GS1 Digital Link basics

Curious about GS1 Digital Link 2D Barcodes? Wondering how they benefit both brands and consumers? 

Explore our guide below to learn what they are, how they're used, and the advantages they offer.

What is a GS1 Digital Link 2D Barcode?

In a nutshell, the Digital Link transforms a barcode into a web address. This process integrates additional data and information about the item into the vast Internet landscape. This connection empowers consumers, retailers, brand owners, and supply chain participants to effortlessly access updated product details, akin to the Internet of Things concept but without the need for embedded sensors or microchips.

This digital link is then embedded within a 2D barcode, such as a QR Code, functioning as a data carrier. This code can be affixed to the product or printed on its packaging. Once scanned, the digital link QR Code steers users to a designated web resource for immediate access to the product's information.

When a Digital Link QR Code is sanned at the Point of Sale (POS) it functions like a traditional barcode, providing data about prices and SKUs. However, if the same code on product packaging is scanned by consumers using their mobile devices, it leads them to rich product content or a brand-specific webpage.

There's room for creativity. Products can be linked to promotional campaign pages, drive online shopping experiences, initiate mobile app downloads, showcase instructional videos, or present lists of web links to diverse resources, including social media platforms.

The Benefits of GS1 Digital Links

The benefits of GS1 Digital Link are substantial and wide-ranging:

  1. Efficient product tracking: GS1 Digital Link empowers accurate and real-time tracking of products throughout their lifecycle, enhancing supply chain visibility and reducing inefficiencies.
  2. Enhanced consumer engagement: With the ability to connect consumers directly to relevant content or brand-owned pages, GS1 Digital Link creates interactive experiences, fostering deeper consumer engagement and loyalty.
  3. Streamlined information sharing: The standard enables information updates and modifications in real time, ensuring consumers and stakeholders have access to the most current and relevant data.
  4. Supply chain transparency: GS1 Digital Link improves supply chain management by providing detailed and multilingual product information, boosting transparency and efficiency.
  5. Reduced packaging complexity: Utilizing a single GS1 Digital Link eliminates the need for multiple barcodes or QR Codes, streamlining packaging and freeing up valuable space.
  6. Compliance and regulations: The standard assists in meeting regulatory requirements, such as providing mandatory nutritional information or digital product passports.
  7. Customized consumer experience: GS1 Digital Link allows brands to tailor content for consumers, offering personalized experiences through dynamic QR Codes.
  8. SEO and online visibility: Structured data provided by GS1 Digital Links can enhance search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, leading to improved online visibility and better search results.
  9. Future-proofing brands: Adopting GS1 Digital Link ensures brands are prepared for the transition from traditional barcodes to more sophisticated digital link QR Codes, staying ahead of industry shifts.
  10. Global standard adoption: As an internationally recognized standard developed by GS1, GS1 Digital Link promotes uniformity and compatibility across industries and regions.
  11. Multi-language accessibility: GS1 Digital Link allows users to access information in their preferred language, accommodating diverse audiences.
  12. Efficient recall processes: In the event of product recalls, the digital link can be swiftly updated to notify consumers, reducing potential risks and enhancing safety.

Overall, GS1 Digital Link represents a game-changing evolution in product identification, consumer interaction, and supply chain management, offering a myriad of advantages for businesses and consumers alike.

Prepare For Sunrise 2027

A big change is coming soon. The retail industry, along with GS1, has decided that by the year 2027, they want to switch from using traditional linear barcodes on products to using Digital Link QR Codes.

By that time, all stores should be able to use machines to read these 2D codes, even the ones with digital links. Many companies that make products are already switching to this smarter GS1 Digital Link way, which gives them a better advantage over others. Stores are also working hard to update their machines to read these new codes.

A report from GS1 US found that 82% of stores and 93% of companies making things support this change from simple barcodes to the new 2D codes in the coming years. GS1 itself has already tested this with three big stores in the US to make sure it works well.

Even though both the new digital link QR Codes and the old barcodes will be around for some time after 2027, this change will have a big effect on many businesses.

Switching from the old machines that scan barcodes to new ones that can read the 2D codes, like QR Codes, will be a big challenge for stores. And making labels and packages might need to use new printing technology.

What's really important for all types of companies is to start getting ready now for this big change to using digital link QR Codes.

GS1 Digital Link will future-proof your products

Using GS1 Digital Link is a smart move to make sure your brand and products stay up-to-date. Think of digital link as the special ID for products in the modern digital era. People who are quick to use this new way in all kinds of industries are gaining a strong edge for themselves. They're taking the chance to shape how things work in the market.

Many brands are already adding digital links to their product packages and trying out new and clever ways to manage their supply chains, keep track of what they have in stock, and make sure their products are of high quality. They're doing this even before others catch on.

And all of this is taking place well before the target date of Sunrise 2027. This is when GS1 and leaders in different industries have decided to shift from the traditional barcodes to the newer 2D codes and digital links.

The great thing about digital links is that they're very flexible and can be used in many different ways across various industries. Brands and stores can use digital link QR Codes to make their supply chain easier to understand, share important information with customers, build stronger customer loyalty, and do many other things that are helpful.

GS1 Digital Links makes compliance easy

GS1 Digital Link makes it really simple to meet industry requirements and follow rules.

The GS1 Digital Link standard makes it simpler for product makers to give necessary details to customers.

For example, in the US, the FDA wants all food and drinks to have updated nutrition facts. And in the EU, there will soon be a rule about having an official Digital Product Passport for things that move around the Union.

Using digital links, manufacturers can put this info in a digital form and easily share it with customers using QR Codes or other ways like Data Matrix. This not only saves time and money, but also helps to follow the rules. As more countries make similar rules, the digital link is likely to become a really important part of how products move around the world.

Free up space on product labels

For now, businesses will need to put two barcodes on their retail products (a standard linear UPC or EAN-13 barcode image, and a Digital Link QR Code). However by about 2027 the retail industry will have upgraded their systems so that their barcode scanners and software are compatible with Digital Link QR Codes (to meet the 2027 Sunrise Date).

After that, businesses can choose to have a single smart barcode on their product packaging. Digital Link QR Codes can do two jobs: be a regular barcode and also a moving QR Code. Because of this, makers won't need lots of different codes on their products—like separate barcodes, QR Codes, and maybe even RFID tags. This saves space on the packaging and stops things from getting too cluttered with info.

This is really helpful for things like makeup and food that don't have much space on the package.

Streamline product management

By turning information about making and sending products into digital form, the digital link helps companies follow and find their products. This way, they make sure the info about the products is right, things are clear, everything works well, and it's good for the environment in the whole process. 

When the digital link works together with blockchain technology, it makes tracing products even easier. This helps with keeping track of what's in stock and ordering more when needed. It's a great thing for everyone involved—brands, stores, people who make solutions, partners who trade, and the people who buy the stuff.

GS1 Digital Link helps brands engage with customers

The GS1 Digital Link lets us totally rethink how people experience things they buy. There's no limit to what can be shared with just a scan of a code.

For instance, a webpage with more details about a product, how-to guides, tutorials, or cooking recipes. Even a digital version of a manual in the language they like – that saves paper and printing. And also, videos, a quick link to get a mobile app, cool ads, online shopping spot, all the official social media accounts, and a page full of web links for everything and more.

The digital link adds an extra layer of digital value to everything we can touch.

GS1 Digital Link benefits all kinds of businesses

GS1 Digital Link isn't limited to just one industry – it brings benefits to all kinds of businesses and sectors. Here's how:

  1. Apparel industry: GS1 Digital Link ensures authenticity and tracks fashion and apparel products throughout their lifecycle, offering consumers quality assurance.
  2. Automotive industry: This technology revolutionizes the automotive sector by digitally identifying and tracking vehicles, enhancing transparency and recall procedures.
  3. Consumer goods industry: With GS1 Digital Link, brands can track inventory effectively, reducing waste and boosting efficiency, which leads to cost savings and customer satisfaction.
  4. Food and beverage industry: Replacing traditional barcodes with a single 2D code (QR Code) enables streamlined tracking across the supply chain and provides consumers with detailed product information.
  5. Healthcare industry: Patients and healthcare professionals can scan a single code on medical products to access personalized and detailed information, improving patient care.
  6. Retail industry: GS1 Digital Link enhances safety and efficiency by identifying recalled or counterfeit products and automating processes like item discounting and B2B data sharing.

In short, GS1 Digital Link isn't confined to a single field. It's a versatile tool that transforms how industries function, providing benefits across the board, from improving supply chain efficiency to elevating customer engagement.