GS1 DataBar Coupon

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GS1 Databar Coupon Bar Code Sample

The GS1 Databar Coupon codes have been in use in retail industry since the mid-1980s. At first, it was a UPC with system ID 5. Since UPCs cannot hold more than 12 digits, it requires another bar code to hold the additional information like offer code, expiration date or household ID numbers. Therefore, it gets extension to UCC/EAN 128 bar code attached to it. EAN 13 bar code was also in use instead of UPC, which starts with 99, hence called EAN 99 coupon barcode, and subsequently GS1 Databar. After more than 20 years in use, now there is a need to encode more data for complex couponing, and accommodate longer company ID, and the traditional coupon code becomes less efficient and sometimes not usable at all.[1]

Common usage[edit]

In the United States, GS1 DataBar Coupon barcodes are often placed on grocery coupons issued by product manufacturers (so-called Manufacturer Coupons). These grocery coupons are typically used to advertise products by offering discounts to the consumer at the time of purchase. For example, a coupon may offer a $1.00 discount when the consumer purchases a specific brand and flavor of toothpaste.

The GS1 DataBar barcode often cannot be scanned at the register during checkout, and in many cases both a traditional UPC/EAN barcode is placed on the same coupon as a GS1 DataBar barcode in order to allow scanning of the coupon at the register.

Issues with old coupon code[edit]

  • Cannot accommodate long company IDs:

Traditional UPC/EAN Coupon code can hold a company prefix that is 6 digits long, but now GS1 is assigning Company Prefixes that are more than 6 digits long. Therefore a company holding an ID number with more than 6 digits cannot use the old UPC bar code for their coupon.

  • Complex offer code not possible:

For marketing purposes, many complex offers are not possible to encode with the old coupon bar code. For example, buy a shampoo and a conditioner, and get a hair cut free.

  • Frequent manual entry causes delay:

In many cases, salesman need to enter information manually with traditional coupon bar codes, especially when a product is free. This manual process delays the purchase transaction.

  • Manual entry causes errors:

Since the old coupon cannot hold much data, information is required to be manually entered, hence making the process more error prone.

  • Delays and errors at register:

Delays at the register and incorrectly processed coupons cost retailers a large amount of income.[2]

There are many limitations and disadvantages with the traditional UPC/EAN based coupons. In order to encounter these problems GS1 comes up with a new solution for coupon barcode. Instead of using UPC barcode and Extended UCC/EAN part, it is decided to use GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked (formerly RSS Expanded Stacked) bar code. This bar code can hold up to 74 numeric data with multiple application Identifiers, like expiration date, serial number, etc.[3]

New DataBar Coupon Timeline[edit]

GS1 laid out specific instruction on how to compose new coupon data to be encoded with DataBar Expanded Stacked barcode. They plan to roll out in two phases, first interim phase where a UPC will be intact for backward compatibility along with expanded bar code. This interim process started in 2007. By 2011, the final phase with stand alone Expanded Stacked barcode for coupon will be in fact. As of June 30, 2015 the GS1 DataBar is the current industry standard in the USA for Coupons. [4]

Human Readable[edit]

Having coupon barcodes in a human-readable format is important when the bar code does not scan and manual entry is required. It is recommended that the GS1 Company Prefix and offer code, separated by a dash, is stated on top of Expanded Stacked bar code. Although OCR-B is widely used as a human readable font, any font that clearly states the human readable part will be sufficient.


  1. ^ "Current Coupon Problem". November 2011. 
  2. ^ Rohan Zaman. "''' Barcode 101 '''". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  3. ^ "''' Exploring Changes in the Coupon System '''". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  4. ^