Get ready. According to the Joint Industry Coupon Committee, UPC prefix 5 barcodes will no longer be accepted as manufacturers shift exclusively to the GS1 DataBar format beginning June 30.
“Currently, a UPC barcode with prefix 5 indicates to the system that it’s a coupon being scanned,” explained Angela Fernandez, vice president of retail grocery and foodservice at GS1 US. “This barcode is being retired because we have run into several issues with coupon recognition and redemption.”
From a retailer standpoint, coupon redemption under the prefix 5 format can be cumbersome. “Smaller retailers are probably manually keying things into their register, gathering the coupons and sending them to a clearinghouse to assist with redemption,” said Fernandez. This process can be rife with human error if cashiers aren’t paying close enough attention to expiration dates, or when specialized coupons (think “buy one get one half off” or “buy two get one free”) become difficult to record on the front end.
The new GS1 DataBar eliminates some of this confusion because it can embed much more information right in the barcode itself. “These validations can now take place on the scan,” Fernandez said. Specifically, the new barcodes reduce manual cashier intervention overall by automatically validating expiration dates and tying double-coupon value limits to exact purchase requirements right at the point of scan, and allowing for retailer-specific coupons.
Checking for compatibility is simple, Fernandez added. In fact, any hardware or software system implemented since 1998 will have the DataBar option available. “Just turn the functionality on to begin scanning,” she explained. “That said, even in compatible models, depending on the POS system, retailers may have to allocate new data fields to account for the new information found in the barcode.”
After June 30, retailers with systems implemented before 1998 will need to manually process coupons in their systems; but Fernandez recommends considering an upgrade. “It is worth it,” she said of the upfront costs. “When you look at the time you spend on manual intervention and mapping the data, and trying to redeem that with manufacturers, there are a lot of man hours. Keep in mind the efficiencies the upgrade would create.”