GS1 QR Code Ultimate Guide: Everything You Should Know

Update:  February 23, 2024
GS1 QR Code Ultimate Guide: Everything You Should Know

The GS1 QR code is a standardized two-dimensional barcode that conforms to GS1—an international organization that provides reliable, universally-recognized barcodes.

Two-dimensional barcodes, such as QR codes, have been popular for decades in many industries now, especially in logistics, manufacturing, and CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods).

Industries selling products must get a unique identification number from GS1 to sell products, whether online or in-store.

In this ultimate guide, we will dissect this technology to understand how a GS1 digital link QR code generator works and why it matters.

What does GS1 mean?

GS1 stands for Global Standards 1. It is an international non-profit organization that focuses on developing and maintaining global barcode standards and provides reliable, unique product identifiers.

These standards ensure that products, services, and information are identified consistently, making supply chain processes more efficient and transparent.

They are the official global provider of GTINs (Global Trade Item Number), EANs (European Article Number), and UPCs (Universal Product Code).

Understanding the GS1 digital link: Everything you need to know

GS1 digital link is a superset of product data. It is a combination of all unique product data, forming a unique product code link stored in a 2D barcode, following the global standard.

When you create a GS1 barcode, the input data is combined into one unique code. This is then stored in a QR code or data matrix barcode.

Now, let's dissect the digital link to further understand how do QR codes work when data is stored.

GS1 digital link follows a standard structure—the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) syntax. Now, what does this even mean?

Well, technically, a single GS1 code comprises of these data:

  • Domain
  • Primary Identification Key
  • Key Qualifiers
  • Data Attributes

Once you input all these data, you can get your GS1 digital link with the combined data.

GS1 QR code example

Here’s an example GS1 digital link:

Gs1 digital link

This combined GS1 digital link is then encoded to a data carrier, such as a QR code or data matrix barcode. Once scanned, the resolver receives the URI, leading you to the stored information.

Using the GS1 QR code or data matrix barcode, you’re not just giving your product a unique digital identity but also creating a handy digital portal for your brand and new consumer experiences.

And this is the power of 2D barcodes, especially QR codes. In a quick scan using a smartphone, you can unlock invaluable information.

These tiny codes can deliver more than a handful of information right at your fingertips in just a snap.

GS1 digital link layer cake

Let’s dive into the technicalities and uncover the layered architecture behind a GS1 digital link. This will help us understand how the link is created and converted into a scannable code to retrieve the stored data.

A single GS1 QR code or barcode combines several data, including:

GS1 digital link URI structure

A GS1 digital link relies on a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to connect physical products with online information.

A URI is a set of unique product values. It follows a standard structure to form a distinct link address:

  • Web domain

This refers to your website link or web address.

  • Product primary identification key

This refers to the Application Identifier (AI). Examples include GTIN, SSCC (Serial Shipping Container Code), and GCN (Global Coupon Number). It serves as the initial code attached to the website link address.

  • Unique identifier

This unique digit value refers to the product’s unique identification number based on the AI key.

  • Product’s key qualifiers

Depending on the AI key, this one’s an optional addition to specify products accurately.

For GTINs, it includes consumer product variants, batch or lot numbers, and serial numbers.

  • Data attributes

This refers to particular product specifications such as dimension, weight, expiration, manufacturing date, and more.

Once you have entered all values into the system, you can then extract the combined web address.

Link types

Link type simply refers to the information or content type based on the topic or category. Examples of link types include:

  • Product information page
  • Nutritional facts
  • Digital product passport
  • Inventory status
  • Usage instructions
  • Product guide
  • Clinical information

Resolver

Resolvers are the translators or decoders of the digital link or URI. Technically, they are servers in charge of bridging the product and digital information.

Upon scanning a GS1 digital link QR code, the resolvers decode the URI and analyze the unique product identity based on the identifiers.

Resolvers perform these functions:

  • Decompress data
  • Validate product identifiers
  • Translate the stored information

Simply put, resolvers provide access to multiple, relevant content. They redirect the scanner to the appropriate link or content based on the digital link behavior (who, where, and how they scanned).

With a resolver, you can link to different links or content all at once. So, a single GS1 digital link can work for various purposes, thanks to the resolver services.

To understand it better, here’s a scenario:

When a cashier scans a GS1 digital link QR code at checkout, the resolver leads to pricing and inventory information.

But when scanned by a consumer using a smartphone, the resolver leads to the product video or special offer.

Your QR code won’t need a resolver. However, the digital link can only redirect to a single piece of information.

Data carriers

Once you generate the GS1 digital link URI, you must encode this to an optical data carrier to attach it to the products.

You can use QR codes or a data matrix—popular 2D barcode types. Data-wise, QR codes can store bigger data sizes since they have bigger size ranges.

The minimum QR code size has 21×21 cells, while a data matrix has 10×10 cells.

A maximum QR code size with 177×177 modules can contain 7,089 numeric characters or 4,269 alphanumeric ones. Meanwhile, a maximum data matrix code size only has 144×144 cells.

Plus, QR codes are omnidirectional and super easy to access using a smartphone—no specialized devices are needed.

That’s why QR codes are the ideal choice. On top of that, QR codes can now contain more than just links.

QR TIGER’s dynamic QR codes can also store files like videos, audio, images, and documents. You can even create your customized landing page and store it within the code.

Applications

All users, including businesses or organizations, can use third-party applications or software. They can also develop their own digital link-based applications to serve their unique business purposes.

Linked data

It refers to the data source or the information stored in the data carrier, such as the product identifier, key qualifiers, and attributes.

Since the product data is compressed in a single code, of course, they need to be translated into a human-readable resource.

This data is structured following the GS1 standards, so they’re machine-readable.


What is the purpose of the GS1 barcode?

The GS1 2D barcodes serve as unique identifiers for products. They streamline supply chain operations, minimizing errors and enhancing traceability.

GS1 barcodes, including GS1 data matrix and QR codes, are universally recognized and globally renowned product codes.

They allow users, businesses, and organizations to automatically identify, track, and manage their products throughout the supply chain more efficiently. These boost the supply chain’s transparency, efficiency, and accuracy.

These advanced capacities have led to GS1’s conception of the Sunrise 2027 project, which aims to provide standardized 2D barcodes that are more effective for the supply chain and consumers.

One-dimensional barcode has offered price lookup functionality for decades. However, it no longer meets today’s growing demands for greater product information transparency, traceability, and authentication,” GS1 clarifies.

With GS1’s initiative and the skyrocketing QR code usage statistics, it’s now much more possible that QR codes will replace barcodes in the coming years.

What makes QR codes ideal for businesses

Accessibility

With QR codes, you don’t need to use a specialized device or scanner. If you have a smartphone—which almost everyone now has—you’re good to go.

BankMyCell’s January 2024 report revealed that there are 6.93 billion smartphone users worldwide—that’s 85.74% of the world’s population.

With this high number, it’s imperative for industries to adopt a mobile-first strategy.

This is the advantage of QR code technology: People can access information using smartphones in just a few seconds.

Just get your smartphone out of your pocket, open the camera or scanner app, and scan the QR—and information is right at your fingertips.

Cost-effective

Here’s the good news: QR codes aren’t expensive. They’re the most affordable, intelligent, and versatile tech tool and are easy to integrate.

With the endless possibilities QR codes offer, you can reduce costs and even save money. Integrating QR codes is a wise approach toward a budget-friendly yet efficient system.

Instead of printing resources, you can add a QR to your product packaging or print materials. You’re not just reducing print costs; you’re also maximizing the use of your materials.

Speed

When it comes to speed, QR codes are undoubtedly king. QR codes can facilitate rapid information-sharing. They grant instant access to various information.

We’re not talking about the speed of scanning them; creating QR codes is also fast and easy. You can create and customize your QR code in less than a minute.

And with a highly-developed QR code software like QR TIGER, you can even generate thousands of customized QR codes with logos in seconds.

Versatility

Gs1 QR code

QR code’s storage capacity isn’t limited to links or websites. Dynamic QR codes can now store multimedia, including images, videos, audio, and documents.

They’re also editable and trackable.

Their versatility comes from their advanced built-in features. When you create a dynamic QR code, you can unlock these dynamic QR-exclusive features:

  • Edit the QR code’s stored information
  • Edit the QR code’s design
  • Track the QR code’s overall performance
  • Track scanners’ GPS (with the user’s consent)
  • Limit access based on certain locations through geofencing
  • Add passwords to limit QR code access
  • Set QR codes to expire
  • Place retargeting tags on your QR codes
  • Receive QR code scan reports via email

These features allow users to easily integrate QR codes across various applications, from marketing and business operations to inventory management.

Transparency

QR codes are capable of storing various data, including but not limited to:

  • Product identifiers
  • Product codes
  • Nutritional facts
  • Product specifications
  • Instructional guides
  • Promotional details
  • Authenticity and more

Providing these enhances the transparency from the supply chain down to consumers or end users, helping you build product or brand trust and customer loyalty.

Multi-channel promotion

Achieve cross-promotion strategy with QR codes. With these smart tools, you can reach your target audiences, whether online or offline.

Add them to your offline channels to lead the audience directly to your online channels. You can also use QR codes on printed and digital mediums to reach diverse audiences across different platforms.

QR code technology bridges the gap between the physical and digital world, creating a seamless phygital experience.

Secure

When we talk about QR code security and safety, here’s the instant response: Yes, they’re safe and secure to use.

But, of course, there will always be cyber threats lurking in the world of technology. These include QR code phishing, malicious content distribution, and other QR code security risks.

This is why it’s crucial to choose an ISO certified QR code generator online. QR TIGER, one of the most secure QR code providers, uses the most advanced safety tools to secure user data and privacy.

QR TIGER has ISO 27001 certification and complies with GDPR and CCPA to implement the highest security standards.

Future-ready

QR codes are an emerging technology that can effectively adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and demands, making them a forward-thinking solution for any business.

They can adapt to new functionalities brought by technological advancements and remain relevant for various purposes, whether communication or engagement.

One strong proof of this is GS1’s Sunrise 2027 project, which pushes 2D barcodes like QR codes on all product packaging, replacing the traditional barcodes.

Moreover, QR TIGER’s latest QR code statistics report shows a 47% growth in QR code creation and 26.95 million scans in 2023. These whopping numbers suggest an increased worldwide adoption of QR codes in the coming years.

Smart QR code applications

Supply chain product flow

Achieve seamless product movement across the supply chain with a GS1 QR code.

This tiny product code lets you effortlessly trace a product’s journey from creation through distribution until it reaches store shelves.

Boost your supply chain game with QR codes woven seamlessly into product packaging. You can now closely monitor product movements in real time, from the manufacturing floor to delivery trucks.

This not only supercharges logistics but also empowers accurate demand forecasting.

Product authentication

QR code authentication

Easily scan the QR code to confirm your product’s authenticity, guaranteeing you always get the real deal—top-notch, genuine items.

This feature is crucial in minimizing counterfeit products and fostering consumer trust.

Inventory management

QR codes simplify inventory management. They offer quick and easy access to inventory and supply information, allowing you a swift and automated system to monitor stock levels.

This way, you can instantly update your inventory databases, eliminating manual errors and ensuring seamless stock control.

This is very useful, especially for perishable goods and the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. Of course, each product should have expiration dates and other crucial product data to closely monitor and minimize wastage.

Interactive packaging

Hersheys QR code

Most brands now use QR codes not just as a part of their product packaging but also as an engagement tool. However, you must still follow the QR code best practices to maximize its use.

The Hershey Company, for example, added a dual Hershey’s QR code on their Kisses chocolate packaging to deliver a sweet surprise to their consumers during the yuletide season.

QR code advertising

Today, QR codes emerge as the most advanced advertising tool for online and offline campaigns. They’re a modern storyteller.

These tiny, versatile codes serve as a digital portal to your business. You no longer have to have your target market maneuver through endless data online or be at your business’s doorstep.

They’re also a brilliant addition to your campaigns. And to guarantee the best results, always run a quick QR code test before the deployment. This will help ensure they work perfectly.

It creates a direct pathway to exclusive content and promotions. Adding them to your marketing resources simplifies transitioning from the ad to active engagement.

Plus, dynamic QR codes are trackable. They can provide useful insights based on the scanner behavior. This can help you fine-tune your advertising strategies and assess the impact of your marketing campaigns.

How to get started with QR codes using a QR code generator

Here’s the easiest way to get started with your QR code journey:

  1. Search for QR TIGER QR Code Generator online, and go to their homepage.
  2. Click the Register button at the top right corner of the page.
  3. Sign up directly using your Google account. Or you can also manually register by filling out the registration form.
  4. Complete the details. Once done, simply click Register.

QR TIGER is also a bulk QR code generator. You can generate up to 3,000 customized bulk QR codes in one batch.

For large-scale QR code needs, then you should sign up for QR TIGER Enterprise online.

This solution is built for teams, allowing businesses to add multiple users, generate thousands of custom QR codes in just a few seconds, track, and manage them in just one place.


QR TIGER: The world’s most advanced all-in-one QR code provider

The GS1 QR code and data matrix provides a universal standard for vital product information, promoting transparency and improving supply chain management. By scanning this code, people can easily access all of an item’s details.

The demand for advanced QR code solutions also rises as QR code usage grows. As consumer behavior continues to evolve, it’s crucial to adopt a smart, versatile tool like QR codes to guarantee their convenience and satisfaction.

And to start applying this innovation to your business, QR TIGER is your best choice. This  all-in-one QR code platform offers basic to highly advanced solutions and tech-savvy features and an incredibly user-friendly interface. 

Get started with your QR code journey with QR TIGER. Enjoy a $7-discount when you get any of our yearly plans.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a GS1 barcode and a QR code?

The main difference between a GS1 barcode and a QR code lies within the purpose and functions of each type.

GS1 barcodes follow the GS1 standard and are primarily used for product identification and tracking supply chains. Typically, they hold a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that sets products apart.

On the other hand, QR codes can serve various purposes, like marketing and advertising. Aside from digital links, they can also store digital files like videos, audio, images, and documents.

Unlike GS1 barcodes, they’re more versatile and can hold more types of information.

Can I make my own GS1 barcode?

Yes, you can make your own GS1 2D barcode using a GS1 barcode generator online. There are free tools available online. Make sure to get GTIN or the appropriate application identifier key from GS1.

How do I create a GS1 digital link QR code?

To create a GS1 digital link QR code, simply use a barcode generator that offers GS1 2D barcodes. It’s a beginner-friendly platform you can use online to create your own editable QR code for GS1.

Brands using QR codes

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