40-year-old bar code evolves for the digital age

By Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor in Packaging Design on August 13, 2013

 

Melanie Nuce GS1Today, the beep of UPCs being scanned is heard more than five billion times a day across the globe. The data that accompanies the bar code spans continents, economies and markets to create a global language of business—a language for identifying, capturing and sharing information automatically and accurately. 


The new paradigm for the global supply chain is based on business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) interaction, combining manufacturing and distribution data with consumer data for an "omni-channel" that works in both the physical and digital world. An "omni-channel" is indispensable in this digital age when consumers can get information directly from manufacturers or retailers and make purchases via phone, internet or in the physical space. 


Melanie Nuce, vp, apparel and general merchandise at GS1 US (pictured), talks about how B2B and B2C data can be encoded in one central source to help manage one inventory, not two (in-store and online).

 

Q: What is omni-channel retailing?
Nuce:
Omni-channel is the approach by retailers to provide a seamless consumer experience across multiple shopping channels. For example, when consumers search for or order a product via mobile devices, computers, at the store or from a catalog, retailers need to ensure consistency in item descriptions, product presentation and the purchase experience. 


As an item makes its way through the supply chain, there are multiple entry points where information, sometimes erroneous, can become associated with the product. This inconsistent product data is creating real challenges for consumers as they search and compare products. Retailer omni-channel strategies are seeking to address that challenge.

 

Q: How is omni-channel changing the consumer experience?
Nuce:
Omni-channel aims to provide consumers with reliable, trusted and consistent product information. Mobile devices have fundamentally changed consumer behavior and the retail landscape. Today's on-the-go consumer is constantly connected through smartphones and tablets. Due to this heightened connectivity, consumers have unprecedented access to, and insight about, products—24/7. The goal of omni-channel is to give consumers the same shopping experience online as in the store. It's giving consumers confidence that their search will turn up the products they are looking for, even outside of brick-and-mortar establishments. Over the long-term, that kind of reliability equates to brand loyalty and continued sales. 


Q: What is "big data" and how are industries harnessing it to capture benefits for brand owners, retailers, application providers and consumers?
Nuce:
It's an exciting time. An extension of the digital revolution is that consumers are leading a massive, global, online conversation about products, brands and stores, including reviews and ratings, recommendations and referrals. Businesses are leveraging the burgeoning volume of data through predictive analytics, mobile and location-based services, direct consumer relationships, demand-driven supply-chain management, idea-to-product acceleration, sustainability, safety and traceability. If we can better understand our consumers, we can better serve them.

 

Q: How is GS1, the administrator of the UPC bar code, playing a central role in these efforts?
Nuce:
GS1 data captured in the UPC bar code is at the heart of big data analysis efforts for one important reason: global standards help to provide trusted sources of data. Accurate product information is necessary for analysis to be conducted—the same concept applies to omni-channel retailing. Our standards provide a common language—a language for identifying, capturing and sharing information automatically and accurately, so that anyone who wants that information can understand it. There are immense benefits to getting product information right. If product information is wrong or unreliable, consumers will move on to new products, brands, stores and internet application providers.

 

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