The future of retail
The need for data and the precision with which the flows of goods are handled today are constantly increasing. This development does not stop at the retail sector. One solution for the future is 2D Codes, with which you can encode significantly more data than with the EAN/UPC barcode commonly used today.
2D Codes supported by GS1 such as the GS1 DataMatrix, can include information, for example the expiry date, batch or serial numbers, in addition to the GS1 article number (GTIN), while you can only encode the GTIN in an EAN/UPC barcode. Thanks to GS1 Digital Link, it is also possible to make Internet links to ingredients and allergens, product images and videos and much more accessible to consumers. Another advantage: the 2D Barcodes require only one third of the space of a barcode.
This GS1 Data Matrix contains the GS1 article number (GTIN), the net weight, the price, the best-before date, and the batch number. The EAN-13 barcode only contains the GS1 article number.
||QR Code with GS1 Digital Link|
|Low space requirement||✔||✔|
|Additional data can be encoded||✔||✔|
|BBD control at the checkout||✔||✔|
|Enables the use of the GTIN for variable-measure consumer units||✔||✔|
|Additional information on allergens, ingredients, product videos, etc.||✔|
These companies support the future at the POS with 2D codes
GS1 Global is aiming for a switch to GS1 2D Barcodes by 2027.
From then on, the following principles will apply:
For the industrial sector
Products can be identified with the same GTIN in three variants:
GS1-approved 1D barcodes, 2D codes or 1D + 2D codes
For the retail trade
The retail checkout can correctly process all variants of product identification for the industry.
For the solution provider
Suppliers will make sure that solutions are available for industry and trade to ensure interoperability of approaches.
Our recommendations to you
Make clarifications early on
We recommend that you clarify with your partners in the coming months how and when a change could be made for your products. For the implementation in the fresh product category, you can use the user recommendation "2D Data Carriers for Fresh Products" as a guideline, which was created in 2021 by the working group "2D Data Carriers in Sales and Logistics" together with representatives from the field. This is a version of the global guide tailored to our market.
Avoid double identification
We also recommend that you avoid double identification. If possible, we advise you to replace the current barcode with the GS1 DataMatrix.
Join the discussions
The topic of 2D barcodes is being discussed in various committees of GS1 Switzerland, including the Consumer Goods Industry Advisory Board. Use cases and details of pilot projects can be reported to the Standards specialist group. If you would like to get involved in a committee, please feel free to contact us."
Will the barcode now be replaced?
GS1 Global decided at the General Assembly 2021 that two-dimensional (2D) codes such as the GS1 DataMatrix or QR code with GS1 Digital Link may be used at the point of sale in retail trade from 2027.
But what does that mean exactly? Here are the most important questions and answers:
EAN/UPC barcodes will no longer exist from 2027. Is this true?
EAN/UPC barcodes will still be used in retail long after 2027. The goal has merely been set that by 2027 checkouts will be able to read and process 2D codes such as GS1 DataMatrix or QR code with GS1 Digital Link as a replacement for or in addition to EAN/UPC bar codes. From then on, distributors will be able to choose which code type they want to use to label their products.
Will barcodes be completely replaced by 2D codes in a few years?
No, the 2D codes mentioned will supplement or replace the conventional EAN/UPC barcodes where desired and needed.
Has this been decided independently by the standardisation organisation GS1?
GS1 is a user-driven organisation and the members determine the decisions. The decision at the GS1 Global General Assembly 2021 was taken by the presidents representing GS1 members.
It is said that conventional barcodes cannot store enough data. Is this true?
For the pure identification of products with the GS1 article number (GTIN: Global Trade Item Number), the current EAN/UPC barcodes are completely sufficient, but no additional information such as batch/lot/lot numbers, the best-before date, serial numbers etc. can be encoded in them.
When exactly does GS1 plan to introduce 2D codes?
The goal defined by GS1 Global is to enable the use of 2D codes such as GS1 DataMatrix or QR code with GS1 Digital Link as an alternative or in addition to the existing EAN/UPC barcodes at retail checkouts worldwide by the end of 2027.
EAN/UPC barcodes could co-exist with 2D codes. If there is no need to map additional information, EAN/UPC barcodes remain an option.
Is it true that no new barcodes will then be issued worldwide?
GS1 does not "assign" barcodes or 2D codes, companies license GS1 identification numbers or also GS1 basic numbers (GCP) at GS1.
Distributors assign GS1 identification numbers to their products, which can be encoded in different types of codes on the products depending on the application. These GS1 identification codes will continue to be assigned long after 2027.
Will retailers then need new scanners to read 2D codes from 2027?
To read and process 2D codes, image scanners are needed, not laser scanners. Most retail cash registers can already read 2D codes at the present time. However, depending on the initial situation, the conversion requires adjustments to hardware and software.
Please talk to your service providers and check your initial situation.
Will there be only 2D codes from 2027?
If all companies worldwide decide to use only 2D codes, this circumstance would lead to a renewed adaptation of the GS1 standards, which today allow the options mentioned. There are product categories that can probably do without additional information. This decision is primarily up to the distributor, who also assigns the GTIN.
Can I scan the new codes with my mobile phone?
It depends on which type of code is used. For the QR code with GS1 Digital Link, you do not need an app, as most mobile phones can interpret QR codes.
If the GS1 DataMatrix is used, an app is needed to scan and interpret this data.
Is it true that GS1 has not yet defined the functions that apps will provide?
GS1 does not determine what functions a third-party app will provide.
Can we talk about a revolution in barcodes?
It is an evolution that can take into account consumer demands for more information on products and at the same time meet the demands of partners in the supply chain.
In the future, information on products will only be readable by consumers via 2D codes.
The information that must be printed directly on products will be determined by the legislator.
Pilot projects in Switzerland
Coop is piloting GS1 DataMatrix throughout Switzerland
After initial regional trials, Coop has extended the tests with GS1 DataMatrix to branches throughout Switzerland. With the pilot project, Coop wants to determine which points still need to be clarified with regard to a nationwide introduction of the GS1 DataMatrix.
For the current status and the latest developments on 2D at a global level, please visit the website of GS1 Global Office regarding the topic of 2D.
Implementation with Digital Link
2D codes supported by GS1 can include information such as the expiry date, batch or serial numbers in addition to the GS1 article number (GTIN). Thanks to GS1 Digital Link, you can now also make Internet links to ingredients and allergens, product images and videos and much more accessible to your customers.
As an example, the GTIN of one of the sample products in our trustbox® was encoded in a GS1 Digital Link in this QR Code. In the GS1 Resolver of GS1 Switzerland, the link to the trustbox was registered for this GTIN. Thanks to the GS1 Digital Link, the information registered for this GTIN can now be adjusted at any time without having to change the QR Code on the product.
These new opportunities can significantly improve the experience of consumers and up to the retailers as well as the perception of brands and products. They hold great potential, but also require a closer look at current processes, which can be highly dependent on the type of product involved.
For more information on GS1 Digital Link, please visit our GS1 Digital Link website