Barcode technology is an integral part of retail processes, from the supply chain to the checkout. However, innovation continues. Kyle DeWitt, vice president, technical services for ScanSource, Inc., explains what ISVs and app developers need to know about advancements in barcodes and how you can enhance consumer experiences by enabling your clients to make the most of this easy method of sharing and collecting information.
What are some of the advancements in barcode technology that ISVs need to be aware of?
DeWitt: The biggest change to the industry recently has been GS1 US’s setting the date for the transition to 2D barcodes at the point of sale (POS) starting in 2027. 2D barcodes provide the potential for far more information to be captured and presented than their UPC predecessors. This shift in the industry creates opportunities for channel partners to update hardware POS solutions to include imager scanning, enabling the shift in manufacturing to generate and print the new codes on products and providing retailers with better solutions for leveraging the additional data available within the barcodes.
How is barcode technology reshaping retail?
DeWitt: There are two main trends here:
- Customer experience
- Better-informed consumers
2D barcodes, specifically QR Codes, have become commonplace in consumer and social interactions. Marketers are able to display information, interact with their customers, and highlight their brands in exciting new ways. This is creating an avenue for brands to provide catered experiences for their (potential) customers. Links to product information, such as reviews or nutritional information, can now be affixed directly to the goods and retrieved by the consumer with their smartphone, creating an environment for more informed purchasing.
Which types of barcodes are most prevalent in retail now?
DeWitt: The UPC code won’t be going anywhere any time soon, despite the sunrise of 2D barcodes referenced above. As the industry transitions, both the UPC and QR codes will co-exist. However, the value of transitioning to 2D barcodes is undeniable. While UPC codes will continue to be the most widespread barcode in retail for another decade or so, there is an end in sight. D barcodes have been in use in manufacturing for years now to capture data about lot, components, dates, revisions, etc., and can be found printed on the backs and insides of most consumer electronics. The vanity QR code, codes that contain both the digitized information within the barcode as well as logos and text associated with the brand, are the most interactive, consumer-facing barcodes. The UPC code provides a standards-based bit of information to complete a transaction, while the 2D barcode goes beyond the point of sale, enabling manufacturers to track, support, and produce higher-quality products. The QR Code creates an opportunity to interact with the consumer before and after the sale.
How can ISVs help enhance customer experiences with barcode data collection?
DeWitt: Today’s consumer is comfortable with interacting with QR codes. We are seeing them used in mainstream media, for instance, in Super Bowl ads, and studies show that consumers are scanning and interacting with the brands. ISVs have an opportunity to enable retailers to capitalize on the social prevalence of these codes and the easy format they enable for providing and capturing information. Leveraging barcode scanning to drive consumers to things like loyalty apps, credit card applications, sale and pricing data, and product reviews can be an effective way to create unique customer experiences. Better yet, because a URL can be embedded in the QR Code, there is an opportunity to create dynamic content catered to the user that scanned the barcode, specific to that date, time, location, etc., all on the fly.
Please provide tips to keep in mind with integration.
DeWitt: The data stored within the barcodes of the future will enable so much more than a simple point of sale transaction. This requires ISVs to ensure integration with systems such as product databases, pricing engines, payment gateways/processors, and inventory management systems are uplifted to support the new barcode data. The hardware involved at the point of sale is also critical from an integration standpoint. 2D barcodes require imager scan engines, not the 1D lasers of their ancestors. While this technology is not new and already deployed in modern retail environments, the standardization of 2D barcodes is likely going to drive a hardware refresh throughout the retail market.