LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. - Draft guidelines for a new U.S. coupon system are up for public review and comment.
GS1 U.S. here, the agency that defines standards for bar codes, and the Joint Industry Coupon Committee will consider all comments before releasing the final guidelines by the end of the year or in the first quarter of 2007, according to Greg Rowe, director of business development, GS1.
Anyone who wishes to review the guidelines may contact Rowe at GRowe@gs1us.org. Comments will be accepted until Sept. 15.
The guidelines are part of the JICC's proposal to have Reduced Space Symbology bar codes replace current ones. Because RSS bar codes are capable of holding more information in a smaller amount of space than existing coupons, they're touted as a way to enhance coupon coding and validation, thereby improving the effectiveness of manufacturer promotions, increasing compliance with terms of promotions and allowing for more cross-departmental activities, among other benefits.
"(RSS) will assure manufacturers that the items specified in the coupon are actually being purchased," said Jane Michels, president of J. Michels Consulting, Bloomington, Ind. The firm maintains a family code database for retailers and consults to manufacturers.
On the retail side, RSS could make the checkout more efficient by reducing the amount of times a cashier needs to stop and manually validate a complex coupon offer.
"It will reduce the hard-to-handles," said Alan Williams, vice president of applications development for Ahold Information Services, an operating support company of Ahold USA, Quincy, Mass. Williams also is co-chair of the JICC and a member of the RSS coupon testing committee.
Current plans call for the new coupons to contain the existing codes and RSS codes, moving to just RSS over the next few years.
The draft guidelines come after the release of test results showing that there is no major difference in scanning times for RSS versus current bar codes.
The average basket scan time for RSS was 25.4 seconds, compared to 22.5 seconds for existing coupons.
"The main takeaway from the test is that RSS, in and of itself, had no impact on the point of sale," said Joan Wyndrum, vice president of Pinpoint Data, North Plainfield, N.J., a company that creates and validates bar codes. Pinpoint conducted the bar code test on behalf of the JICC.
Support from retailers is key since they will be responsible for the bulk of costs associated with employing new scanning equipment that can read RSS bar codes.
"Manufacturers will have to change their procedures a bit, but retailers need to have systems in place to read the codes," Wyndrum said.
The test was conducted with participation from Kroger, Ahold USA, Inmar, Symbol, NCR Corp. and NCH Marketing Services. It involved 30 coupons: 10 with the current Universal Product Codes and 20 with RSS bar codes.
"If we saw that the read time was two or three times longer than UPC codes, it would have been a red flag," Williams of Ahold said.
The RSS Time Line
Since the new coupon system is such a major change, the transition process will be lengthy, extending well into 2010.