19 May 2022


Digital Link 2027: A New Era of Barcodes and Navigating the IP Landscape

The Digital Link Smart Pool initiative, pioneered by IPwe, provides a one-of-a-kind structure for businesses to gain access to crucial patent-protected Digital Link technologies. Allowing you to successfully traverse the IP landscape as the traditional licensing model’s inefficiency, expense, and complexity are eliminated while also accessing a new era of barcodes to enter Digital Link 2027.

The New Era of Barcodes

One of the biggest challenges brands face is keeping up with innovation, and in a world of Smart Phones, Smart TVs, Smart Homes, and even Smart Cities, brands must innovate Smart Packaging as well. Promoted by key players such as Walmart, the industry and GS1 have set a date to make the transition to accepting 2D barcodes at point-of-sale (referred to as Sunrise 2027). There is widespread enthusiasm for the transition from linear 1D to data-rich 2D barcodes, with 92% of brand owners and 82% of retailers in support of the switch.

To achieve this, a combined effort is required from not only the brand owners and retailers themselves, but standards organizations, industry partners, manufacturers, and Intellectual Property rights holders.

Why switch to 2D barcodes with more data? The first conventional UPC barcode was scanned in 1974, but technology has advanced considerably since then, as have consumer needs.

Customers now expect more data and interaction than ever before, increased product information, supply chain transparency, and engagement. Most importantly, customers want this to be easy and accessible. Using the Food Industry as an example, a study published by FMI and Label Insight showed that 93% of consumers say it is important for brands to provide detailed information about what is in food and how it is made. Furthermore, 74% of consumers said they would switch to a brand with more in-depth product information, in addition to what appears on the label.

This is not to say that traditional barcodes are not functional; they were, after all, designed for the point-of-sale only. Or put simply, to go “beep” at the checkout – a significant innovation 50 years ago. Brands and retailers have made significant technological progress since then, and QR Code reach has grown by 96% since 2018.

Data-rich 2D barcodes are not limited to UPC or EAN codes; they can also store large amount of data and link to the web. By embedding product identifiers into the web, 2D barcodes act as a gateway to consumer information.

With 2D barcodes, you can add further Digital Link functionality, and combine a URL with other QR Code features and critical data. A unique product identifier may then be leveraged in a unified, consistent way across the supply chain, point-of-sale, and your consumer’s experience.

Using a unique product ID in a Digital Link opens a whole new universe of innovative applications and use-cases. With the right technologies, you can compress large amounts of complex data into a compact, easy-to-read QR Code as you fight for space on product packaging.

This is more than simply adding a GTIN to the end of a URL; or even placing a 2D code next to a linear barcode. It is not about confusing customers with multiple barcodes on their product, it is all about using a single, data-rich barcode to support multiple channels, whether you are a supplier, retailer or customer.

In the next 5 years, the GS1 Digital Link technology format will undoubtedly make great strides in replacing traditional UPC / EAN barcodes entirely. A single 2D barcode will provide point-of-sale functionality and a consumer-facing URL.

Following numerous consultations with leading, global consumer goods brands, it is evident that the consumer-facing aspects of innovation are critical to brand strategy. Traditional brand management has been disrupted by innovation and emerging technologies, as consumer behaviors continue to evolve rapidly. Thus, as a brand owner, you should consider the following when connecting your product packaging with customer experience.

#1 Big Data

Consumer behavior is evolving and becoming more complex. For brands that want to better understand their consumers’ wants and needs, using data from the customer lifecycle via Digital Link technology is mission critical. A recent survey by Inmar Intelligence showed the following:

– Only 9% of consumers are not comfortable sharing their data with brands/retailers

– 65% of shoppers are willing to share their data with retailers, but they expect a better experience

– 90% of consumers believe that a brand’s ability to personalize their shopping experience impacts the amount they spend/shop with that brand

This data can be utilized to produce invaluable analytics for brands about their customer journey, the effectiveness of various touch points, and common pain points. Marketing campaigns and new sales channel strategies can then be developed from these data building blocks.

A 2020 report by McKinsey stated their belief that CPG companies should rely on several key principles when developing more accurate projections for the ‘next normal’. Included was the importance of base analytics on the most up-to-date understanding of consumer behaviors, also citing digital engagement data in this report.


#2 Hyper-Personalization

Brands can no longer rely on a ‘one size fits all’ approach to consumer interactions. Although it increasingly sounds like the latest corporate buzzword, hyper-personalization is a highly powerful tool. According to SmarterHQ, 72% of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalized and tailored to their interests.

Data is king, and hyper-personalization is the use of data to deliver tailored and more personal information and experiences. A Digital Link is an effective conduit to execute this.


#3 Product Information

Consumers expect more and more product information before they make a purchase. The cornerstone of consumer-brand relationships is trust. Providing a customer with detailed product information builds trust, and instils the confidence they need to make a well-informed buying decision.

A recent report by AIPIA & Accenture found that the #1 use-case for Smart Connected Packaging was ‘To provide consumers with richer product information’ and a Digital Link is the consumer’s gateway to this product information.


#4 Gamification

A great customer experience is not just about access to product information. It is about higher-level interaction to increase engagement.

Gamification via Digital Link technology is a fantastic way to do this. Consumers can participate in play-to-win competitions, interactive quizzes, and in-app games. Rewards can be gained, incentives can be leveraged with special offers, and the Digital Link can be used to digitalize brand loyalty programs.


#5 Sustainability

Traceability, and trusted data captured and shared across the entire supply chain using a Digital Link, can help optimize supply chains for measuring and managing environmental impact, such as carbon footprint.

Although seemingly moving away from customer interaction to supply chain – if this trusted data is shared with consumers, supported by the same 2D barcode as the supply chain, this brings clear benefits to brand relationships with increasingly eco-conscious consumers.


#6 Product Recalls

The business impact of an urgent product recall can be catastrophic to a company’s reputation, particularly if not handled properly.

A Digital Link is an enabler for trusted supply chain data. Using a unique identifier in a 2D barcode, contaminated products can be traced across various points throughout the supply chain, from ‘farm to fork’.


#7 Brand Protection

Brand protection, particularly in the luxury goods sector, is of the utmost importance. Genuine brand customers can be lost if they purchase a counterfeited product, to the detriment of the brand’s image.

From fine wines to jewelry, designer apparel to cosmetics, encrypted and tamper-proof Digital Link solutions can be deployed to effectively protect premium brands and their products.


#8 Intellectual Property

The IP landscape bridges the gap between the technical core specifications and the implementation of many of the key features that build on top of the existing standard, in a consistent way. Widespread adoption of the GS1 Digital Link by 2027 can only be achieved with the participation of industry bodies, manufacturers and Intellectual Property rights holders.

Leading global standards organizations, such as GS1, always inform that the implementation of one or more features of their technical specifications may be the subject of a patent or other Intellectual Property rights. Despite this, general awareness of such an imperative point among Interactive Packaging adopters is remarkably low, as is awareness of the solution – access to this critical Intellectual Property.

Brand innovators with the best intentions want to develop additional Interactive Packaging features. Understandably they want to go further than the basic specifications only, but are often missing the proverbial golden key to unlock the full potential of the GS1 Digital Link – IP rights from those that have led the way in the development of this technological area.

In contrast to the typical approach of using IP rights to exclude, many top innovators in this space are now looking to promote GS1 Digital Link adoption and Interactive Packaging innovation by improving others’ IP Landscape. These innovative leaders, such as mobiLead and Advanced Track & Trace, have used their expertise to develop patented best-in-class technologies that can be deployed by brands that obtain the necessary rights to improve their IP landscape.

IPwe Smart Pool

IPwe’s Digital Link Smart Pool

Pioneered by IPwe, the Digital Link Smart Pool initiative provides a unique, unprecedented framework for brands to access these key patent-protected Digital Link technologies so you can successfully navigate the IP landscape with ease. Without the inefficiency, cost and complexity of the conventional licensing model.

IPwe takes care of the licenses to the relevant patents you need and removes traditional barriers to entry, so your R&D teams can focus on what they do best: innovating and implementing technology to give your company a competitive advantage, with the freedom to innovate.

With the necessary technical solutions and frameworks developed by innovators like mobiLead, Advanced Track & Trace, and IPwe, these features can be implemented, using the GS1 Digital Link standard and the relevant Intellectual Property, to improve your IP landscape. Digital transformation is sweeping CPG companies across the world, as brand owners and retailers try to keep up with the increasing rate of innovation.

In conclusion, GS1 Digital Link technology is the key enabler of Smart Packaging solutions. And for the largest CPG brands, Smart Packaging offers a solution to their biggest challenges. Entire product ecosystems are being digitalized and revolutionized with a single barcode that supports supply chain operations, point-of-sale, and customer interactions. After all, it still has to beep at the checkout!


Author: Jamie Ringsell, Enterprise Account Development

Jamie Ringsell, IPwe’s Enterprise Account Development, has a proven track record of leading sales operations and delivering client-focused solutions that increase revenues, profit, and market share in highly competitive technology markets. As IPwe’s lead executive for the Digital Link Smart Pool, Jamie also works closely with key GS1 Digital Link partners & industry associations, such as mobiLead, Advanced Track & Trace, and AIPIA.


About IPwe

Founded in 2018, IPwe is a global innovation platform leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and blockchain technology. Through the IPwe Platform, large enterprises, SMEs, owners, those looking to enhance their innovation profiles and those with a legal, technical or financial focus benefit from IPwe’s mission to empower innovation in emerging technologies. IPwe is committed to improving ROI whether measured by dollar returns, jobs created, ventures launched, or problems solved by increasing transparency, lowering costs and enhancing returns for the entire innovation ecosystem.

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