As the retail industry moves toward a new system of bar codes, merchants and suppliers run the risk of having promotional coupons with inconsistent product data. The result, says Coupons Inc., could lead to widespread confusion in supply chains as consumers try to redeem their coupons.
Coupons is offering a hosted service designed to automatically synchronize disparate product codes on the fly for coupons that consumers download from retail web sites, says Steven Boal, CEO of the San Francisco-based company. He notes that, until retailers and manufacturers have all adopted the new 14-digit product codes, there will be coupons available online that may use a coding system that doesn’t square with the coding system used by the retailer that redeems the coupon. The retail industry is expected to be completely on a new 14-digit system by January 2005.
"There will be a period of time when retailer A is using standard 1 and retailer B is using standard 2, and we want to make sure there is consistency in the promotional world," Boal tells InternetRetailer.com. In a release, the company added that retailers will face a "vexing problem since databases, software, hardware, scanners, all have to be altered or replaced to be able to read the new codes."
Coupons offers two basic services, covering data synchronization and printing functions, that go into effect as a web user downloads a coupon to be redeemed at a brick-and-mortar store. In addition to synchronizing the code on a retailer`s coupon with the code used by the manufacturer of the featured product, it also automatically configures the online coupon to coincide with the imaging resolution of the web user’s printer, to assure that the barcode itself will print out properly. The system also is designed to assure that the coupon is authorized for printing, checking, for example, that the coupon offer has not reached its expiration date.