GS1 Databar Coupon Barcodes – What Is Your Grade?

Bing, zap, ding, beep….we all have our own word for the sound of a barcode scanning in a retail store - usually when we are in a hurry and are waiting for the person in front of us - and we really notice when that familiar beep or zap doesn't happen.   That means there is a problem with the barcode scanning and possibly a longer wait for us.

Why don't barcodes always scan?   Sometimes the issue is with the scanner not working correctly. However, very often the reason is within the barcode itself.  And when poor quality barcodes fail to scan, costly fines and penalties can be imposed on the issuer or owner of the barcode.

There are 8 elements in a barcode that affect its quality, or ability to be scanned.   The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) have established universal quality criteria and grading for barcodes.   A barcode verifier, or inspection device, is a tool that analyzes the code for the 8 elements (minimum reflectance, symbol contrast, defects, etc.) and provides an overall grade for the barcode.  Verifiers are calibrated to ISO specified levels for inspection.  

What is the impact on Coupon barcodes?

The GS1 Databar coupon barcode uses a barcode language or symbology called Reduced Space Symbology (RSS Stacked) with multiple rows to encode large amounts of data - substantially more data than its predecessor - the linear UPC extended barcode.  Databar coupon barcodes can be encoded in 2 to 11 rows of data and require more processing power to scan and decode the data.  This can mean potentially more room for error. 

What is the GS1 specified quality grade for Databar?

The previous UPC extended coupon barcode had a specified a quality level of ANSI / C, or ISO / 1.5.  The new GS1 Databar barcode has an increased specified quality level of ANSI / B, or ISO / 2.5.  Coupon issuers and printers need to ensure that the code meets the specified quality level. Coupon barcodes can also fail to scan if they are encoded incorrectly, or fail to meet a minimum size requirement - a common error with coupons.  A barcode verifier will also check for correct data encodation, and the proper size requirement.

If you are issuing coupons with GS1 Databar barcodes, you can avoid fines and penalties and ensure successful retail scanning, by using an ISO barcode verifier to check your barcode quality.

By John Gorowsky; Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Symbology, Inc.