FAQ about 2D Barcodes

Questions and answers about 2D Barcodes and how you can start using them!

A 2D barcode is a two-dimensional way to represent information. Unlike the traditional linear UPC or EAN barcodes, which are limited to storing a small amount of data, 2D barcodes can hold a significantly larger amount of information.

A 2D Barcode is printed on product packaging (typically as a QR Code). When scanned with a smartphone, it directs the user to digital product information. When scanned at the Point of Sale, it displays the product's GTIN number and price.

Traditional barcodes (EAN/UPC) store data in a series of black and white lines. 2D barcodes use patterns of squares, dots, hexagons, and other shapes. This allows 2D barcodes to encode more data in a smaller space.

Retailers are switching to 2D barcodes for their capacity to hold more information,their speed and accuracy in scanning, and their versatility in use across different types of products and industries. 2D Barcodes offer a powerful solution by enabling the encoding of extensive product details within a single, compact symbol. This includes information like batch/lot numbers, best-before dates, use-by dates, and weight, all while retaining the GTIN unique barcode number already familiar in linear barcodes. No need for new identification numbers. Furthermore, 2D Barcodes can incorporate webpage URLs, providing consumers and stakeholders with direct access to online resources, such as comprehensive brand or product narratives and origin details.

While the transition to 2D barcodes is underway, most retailers will continue to accept traditional UPC/EAN barcodes for a period of time. However, it is recommended to adopt 2D barcodes as soon as possible.

2D Barcodes represent the future of retail barcodes. They will gradually replace traditional EAN and UPC barcode images on product labels.

It is highly recommended that all brands and manufacturers begin incorporating 2D Barcodes on their product labels moving forward. Currently, 2D Barcodes coexist with traditional EAN or UPC barcode images on product labels. However, in the future, only the 2D Barcodes will be necessary on product labels.

The global barcode industry has established a target date of 2027. This means that by 2027, all retailers are expected to support scanning 2D Barcodes at the point of sale.

By adopting 2D barcodes, your products will be ready for the future of retail, ensuring compatibility with the latest retail technology. This transition also offers opportunities for enhanced product tracking, better inventory management, and enriched customer engagement through augmented product information.

At IBN Link, we provide an easy-to-use platform where you can create 2D barcodes for your products. Simply enter your product information and our system will generate the barcode for you. We offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) - click here to get your first 2D Barcode

Transitioning to 2D barcodes involves minimal costs on our platform. The primary cost is associated with updating your product packaging to include the new barcode. See our membership options here.

Customers can scan 2D Barcodes using standard barcode scanners at retail outlets or through smartphone cameras using various barcode scanning applications.

Ultimately, the goal is to use just one 2D Barcode on your product packaging. This 2D Barcode contains all the necessary information, including the barcode number (GTIN).

Unlike other QR codes that may have changing URLs and cause broken links, the Digital Link 2D Barcode uniquely identifies the product, much like the traditional barcode does with the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). Thanks to its standardized encoding within the 2D barcode, scanners can always recognize and interpret the data, ensuring the URL consistently leads to the correct product webpage.

This simplifies product management for brand owners, allowing them to make updates and run promotions without worrying about link issues. Digital Link URLs follow a specific pattern using specialized technology, making it easy for barcode scanners to identify them.

Click here to view our detailed step-by-step instructions.

1. Register for your free 30-day trial (your credit card will not be charged).

2. Complete the Add a Product form

You will need to have a GTIN number (EAN-13 or UPC number) for your product. If you don't have a GTIN number, you can purchase one from a reputable barcode supplier like internationalbarcodes.com (or any other member of the International Barcodes Network).

3. Download your 2D Barcode (QR Code) from your Dashboard

4. Print your 2D Barcode on your product labels/packaging

At any point during your 30-day trial or after it expires, you can choose to renew your subscription, upgrade it (allowing you to create multiple 2D Barcodes for various products), or cancel it.

1. A unique Digital Link and a 2D Barcode (QR Code) for each product.

2. Utilise our server to effortlessly create digital product information for each product.

3. Customised product information displayed to customers through our IBN Link Resolver Service. Choose the Link Types and then select which product information URL each Link Type should point to. You can revisit and modify your product information or links at any time in the future.

4. Seamless integration of your Digital Product Information with Apps and Databases.

5. FREE 30-day trial for a 2D Barcode for one product, along with access to our premium product content platform and IBN Link Resolver service! Sign up is quick and easy - no credit card required.

A 2D Barcode encodes a Digital Link, which is a unique web link (URI) connecting a physical product to its digital information. The link must be properly formatted to establish this connection; otherwise, the physical product won't link to its digital counterpart.

A Digital Link starts with a domain, followed by /01/, and then the product's GTIN number. 

Extra product information such as batch number or expiry date can be added to the end of the URI too (these are called attributes and qualifiers). 

gs1 digital link attributes qualifiers

The Digital Link URI is encoded into a 2D Barcode (usually a QR Code) which is then printed on the product label. 

When the 2D Barcode is scanned by a retailer at the point of sale, it functions just like a normal UPC or EAN barcode image, displaying the product GTIN number and price.

However, when the 2D Barcode is scanned by a smartphone camera or app, it connects the user to rich digital product information.

The true power of 2D Barcodes lies in their flexibility. Consumers want to access specific product information that is directly relevant to them, such as product information in their own language, nutritional content details, or recipe ideas. This is where Resolvers come into play. Resolvers are a web server system that use Link Types to direct different scans of the 2D Barcode to the appropriate endpoint.

A Resolver is a web server that can be used by a website to unpack the information in a Digital Link and then redirect the user to the appropriate place, such as a "how to use your product" page or a "recipe ideas" page. A Resolver can also decode any encoded data attributes, such as batch numbers or expiry dates, and present this information to the user in plain language.

A Resolver can be utilised at either a website level or within a mobile app. For example, a nutrition app could provide nutritional information about the product, a sustainability app could offer details about packaging, an instructional app could provide a link to a quick start guide, or an all-in-one app could allow users to choose which information they want to access.

A Resolver operates by using specific GS1 Link Types that can be added to the end of a Digital Link. This link type can be embedded in the original 2D Barcode or added by a resolver on a website or within an app.

Our IBN Link Resolver can decode GS1 Link Types - find out how to add Link Types to your 2D Barcodes using the IBN Link Platform.

gs1 digital link resolver

Introduction to 2D Barcodes

Get started with 2D Barcodes