GS1 US has published a guideline to help the retail industry implement GS1 Digital Link, a standard that allows brands to web-enable barcodes and provide consumers with rich product information. With a single scan of a two-dimensional (2D) barcode (e.g., QR code or Data Matrix) that’s encoded with GS1 Digital Link, consumers can gain access to unlimited and instantly updated, brand-authorized content online, including product data, promotions, ingredients, recipes and more.  

GS1 Digital Link leverages Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for product identification, which have been encoded into U.P.C. barcodes and used at the point of sale for more than four decades to aid price lookup. Embedding the GTIN in a 2D data carrier using GS1 Digital Link connects the physical product to the web. The standard can help eliminate the need for multiple on-pack barcodes, freeing up space for brand expression and supporting industry’s need for a more robust data carrier. Recent GS1 US research revealed that 82% of retailers and 92% of brand owners support transitioning from the U.P.C. to a data-rich 2D barcode within the next five years because of the consumer-driven need for more product information. 

“Consumers crave additional information about their products—today now more than ever,” said Kelly Ilse Schlafman, intelligent packaging director, Procter & Gamble. “GS1 Digital Link represents a gateway to dynamic, scannable product information for consumers that also gives brands the flexibility to curate information all from one symbol.”  

Additionally, GS1 Digital Link supports retailer business processes, enabling faster and more accurate product traceability, efficient inventory management and product authentication through access to expanded product details. When implemented, the barcode can give retail associates additional information such as the batch/lot or serial number, which can help prevent fraudulent returns. It can also enable more immediate access to freshness dates and product status for better management of recalls and expired products pre- and post-purchase, while allowing for automatic discounts of nearly expired products at checkout.