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Will DataBar Kill The Self-Checkout Produce, Coupon Nightmare?

April 16th, 2009

One of the attractions of the new codes is that they seem to be addressing true pain-points for retailers today, especially in the self-checkout and expiration date areas. Some retailers have been talking up the imminent changes. (Editor’s Note: Some of those anonymous comments are from execs working for very large chains. We’re linking to those comments for a reason.)

In theory, a lot of the benefits promised—but not yet delivered–by DataBar could also be delivered by item-level RFID chips, which also promised a lot and has been very slow in delivering and only for those rare trials where a retailer is pursuing item-level. Although we’re hesitant to compare two not-yet-delivered technologies (In the land of Vaporware, the more imminent rollout is King), DataBar seems to be much closer to delivering and it’s approach seems to have side-stepped many of the cost and technology hiccups that have been holding back item-level mass acceptance. But Arens argued that DataBar might help advance both, with DataBar seen by some retailers as an inexpensive “transitional step” toward item-level RFID labeling. “The software and applications they put in place for the GS1 DataBar have the same data structures,” he said. “Some retailers believe this is a good transitional move.”

DataBar also should be able to help with marketing objectives, such as keeping track of which brands are selling better. Mellor said the GS1 DataBar can be used in the deli/fresh meat/seafood/poultry departments for many of the same reasons as produce because it provides “enhanced product description information, such as Brand A vs. Brand B vs. Brand C.” Retailers can also encode into the DataBar labels a “sell by” date on store-packaged food that would be “caught at the front end if there were some out of date packages in the meat case.”

“The uses of additional data available with the DataBar are especially relevant for in store-packaged fresh products,” said Dan Grady of C-Core Retail Consulting. “Companies are considering what data elements might enable closing the loop on traceability, updating the POS with date-of-package sold, for true production planning, carbon footprint and other item information that may enable improved fresh execution and reporting.” Grady noted that those in-store use discussions “will require scale companies to support the DataBar for in-store products and vendor/retailer collaboration.”

After 2010, the next “sunrise” date for DataBar adoption is Jan. 1, 2014. That’s when GS1 US recommends all other categories of retailers “consider preparing point-of-sale hardware and software systems to scan and process” the new labels. It said many appear to be going forward already. “Examples of industries expressing interest in implementation of GS1 DataBar prior to 2014 are healthcare, magazine publishers, cosmetics, jewelry, and categories of fresh foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish,” said a GS1 US statement.


3 Comments | Read Will DataBar Kill The Self-Checkout Produce, Coupon Nightmare?

  1. Bill Bittner Says:

    The DataBar (formerly RSS, Reduced Space Symbology) has been talked about for years. While scanners were the initial hurdle, the article rightly indicates that the software to handle the additional data has been the real challenge. POS Logs, Coupon Validation Routines, and cashier training must all change.

    While DataBar is necessary, it is not sufficient to address many of the issues identified in this article. Coupon acceptance at self checkout is as much a fraud issue as it is merely accepting outdated coupons. DataBar does nothing to ensure that the barcode being presented represents a legitimate offer from the manufacturer. This is normally done by the cashier looking at the printed coupon to make sure it was not produced on someone’s home computer. This is exactly the same issue with Internet coupons. DataBar represents a completely different concept of data presentation than RFID. DataBar presents the data attributes directly in the barcode. RFID uses a serial number to reference data attributes of an object. Implementing DataBar is not an intermediate step for getting to serial number based reference.

    DataBar will address the issues associated with PLU numbers and will enable more specific coding of variable weight packages. This will greatly help the management of fresh processes and be a great benefit to retailers who do in-store processing. These benefits will be tied to new applications that track both production and POS activity to monitor replenishment and identify unsold packages. This will help considerably with implementation of markdowns, rework planning, and shrink identification.

    All in all, DataBar is just one more enhancement to “analog based” interfaces such as printed paper coupons. The ultimate answer will be purely digital discounts verified online as they are presented to the retailer.

  2. Glyn Fogell Says:

    We see DataBar as a major step forward in the Fresh departments, particularly because of the ability to manage and validate sell-by dates at time of sale. Our major hurdle right now is the POS software but we should have the new version available in time for testing and roll-out before “sunrise”. Only a smallish number of hand scanners will have to be replaced as even our oldest omnidirectional ones can be given a new firmaware version to handle DataBar; we’re busy piloting that right now.

    On the coupon comment from Bill: I motivated a local GS1 standard change for coupons which has been adopted so that we can use a coupon as a linked promotional item. It has an effective date and an end date for the promotion, has no intrinsic face value and only works when the promoted item is in the same “basket”. Redemption is handled electronically based on scanned coupons and the paper need not be retained or handled by a clearing bureau – the supplier’s stock account is debited for redemptions at the end of the promotion. Yes, the voucher could be re-used, but only to buy more of the promoted product. (You did want to boost sales of the line, didn’t you?).

    Try it – you might like it!

  3. Rob Martell Says:

    It takes me so long to get through a grocery check-out now, I am not hoping for any more ‘Technology’ to make it worse!


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