On 26 June 1974, history was made when the world’s first ever linear barcode – located on a multipack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum – was scanned at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio, USA.
What started as a way to help a group of supermarkets check prices at the point of sale (POS) has since become the common standard for powering commerce around the world. While a lot has changed since 1974, linear barcodes are still scanned more than 6 billion times every day and play a vital role across e-commerce channels, from direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2C) to online marketplaces.
We are living in the era of big data and consumers are increasingly demanding more information about the products they buy, from where it was produced to how best to use and recycle it. Businesses are also becoming overwhelmed by new legislative demands as well as the sheer volume of data that comes from multiple sources in different formats. This means barcodes need to start working harder.
Having multiple barcodes is not only confusing for consumers, it can also cause issues with scanning at POS and takes up valuable space on the packaging. With this in mind, GS1 is helping industry transition to a single, data-rich 2D code that allows everything from warehouse machinery and POS scanners, to specialised apps and smart fridges, to easily obtain information about a product. A single code, which could be used to improve supply chain visibility, ensure product safety, and bring a wealth of information to consumers, both at home and in store.
The linear barcode has survived a remarkable length of time, but now we have to do more. We have updated the GS1 system to meet the needs of our data-focused world, and this is the aim of the GS1 Digital Link.
GS1 Digital Link is a simple, standards-based structure for encoding information into 2D codes which then allows that information to become part of the web. This allows consumers, retailers, and anyone involved in the wider supply chain to access an array of dynamic, real-time and brand-controlled product information.
2D codes can be scanned using an image-based scanner which will use the GS1 Digital Link to access information about the product. If this is done at POS, the information can be accessed automatically using the GTIN in the same way as a linear barcode; if the scanner is on a consumer’s smartphone, this can be done by connecting the user to a brand-owned web page or app.
However, this will not happen overnight as the global retail infrastructure network, which was specifically designed around linear barcodes, will need to be updated and replaced with image-based scanners.
Get started connecting your products
GS1 Digital Link
The GS1 Digital Link standard enables GS1 identifiers to be used as a gateway to online information.
Now more than ever, consumers are looking for product transparency. Find out how advanced barcodes could power the future of commerce.
Implementation guides and resources
Here are our step-by-step guides on how to connect your products to the digital world.
GS1 Digital Link training
Our Digital Link course will help you understand how you can improve your business operations and connect with consumers like never before.
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