Stores compete with online retail via barcode scanning, web.

Needle Optimizes Brick-and-Click Retail with Code's Web-based Barcode Scanning SDK

Eureka! You've found it: your favorite boutique has a shirt seemingly made for you. Your style. Your signature color. But not in your size to try on and buy.

According to retail studies, 68% of us have been there. But we won't be again, thanks to the Needle smartphone app. A shopper, or store associate, uses the web-based Needle app to scan an item's QR barcode and locate the desired size—even if it's in another boutique across town. Needle then allows the shopper to virtually reserve or instantly buy the item.

Finding the right fit is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack.
It’s in your color, not your size: Needle links stores to help you find it instantly.

Threading the Needle of Shopper Wants, Store Needs

Germany's ETOS GmbH, a digitalized merchandise management specialist, created Needle to weave the best of in-store shopping with the benefits of eCommerce. The app helps retailers:

  1. Provide in-store digitization. Stores can hybridize by offering "endless aisles" and 24/7 browsing, helping them compete with eCommerce giants.
  2. Save the sale. Don't have what your customer needs? With Needle, stores agree to share information—one can "recommend" another with the exact item in stock. If the customer purchases from this recommended store, the first store can receive a "provision."
  3. Easily expand. Stores can sell products or brands they wouldn't usually stock.

"Studies from 2016 showed consumers demand some digital functionalities in local stores like 'endless aisles' or always-in-stock items," explains Daniel Prause, ETOS Chief Sales Officer. "Also, 68% of customers want to order or try on products that are not in stock. That's tremendous business for the future because these functionalities are on internet platforms, like Amazon or Zalando. The consumer demands the same anytime, anywhere conveniences in local stores."

ETOS' app, Needle, brings eCommerce benefits to stores.

Helping Shoppers Find a Needle in a Haystack

Needle connects to ETOS' European Clearing Center (ECC), a content database that aggregates and provides product data to member stores. For cross-communication, stores, distributors, and manufacturers use an electronic data interchange (EDI) connection. The retailers' enterprise resource planning systems link via a live API connection to the ECC, providing real-time inventory status.

The ECC also features a Single Point of Content and Communication (SPOCC), where retailers can access marketing/sales materials, using those to recommend alternatives or complementary accessories. As of mid-2022, the ECC contains 500 deliverers and more than 1,000 brands.

"In 2017, ETOS started grouping any content we could get [for the ECC]," Prause recalls. "Today, we have millions of pictures and product information from the retail industry; we can store 500 attributes per article (e.g., shoe size, heel size, or color)."

This tapestry of product and retailer information enables ETOS' appropriately named app to help shoppers find the proverbial "needle in a haystack."

The Chic Side of Barcode Scanning

Needle is a progressive web app (PWA), a website that mimics a smartphone app, but no download is required. Instead, in-store shoppers access the web via smartphone and use their device's camera to scan an item's QR code to "click and reserve" or "click and collect." Payment occurs via third parties, like PayPal. Being web-based also lets shoppers skip time-consuming profile creation. As a PWA, Needle is compatible with virtually any web-connected device and is 100% compliant with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. Being "live" also prevents faulty sales-related penalties.

"The app is online because being 'live' is very important today in digital retail where 15 minutes can make a difference in stock or no stock," Prause rationalizes. "Not to mention that a faulty sale can lead to penalties. That is why today some big marketplaces are working with us, so they don't just get content from the database but also stock information from retailers."

Needle app can be used by any store
Fashionistas flock to Needle, but it's ready for any product.

Because it's web-based, ETOS had to ensure Needle would provide seamless barcode scanning on any device. So, developers turned to data capture specialist Code Corporation. After evaluation, ETOS selected Code's barcode scanning CortexDecoder web software development kit (SDK) to support the app.

"Needle is independent of handheld devices and can scan from any smartphone," explains Jörg Frommann, ETOS CEO. "CortexDecoder is a very good scan engine. We did evaluate other scanning solutions, but Code's license model best matched what we wanted to do."

Moreover, the CortexDecoder web SDK rapidly scans 2D barcodes, like QR codes, in challenging conditions such as moody boutiques, dim home improvement stores, or overly bright sporting goods stores. CortexDecoder also keeps up with retail's notoriously fast-paced and high-volume nature, successfully scanning barcodes that are partially damaged, soiled, or printed directly on glass and metal.

Needle: Fashion's Most Versatile Piece

Fashionistas value versatile pieces, like the Needle app, that breathe new life into existing outfits. Needle is effectively a 4-in-1 app that provides:

  1. Digital showrooming: Offer virtual shopping baskets (click, finalize, and employee brings items to shopper), push notifications of shopper actions, display on-screen ads, or provide recommendations and alternatives.
  2. Live inventory with no mis-selling: Save the sell with endless aisles.
  3. 24/7 mobile shopping: A closed store can't sell; virtual ones keep selling after hours.
  4. Digital size recommendations: Smartphone-powered measurements recommend appropriate lengths or widths, reducing return rates.

Needle's beauty also lies in its simplicity. Retailers opt-in to begin sharing and receiving info—no extensive IT knowledge is needed.

"Today, we have 1,500 retailers with over 10,000 branches," Frommann shares. "Retailers communicate through an EDI connection, and the only thing they need to get started is the interface from the ERP system to the ECC SPOCC database. Then, Needle will automatically present the content."

Fashion, Forward

Given Needle's avant-garde approach, it's no surprise that European couturiers and aspirational brands (which thrive on innovation) embrace the app. However, ETOS' ECC database and Needle can handle anything, like bicycles; it's just a matter of creating additional attributes in the database.

Thanks to Needle, physical shops give customers the best of both worlds by stitching online conveniences and rapid product fulfillment with friendly in-store service. Customers can shop locally and receive goods instantly, allowing brick-and-mortar retailers to save the sell.

Are you a retailer interested in upgrading your store into an omnichannel brick-and-click operation? Email ETOS at

Retail is rapidly evolving. Could your operation benefit from high-performance barcode scanning? Code's data capture specialists in the TAM and EMEA regions are ready to help; contact

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