Even though in the US, 2027 is the established GS1 Digital Link Sunrise Date, companies around the globe are beginning to explore the opportunities and benefits of the 2D barcode. Jake’s Beverage is a lemonade manufacturer is the first consumer goods manufacturer in Germany to add the new 2D Digital Link barcode to their products. The company had already included a QR code on its bottles as a mechanism to connect with consumers and to monitor its returnable bottle system. GS1 Germany and Jake’s Beverages partnered together to demonstrate the advantages of the new GS1 Digital Link.
The GS1 Digital Link offers both manufacturers and retailers opportunities to communicate supply chain data and furnish consumers with product information and marketing messages. Right now the 2D GS1 QR code accompanies the primary EAN symbol but Jakes is expected to ultimately remove the EAN barcode symbol as retailers can scan the 2D barcode by itself.
Direct Connection With Shoppers
Today’s smartphone cameras can automatically scan QR Codes and now enables consumers to easily obtain off-package information. By simply scanning a QR code on the product, consumers are then directed to a designated landing page controlled by the manufacturer. A wide range of information about the product and company is now available. Shoppers and consumers can see the list of ingredients, check for potential allergies, corporate information and even recipes. Furthermore, product traceability and product lifecycle management can also be viewed.
The Digital Link also opens opportunities for efficient marketing activities. The provided link can lead the customer to email signup and even a competition on the manufacturer’s social media channel. Essentially the Digital Link offers manufacturers a plethora of opportunities to convey information and messages to consumers without cluttering the design of product packaging. At Jake’s, customers will soon be able to reach a company-owned chat system via Digital Link, depending on their preference using WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram.
Global Adoption by 2027
By adhering to global standards, manufacturers are assured that their products can be accepted by retailers and online marketplaces around the world. On a global level, the GS1 has already carried out some pilot projects. In the US, Walmart and Procter&Gamble have tested the Digital Link and are avid supporters. In Germany, retailers and the consumer goods industry are discussing the expansion of the EAN barcode system in GS1 Germany’s 2D migration expert group, including Henkel, Nestlé, Mars, and the dairy group DMK.
By establishing the 2027 Sunrise Date, the industry has agreed that all POS systems globally will be able to read the new 2D code in addition to the traditional barcode by 2027. It is possible but highly unlikely that all retailers would then be able to label their product packaging exclusively with the QR code so the Sunrise Date provides flexibility for including both UPS/EAN and GS1 QR Code on packages. It is critically important to note that the UPC and EAN are not immediately going away.
In 2023, the GTIN.cloud global repository and UPC management portal will include the functionality for subscribers to seamlessly create Digital Link 2D barcode symbols as high-resolution .eps files. As part of the GTIN setup process, users will have the option of including destination web addresses and the portal will automatically generate the digital link plus digital barcode file.