Revolutionizing Commerce Starts With Digitizing the Supply Chain

Modern commerce demands a supply chain that can keep up. Consumers expect anytime, anywhere fulfilment and in-depth information about a product’s ingredients and history. Meanwhile, retail stores, warehouses, and logistics operations are strapped for resources. The need to identify products and locations, efficiently capture information about their journey, and seamlessly share it across the supply chain to provide end-to-end visibility has never been greater. Fortunately, the costs of adopting technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and 2D (two-dimensional) barcodes, like QR codes, make solutions to these challenges more affordable and accessible than ever.

Meeting Consumers Where They Are

Consumers want to buy and receive products on their terms—home delivery; buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS); or amazing in-store experiences. Businesses of all sizes need to make it easy for customers to reorder a favorite product, find a better substitution, or be notified of an issue. To keep up with consumer expectations, retailers and brands must invest in data and technology to ensure satisfaction and delight.

Flexible Fulfillment

The prevalence of online orders, along with traditional in-store demand, has made order fulfillment more complex. As more stores become online order fulfillment centers, they need to consider different inventory management strategies, like setting aside safety stock, using dark stores, or establishing micro-fulfillment centers. Retailers need to have real-time visibility of their inventory to balance in-store shopping, pickups, and online orders, ensuring they don’t overcommit their stock.

RFID technology provides benefits that can help achieve this balance. RFID does not need visual scanning and offers opportunities to capture real-time stock levels of tagged items via strategically placed readers.

Easy Access to Product Information

Consumers today are increasingly insistent on having comprehensive product details at their fingertips, and transparent brands are often rewarded with customer loyalty. Concerns about health, well-being, and sustainability of products are top of mind. Whether researching online or reading labels, consumers are looking for information about ingredients, sourcing practices, allergens, and environmental impact.

2D barcodes embedded with GS1 Digital Link offer a way for brands to break free from the limited real estate of product packaging. With the scan of a smartphone, a customer can access health and nutrition information—including known allergens—and instructions for safe use, recycling, and disposal. With web-enabled 2D barcodes, a brand can tell their sustainability story and provide information about certifications or the environmental impact of their product. This same code will be enabled for point-of-sale scanning, too, creating a revolution in the shopping experience not seen since the UPC’s first scan 50 years ago.

Split image of grocery store employee taking inventory and customer scanning product

Boosting Supply Chain Operations

Inventory visibility is foundational to unlocking operational efficiencies. It involves understanding crucial details about what you have, identified by the Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®); where it is, tracked via the Global Location Number (GLN); and how much you have. Adding information such as batch/lot or serial numbers in a machine-readable format alongside GTINs can help automate real-time tracking across the entire supply chain. Encoding this level of detail requires high-capacity data carriers like 2D barcodes or RFID technology. When used with GLNs to track location, these practices lead to improved visibility of product availability and can offer an opportunity to automate key processes.

Frictionless Checkout

Ongoing labor shortages have retailers looking for automation solutions. The checkout line is one area of focus, as achieving efficiency there not only alleviates some of the labor pressure, but it also promotes good customer experiences by reducing inconveniences like long lines and wait times.

RFID’s ability to capture data for multiple products at high speed without having to scan them individually makes it an intriguing option. Decathlon, a major sporting goods retailer, has used this process to improve the efficiency of cash collection by 20%.

Ensuring Freshness

Ensuring freshness across the food supply chain is a daunting task. Knowing how much stock is in supermarkets or at restaurants and how close it is to best-by dates is critical. To prevent empty shelves, which results in unhappy customers, or overstocking, which leads to food waste, takes careful coordination and data sharing across trading partners.

Many supermarkets and restaurants rely on associates to manually rotate stock based on visual inspection of best-by dates. Packaged goods with 2D barcodes that include batch/lot information and best-by information in a machine-readable format have the potential to take the guesswork out of the process and add incredible efficiency for associates.

Likewise, using RFID technology across the supply chain can provide case-level visibility into exactly where products are and what quantities are present. For example, Golden State Foods has engaged in a proof-of-concept pilot to track, trace, and monitor case-level end-to-end visibility by sharing digital product data with trading partners in a hands-free, automated manner.  

McDonald's and Golden State Foods Build Supply Chain Resiliency for the Future

Discover how GS1 Standards help McDonald's and Golden State Foods seamlessly manage their inventory, in both retail and warehouse environments, to create a more efficient, digitized supply chain and prepare for the future.

How Can GS1 US Help?

Everyone in a supply chain needs to know what’s available, where it is, and how much there is. But manual processes and inconsistent data structures can make it hard to share this information across trading partners. Luckily, technology powered by GS1 Standards can help. Identifying the products, places, and shipments in the supply chain is a great place to start. But choosing the right data carrier is also a critical step.

Industries have historically used one of the simplest, most reliable data carriers: the barcode. However, with the amount of data that must be captured and shared across the supply chain, newer data carriers like RFID and 2D barcodes powered by GS1 data-sharing standards have the potential to revolutionize commerce. In fact, industry has set 2027 as the goal date for accepting 2D barcodes at point-of-sale, and GS1 US® is helping supply- and demand-side organizations and solution partners get started on the transition. Become an industry leader in the adoption of 2D barcodes.

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