2D Barcodes for Small Business Owners

Protect your high value products and build trust amongst your customers and trading partners with 2D barcodes.

Do you need 2D Barcodes?

Implementing 2D barcodes can mean a substantial investment in in-line printing systems for small businesses, so it’s important to weigh up whether you’ll get a good return on investment.

2D products are worth considering if:

  • You sell high value products, and you want customers to be able to easily confirm the product is authentic. Unique 2D barcodes can be generated to authenticate the product and show provenance.
  • You are getting ready to export products and want to protect your brand from counterfeits.
2D Barcodes for Small Business Owners

Advantages of 2D Barcodes for Small Businesses

The 2D barcode can hold a large amount of data in a small amount of space, and can be scanned by consumers’ smartphones, which means the following benefits for small businesses:

Brand protection and anti-counterfeiting: Provides detailed product information and provenance to consumers and trading partners, which prevents the risk of counterfeit products and protects the brand.

Improved consumer engagement: 2D codes can encode webpage links, so when the consumer scans the code, you can direct them to further information about the product or brand, such as manuals, video guides or engaging content.

Improved traceability and recall management: Provides item-level traceability which cannot be achieved with 1D barcodes, which improves product safety and recall management, and ultimately reduces costs and risks for the brand.

See also the advantages of 2D barcodes for brand owners

How to Transition to 2D Barcodes


Evaluate existing barcodes on-pack

Before starting your 2D barcode journey, contact your trading partners to determine what additional data would be helpful to share in the codes.

Do you have unique requirements that cannot be fulfilled by 1D codes, such as disclosing country of origin or providing provenance details? This can be solved by encoding additional data in a 2D barcode.

You may already be using a form of 2D code, such as QR codes, for consumer engagement. Transitioning existing 2D barcodes to GS1 Standards will unlock more benefits.

For example, existing QR codes on packaging can be updated to encode the GTIN in a URL format, so the 2D barcode can be scanned for both price lookup at POS and by a consumer on their smartphone, leading them to a GTIN-specific webpage.


Select the right data

Along with the GTIN, work out which additional data attributes are required based on your business goals, retailer requirements or industry guidance.


Select 2D barcodes

Decide whether to use GS1 DataMatrix or QR codes, depending on your application.


Update equipment and software

Printing 2D barcodes may require updates to your in-line printing and labelling equipment to print and apply variable data.

Talk to Matthews Australasia about which equipment will best fit your printing and packaging needs.

2D Barcode Checklist

  • High quality barcodes – Ensure 2D barcodes are printed at a high enough quality to be scanned throughout the supply chain.
    • Use high-speed digital printing technology
    • Ensure your label stock is non-glossy. Matte stock is preferred for products kept in refrigerated environments.
  • Barcode size – To improve scannability, it is essential to print your 2D code at the right size. The size of the symbol should be determined by your printing process and equipment.
  • Adopt a barcode verification program – Verification helps you understand the quality of your barcodes, whether trading partners can scan them, and how to improve them. A GS1 Barcode Verification Report is required if you are supplying to Woolworths. Speak to GS1 Australia for help with barcode verification.


Do I need 2D barcodes?

It depends on the product information you want to share on packaging. If there is no need to add additional machine-readable data (such as batch/lot number or use-by date), changing to 2D barcodes is not needed.

All brands and manufacturers need to include, at a minimum, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) in every barcode on pack if it will be scanned by consumers or at retail POS.

What is the cost of moving to 2D barcodes?

The biggest cost for small businesses is upgrading in-line printing infrastructure. This cost will vary depending on the business’s needs.

The best way to approach it is to think about the cost of NOT moving to 2D barcodes. Is your brand currently at risk by counterfeiters? Will 2D barcodes help instil trust in your brand? Do you need 2D barcodes when exporting your products? If so, it could be worth transitioning to 2D barcodes for your brand.

How do I get started?

Start discussions with solution providers early. They can recommend and help guide you towards the right coding, labelling or data capture solution for your needs, which will ensure a smooth transition for all involved.

Does the 2D barcode replace the current 1D barcode on my products?

Not yet. Many retailers are still only using linear scanners, not optical scanners, which means they cannot scan 2D barcodes at this stage.

Until updates have been made across all retailers, you need to include both the 1D and 2D barcodes on your products.

Which should be included as human readable interpretation text?

Human readable interpretation (HRI) text refers to text printed exactly as it is encoded in the barcode. For 2D barcodes encoding a large amount of data, it is not practical to display all the data in HRI form.

It is mandatory to print the GTIN (at a minimum) underneath a GS1 DataMatrix barcode. This enables manual processing of the GTIN at POS when the barcode cannot be scanned.

What are GS1 Application Identifiers?

GS1 Application Identifiers (AI) are used to enable scanners to understand what information it is reading. An AI code is required in front of each piece of data.

Each AI is a numeric code made up of two, three, or four digits.

Common AIs include:

01 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

391 Sell price

310 NET weight in kgs

17 Use by/ Expiry date

15 Best before date

10 Batch/Lot number