Overcoming Consumer Fatigue and Increasing Brand Relevance with QR codes Powered by GS1

  • By Domino Printing Sciences
  • March 26, 2024
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Amidst growing consumer fatigue with ‘brand noise’ and a constantly evolving consumer value equation, brand owners must adjust how they communicate through accessible, relevant, and to-the-point content.

While emerging trends may understandably give brand managers some cause for concern, the good news is that they coincide with the industry migration from 1D to 2D barcodes (or 2D codes) at the point-of-sale. The move to 2D codes presents a raft of new opportunities for brands to simplify interactions with consumers and make consumer use of products more seamless while enriching the brand experience through the use of variable data, and in particular, QR codes powered by GS1 – previously known as GS1 Digital Link. 

Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino Printing Sciences, outlines how brand owners can meet the needs of the modern consumer and drive long-term business value by embedding variable data in the evolution of coding and marking solutions.


Rethinking consumer communication

In late 2022, consumer research specialist Mintel first identified the ‘Hyper Fatigue’ consumer trend, stating that “consumers are being stretched in many directions while being bombarded with media stories and digital content. The pandemic, rising cost of living, energy crisis, geopolitical unrest, and climate crisis are taking their toll, leaving consumers feeling overwhelmed.” The research highlighted consumer fatigue as one of five key trends for 2023 alongside the “Me Mentality” and “Intentional Spending”, and emphasised the need for brands to “cut through the noise” and “connect with what matters to [consumers]” as part of the evolving value equation.

These 2023 trends were reinforced in Mintel’s 2024 predictions, which highlight the importance of brands working alongside consumers to manage continued global uncertainty and the significance of emotion within brand communications.

In parallel, reports from Deloitte and DentsuX also cite instances of digital fatigue, with consumers reporting feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the volume of devices and subscriptions they have to manage since the pandemic and their growing unwillingness to “sift through a mountain of information or products to find what they need.”

This is true, not only during the purchasing cycle, but also post purchase, during product use, when time and effort needed to register product warranties, manage returns, refunds, and complaints, and troubleshoot issues, can be a source of immense frustration.

The takeaway for brand owners: reduce the friction. Technology may be a source of overwhelm for some consumers, but it can also be used as a means for easing frustration and confusion, and brands using digital interactions to make their consumers’ lives easier can hope to increase consumer loyalty and drive growth.

Moving to 2D codes at the point-of-sale

One of the ways that brands can look to simplify interactions with consumers and make consumer use of products more seamless is by using scannable variable 2D codes and, in particular, QR codes powered by GS1, to provide access to personalised, brand-controlled product information on specific items or batches of products.

By identifying products via scannable 2D codes, brands have a huge opportunity to help consumers gain seamless access to the information they need, reducing the need to search online for information and scroll through pages of search results – or even a brand’s website – to find the right information. Brands can utilise scannable 2D codes to help consumers:

  • Find instructions for use/assembly: not just applicable to long-use or white-good items, such codes can also be used to provide instructions for use for food items or links to recipe ideas.
  • Buy spare parts and accessories: consumers can ensure that their vacuum cleaner bags, cooker hood filters, lawnmower blades, or other parts and accessories will fit their items – without having to scroll through pages of products and match up item numbers.
  • Locate troubleshooting and repair tutorials: it can be immensely frustrating if a product stops working – and even more infuriating when you can’t access the information needed to fix the issue yourself. Using item-level 2D codes, brands can quickly provide access to the information available.

Identifying products down to the individual item level can unlock further consumer benefits. Brands can provide seamless consumer-specific experiences via variable 2D codes linked to purchase information obtained at the point-of-sale – facilitating automatic form completion for issues and complaints resolution, and product warranty registration. The same solution can be used to simplify refunds and returns – a valuable benefit indeed, given that 81 per cent of shoppers believe a good returns experience would make them more likely to shop with a retailer in the future, according to Royal Mail.

The beauty of variable data 2D codes, such as QR codes powered by GS1, is that brands can share a wide array of information with almost no data limitation. With this technology, brands can provide access to diverse information, including information on product lifecycle, sustainability, and supply chain transparency – allowing consumers to make more informed choices aligned with their values.

The same 2D codes can be used provide easy-to-use, clear, and up-to-date information on end-of-life or waste and recycling information – the lack of which is another source of immense consumer frustration. A QR code powered by GS1 equipped with geolocation functionality can provide customised support on how to dispose of an item, providing advice on whether a product is recyclable at curb side, or linking to the nearest recycling facility.

Personalisation, relevancy, and product development

So, what’s in it for the brand owners? The possibility of more effective marketing communications, satisfied consumers, and repeat sales.

Brands and retailers capture large amounts of data about consumers, with one consequence being that consumers now expect brands to be able to offer experiences that align with their individual needs and values – an expectation that can be facilitated using variable data.

QR codes powered by GS1 can unlock a brand’s capability to communicate with an individual consumer in the home, creating insights that brands can use to make their marketing more effective. Data from Optimove’s Marketing Fatigue Survey highlights that relevancy is crucial in the time and place marketers reach consumers, and the critical components of relevancy are:

  • Knowing the customer’s likes and dislikes;
  • Knowing when customers need something and offering it to them in their preferred way;
  • Being there to help, not hassle.

QR codes powered by the GS1 can provide brand owners with the capability to achieve this – and so much more, from helping consumers by giving them the information and products they want and need to benefiting brand owners by fostering loyalty and return sales via consumer-specific marketing and communications. QR codes powered by GS1 also allow brands to evolve content over time to stimulate additional interest and avoid consumer fatigue.

In addition, when it comes to ongoing business value, variable data codes can help a brand establish the potential appeal of a new product, collecting consumer insights via surveys and feedback, enabling the brand to make quick tweaks to ensure they maximise the likelihood of the product’s success. According to Harvard Business School, up to 95% of new products developed each year fail. With new product development amongst the most expensive elements of brand management, being able to access information direct from the consumer to amend or improve a product (whether it’s the messaging, portion size, etc) before it’s delisted is a significant attraction of QR codes powered by GS1.


As the industry prepares to move from 1D barcodes to 2D codes at the point-of-sale from 2027, there’s never been a better time to explore the benefits of variable data. To make the most of the move to 2D codes, brands should consider implementing dynamic, variable data codes from day one, ideally with a trusted technology partner who can guide them on the best way to adopt QR codes powered by GS1.

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