Embracing change: the benefits of piloting 2D barcode implementation

New Zealand is a country of change makers, innovators, and early adopters. Key to our national psyche is a mindset that asks, ‘how hard can it be?’ Our business landscape is comprised of small to medium businesses, and we have a national penchant toward ‘Do It Yourself.’ As a result, New Zealand is a seedbed for trialing new technologies, and New Zealand businesses are often early adopters of technology. So, what are the benefits of 2D barcodes, and how can New Zealand businesses begin piloting implementation of this new technology?

The transition to 2D barcoding

Consumers, brand owners, retailers, and regulators are wanting to know more information about products — and as a result, everyone is looking for better ways to share product data. The challenge is that traditional linear barcodes usually provide only the product identification number, or “GTIN” (Global Trade Item Number). Even traditional QR codes are limited as they often point to a singular location or web page on the internet.

A global transition is underway to move from the traditional 1D, linear barcode to 2D, square barcodes. Working with retailers and product manufacturers, GS1 NZ is aiming for all retail point-of-sale systems in New Zealand to scan 2D barcodes by 2027. The first phase of the transition involves piloting, as businesses explore the use of 2D barcodes and begin initial implementation.

Unlocking data portability

So, what’s the big news story? 2D Barcodes are set to transform the way GS1 NZ members do business​. A 2D barcode can carry substantially more information than a traditional linear barcode, opening a world of possibilities for Kiwi businesses. Being able to encode extra information on a barcode has significant benefits, and the applications are extensive. As the saying goes, data is king. Rather than simply encode a singular product identifier such as a barcode number, 2D barcodes can carry other product attributes using Application Identifiers (also known as AIs). The game changer is that they can also link to the internet (using GS1 Digital Link) while still scanning at point of sale!

The power of pairing GTINs with AIs

There are hundreds of AIs and their use cases are vast. Best before dates, production dates, and many other product attributes can be identified using AIs. They provide a means to carry standardised information that is machine readable through a number sequence. In New Zealand, businesses like Woolworths New Zealand are pairing the GTIN with AIs through 2D barcodes, to carry a wealth of information with each product. Woolworths New Zealand information like best before date is now accessible with a simple scan, providing the information operators need to make decisions on the shop floor around markdowns and strengthening food safety interventions.

Powering the barcode with the internet

The breakthrough for brand owners, manufacturers and retailers is that 2D barcodes are both scannable at point of sale and can also link consumers to the internet using GS1 Digital Link. One 2D barcode graphic can point to multiple locations depending on who scans the barcode – an operator or consumer. GS1 Digital Link helps rationalise the use of standard QR code graphics on packaging, but more importantly opens a standardised way for brands to store and share product information with consumers. Unlike a standard QR code which typically only links to a website, GS1 Digital Link allows consumers to be taken online while also going ‘beep’ at checkout.

Piloting 2D implementation

The use cases for and benefits of 2D barcodes are endless, and it will be up to manufacturers and retailers to mastermind how they use this technology to enhance their businesses. At its core, this emerging technology offers a way for Kiwi businesses to use their product data to streamline business processes, increase efficiencies and strengthen consumer engagement.

So, how can Kiwi businesses begin to pilot 2D barcode implementation? Here’s a summary of how you can get started with a 2D pilot programme. For more information on piloting you can refer to our 2D pilot toolkit.

  • Why: A foundation for change is identifying the compelling drivers for the change. There are numerous business cases for 2D adoption such as consumer engagement, sustainability, traceability, safety, inventory management and improved packaging. Be clear as an organisation on why you want to conduct your pilot and this will help you drive change.
  • What: Clearly define your scope – what is in and what is out of scope, and the variables you want to consider.
  • Who: Identify which supply chain partners and solution providers you will engage with to create success. GS1 New Zealand is here to help you through this process.
  • How: Use the 2D pilot toolkit as a guide, and network with other organisations who are on this journey already. We’d encourage you to sign up to the 2D in retail working group to network with other organisations around Australasia who are implementing 2D barcodes.

Reporting and Learnings

Plan to capture your learnings and report them back to your organisation. Let us know how your piloting is progressing, and the support you need along the way.