Introduction to 2D Barcodes

Curious about 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.


Get started with 2D Barcodes

What is a 2D Barcode?

In a nutshell, A 2D Barcode connects a physical product to digital product information. It is able to do this because a 'Digital Link' is encoded into the 2D Barcode (a Digital Link is a special type of web link that connects to digital product information). 2D Barcodes can be either QR Codes or Data Matrix codes, and they are printed on the product packaging. Once scanned, the 2D Barcode steers users to a designated web resource for immediate access to the product's information.

When a 2D Barcode is scanned 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 2D Barcodes

The benefits of 2D Barcodes are substantial and wide-ranging:

  1. Efficient product tracking: 2D Barcodes empower 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, 2D Barcodes create 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: 2D Barcodes improve supply chain management by providing detailed and multilingual product information, boosting transparency and efficiency.
  5. Reduced packaging complexity: Utilising a single 2D Barcode 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: 2D Barcodes empower brands to tailor content for consumers, offering personalised experiences through dynamic 2D Barcodes.
  8. SEO and online visibility: Structured data provided by 2D Barcodes can enhance search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts, leading to improved online visibility and better search results.
  9. Future-proofing brands: Adopting 2D Barcodes ensures brands are prepared for the transition from traditional barcodes to 2D Barcodes, staying ahead of industry shifts.
  10. Global standard adoption: As an internationally recognised standard developed by GS1, 2D Barcodes promote uniformity and compatibility across industries and regions.
  11. Multi-language accessibility: 2D Barcodes allow 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, 2D Barcodes represent 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 2D Barcodes.

By that time, all stores should be able to use machines to read these 2D Barcodes. Many companies that make products are already switching to 2D Barcodes. 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 Barcodes 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 2D Barcodes and the old linear 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 2D Barcodes 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 2D Barcodes.

2D Barcodes will future-proof your products

Using 2D Barcodes 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 2D Barcodes 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 2D Barcodes.

The great thing about 2D Barcodes is that they're very flexible and can be used in many different ways across various industries. Brands and stores can use 2D Barcodes 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.

2D Barcodes make compliance easy

2D Barcodes make it really simple to meet industry requirements and follow rules.

2D Barcodes make 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 2D Barcodes, manufacturers can put this info in a digital form and easily share it with customers. This not only saves time and money, but also helps to follow the rules. As more countries make similar rules, the 2D Barcode 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 2D Barcode). However by about 2027 the retail industry will have upgraded their systems so that their barcode scanners and software are compatible with 2D Barcodes (to meet the 2027 Sunrise Date).

After that, businesses can choose to have a single smart barcode on their product packaging. This saves space on the packaging and stops things from getting too cluttered with info.

This is really helpful for things like make-up 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, 2D Barcodes help 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 2D Barcode 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.

2D Barcodes help brands engage with customers

2D Barcodes let 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.

2D Barcodes add an extra layer of digital value to everything we can touch.

2D Barcodes benefit all kinds of businesses

2D Barcodes aren't limited to just one industry – it brings benefits to all kinds of businesses and sectors. Here's how:

  1. Apparel industry: 2D Barcodes ensure authenticity and track fashion and apparel products throughout their lifecycle, offering consumers quality assurance.
  2. Automotive industry: This technology revolutionises the automotive sector by digitally identifying and tracking vehicles, enhancing transparency and recall procedures.
  3. Consumer goods industry: With 2D Barcodes, 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 Barcode 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: 2D Barcodes enhance safety and efficiency by identifying recalled or counterfeit products and automating processes like item discounting and B2B data sharing.

In short, 2D Barcodes aren't confined to a single field. They are a versatile tool that transform how industries function, providing benefits across the board, from improving supply chain efficiency to elevating customer engagement.