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Today’s consumers are scanning product barcodes with smartphones to learn more about what they are buying – or considering buying

Editorial – June / July’19

The humble barcode has come a long way since it first appeared on a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum. Today there’s a wealth of information behind the lines and numbers – and the next stage in its evolution is here.

In today’s world of retailing, which is as much online as it is through traditional bricks-and-mortar stores – and frequently both – those involved with marketing and distribution have a wealth of technologies available to them to firstly identify the product and then to add information that the end consumer will find useful in their buying decision.

The ubiquitous barcode was developed in the 1950s and arrived in Australia in the late 1970s when a Sims Supermarket in Victoria became the first barcode scanning store in our region. Just a decade later, 90% of grocery items in Australia and New Zealand had a 13-digit international article number (EAN) barcode and 500 grocery stores had scanning technology. 

In the 1990s the 2D barcode was developed which was capable of communicating a wide range of information, including a product’s batch number, ID and date of production. The international standard behind all barcodes is provided by GS1 worldwide.

Today, anyone with a smartphone can scan, read and display barcodes for a range of purposes – think mobile retail apps, courier track and trace, airport boarding passes, in-store loyalty cards, event tickets and much more. 

But how do you integrate all this information so that one barcode can incorporate any number of sources of information? Think of a retailer who wishes to list a new product in its catalogue. They’ll need to collate images and video from a content service provider, marketing material from a digital agency, and perhaps multiple sources of data covering logistics and product information.
The next stage of evolution for barcodes is now here. Called GS1 Digital Link, it ‘web-enables’ barcodes using ‘resolver’ technology by providing simple rules that apps, websites and point-of-sale scanners can use to translate barcodes into connections, shopping experiences and interesting product content.

You can read more about it in this edition of FTD – and don’t miss the recap of some of the presentations from the recent GS1 NZ ecommerce summit (PDFs available upon request for non-subscribers).

Until next time … 
Lynne Richardson, editor 

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