for receipt management, expense reporting and approval workflows. Plus, these platforms often integrate with accounting software, as well as sync with banks and credit cards. 

What are the benefits of spend management software?

There are a number of benefits to using spend management software to control your expenses, including: 

  • Optimised spending for increased savings
  • Greater financial visibility
  • Compliance with budgetary restrictions
  • Time savings
  • Reduced manual errors

How much does expense management software cost?

The price of expense management software varies depending on the size of your business and what industry you operate in, as this will impact which platform you choose. Prices range from as low as £7 per month to almost £100, and some spend management systems also offer free plans to certain users.

Thump-thump, thump-thump. Your heart is starting to beat faster. All those hours of hard work come down to this moment. Ready. Steady now. Steady…

BEEP! And just like that, with one scan of a barcode, your product has been added to your ecommerce store. Magic.

As with most things in ecommerce, that moment won’t come without a lot of grind. Scanning your barcodes is great. Creating barcodes? Not so much.

Barcoding is hard. In the past, I’ve built products with simple structures under one brand. In those cases, you can easily generate any old barcode. But I now have to consider the possibility that my store might expand and retract, move into different business areas, and generally evolve over time.

To future-proof barcodes, you’ve got to devise a system that matches your current merchandise and production map but also enables change, growth, and expansion. In this post I’m going to share:

  • How to create barcodes the easy way
  • How to create a sustainable system for generating barcodes
  • How to align barcodes with your warehouse and inventory system

What are barcodes and how are they used in ecommerce?

We all see barcodes every day. While you might not give them much thought, we know they’re the combination of numbers and lines scanned at checkouts. This has the dual purpose of telling us how much to pay and telling the store what they’ve sold.

In ecommerce, the first part isn’t so important. The price is listed and someone has agreed to pay the total of whatever’s in their shopping cart. But the second part remains vital for inventory management. A barcode is an essential identifier for each of your products. It creates a common language between your warehouse, your store and other sales channels so that you can always see which products have been sold and how many remain.

Most importantly, it will inform your warehouse which products to pick and pack. It’s imperative that the warehouse staff can quickly locate the product down to the correct warehouse bin, then fulfil the order.

Even if you’re doing your own fulfilment, it’s a good way to quickly put your hands on the right product (particularly if your inventory is packaged or some of your products look similar to each other).

What do you need to know about barcodes?

My barcode journey is just starting. If you're also new to it you’ll first need to get up to speed with barcode jargon like:

Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): The identifying number you’ll find on all barcodes. There are several types of these.

European Article Number (EAN): A type of GTIN commonly used for consumer products outside of North America. Also known as GTIN-13.

Universal Product Code (UPC): A type of GTIN commonly used for consumer products in North America. Also known as GTIN-12.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN): A type of GTIN used worldwide to identify books.

Whatever you’re selling, you’ll need a GTIN of some description. A final bit of jargon is GS1, the not-for-profit organisation that maintains international barcode codes. I’d recommend heading to GS1’s website to build your knowledge of GTINs.

In previous ventures, I’ve thought in terms of SKUs rather than barcodes. Make sure you’ve got your head around the difference between SKUs and barcodes before you start.
Once you’re up to speed, you can start generating barcodes.

The easy way to generate barcodes

Creating a barcode is easy. Shopify automatically generates barcodes for you.

The problem is that it generates a completely random number for each of your barcodes. If you’re selling just a few products and don’t intend to add many more that might be fine, but if you want a barcoding system that will tell you something about your products, it isn’t going to work. It’s like having your internet browser create a strong password for every site you visit and then trying to see some correlation between them.

I want to see that correlation. I want to be able to glance at a barcode and work out what it refers to.

If you read my post on product nomenclature, you’ll get the idea. I need a methodical, automated naming convention for my barcodes too. So how do you do that?

How to create a sustainable system for generating barcodes

If you’ve decided random barcode numbers are not for you, you’ll need to add some rhyme and reason to the process. That way, you’ll be able to read them nearly as quickly as a barcode scanner can. Here’s how I came up with my barcode system:

Decide what your barcode should tell you

What differentiators should be obvious just from looking at the numbers in your barcode? Maybe all barcodes for manufacturer A’s products start with 1, while all manufacturer B’s products start with 2.

For my clothing collection, my barcodes could comprise:

  • The first few digits representing the manufacturer or supplier
  • A few digits to denote the season or collection
  • Size
  • Colour
  • Product
  • Branding
  • Gender

Perhaps all products ending in 1 are unisex, 2 shows womenswear, and 3 tells me it’s menswear. Think about what will be helpful to you and your warehouse team.

Make a barcode matrix

Create a spreadsheet and start assigning numbers to the attributes you’ve selected. It might take a bit of trial and error, but it will be worth it.

Upload to Shopify

Once you’ve put in the effort to create your barcode matrix, you can import all your product data, including your barcodes, to Shopify via a CSV file. And you’re ready to go.

Using barcodes in ecommerce

Now we’re back to where we started: the fun bit. With the matrix and barcodes ready, you can put everything into practice.

Continuing the process of future-proofing, I signed up for Shopify’s Retail POS Plus app, which includes a subscription to its inventory management app Stocky. As well as scanning my barcodes, Stocky will allow me to do remote stock takes using the 1D Barcode Scanner I bought.

Which brings me to my recent trip to Sweden. Set among Bengtsfors’ beautiful lakes, rivers, and scenery is Valhall Logistik, where I’ll be warehousing my EU products. Because I don't like to do anything by halves, I travelled to the warehouse to put my barcodes through their paces. The owners introduced me to their processes, showed me where my products will be stored, and then let me borrow a phone for the big moment.

It was a case of downloading the Shopify POS app, connecting the Bluetooth scanner, and then preparing for that daunting first scan. Best beep ever.

It was incredible to see the product automatically show up in my store afterwards. But it was just as satisfying to know that if the tech had failed or we’d had connectivity issues, I’d still have been able to identify the product from its barcode alone.

My top tips for barcodes

With the bulk of my barcoding work now complete, I'm pleased I put in the extra effort to take this long-term approach. My tips would be:

  • Start using barcodes as you mean to go on — create an infrastructure that will scale with your store
  • Add meaning to your barcodes — used properly they are so much more than just random numbers
  • Visit your warehouse — see how your products will be stored and picked, and make sure your barcodes support those processes

Have you experienced that magical first beep? How are you using barcodes to make your life easier? As I said, I’m still learning, so please share your barcoding tips at community@juni.co.

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