Digimarc: The Barcode of Everything

Imperceptible Barcode Supports Grocer’s Customer Service Mission

New Seasons Market aims to deliver old-fashioned grocery store friendliness integrated into a future with digitally-connected packages. The Portland, Oregon-based community-minded grocer bills itself as “the friendliest store in town” and by enhancing its private-label product packaging with an imperceptible barcode—one that permeates the entire package—it plans to free its cashiers to do what they do best: engage with customers at the front end. 

Checkout as a Genuine Interaction

“It’s more about making it a pleasant experience…” –Sean Teisher, New Seasons Market

“There’s a lot happening at the registers,” said Sean Teisher, vice president of technology at New Seasons Market. “We want our cashiers to be able to focus on the interaction with the customers and not finding a barcode.” And the company’s focus on customer service is a smart bet. A 2014 American Express study found 74% of consumers said they spent more money with a company because of positive customer service experiences.

In early 2016, New Seasons—with 20 stores in Oregon, Washington and California— discovered there was a new digital technology, an imperceptible barcode known as Digimarc Barcode, that repeats throughout the entire product package. It eliminates the need for cashiers to fumble with products in search of the UPC barcode—instead, they can scan anywhere, and get a dependable read. Digimarc® Corporation invented Digimarc Barcode, and an increasing number of new POS scanners are now capable of detecting imperceptible barcodes. The nation’s barcode authority, GS1 US, embraced Digimarc technology, which caught the eye of many retailers. “It was important GS1 partnered with Digimarc,” said Teisher. “This gave Digimarc Barcode a lot of credibility in our eyes.”

New Seasons embraces technology in support of its goal to be the friendliest store in town.

Preparing for Retail’s Future

Deli & Seafood Labels Go Digital

“You have very limited real estate on those stickers…” –Sean Teisher, New Seasons Market

Along with improving the customer-service experience now, New Seasons also chose Digimarc Barcode with an eye toward the future. “I believe this technology will proliferate in the next five years,” Teisher said. He added that New Seasons is generally cautious when it comes to being a first adopter of new industry technology, but enhancing its private-label products—known as Partner Brands—was low risk in their eyes. “It was an easy decision to embrace this technology. It’s low risk and only enhances the customer experience,” he said.

New Seasons has currently enhanced the packages of its private-label juices and nut butters, and plans to have all its Digimarc Barcode-enhanced private-label products on shelves by June 2017.  New Seasons utilizes an in-house artist to design its packages, and then sends the art work to Digimarc, who enhances the file with Digimarc Barcode, before it’s then sent to the printer.

Leveraging Imperceptible Barcodes

Freeing Up Cashiers for Conversation

“The cashier has enough things to focus on….” –Sean Teisher, New Seasons Market

Digimarc Barcode is promoted as having three main benefits to retailers over the traditional UPC: improving supply-chain efficiencies and managing inventory (fixed mount scanners and other devices can read Digimarc Barcode); customer engagement via smartphones to access additional content; and, finally, improving ROI with faster check out.

New Seasons sees Digimarc Barcode delivering immediate benefits at checkout, but Teisher emphasized that speed, in-and-of-itself, was not New Seasons main goal. “I do see great value on ROI and speed-of-checkout for larger retailers,” Teisher said. “But our focus is not on shaving seconds, but on a more pleasant experience for our customers. The cashier is the last person the customer sees, and we want that interaction to be important.”

Telling a Story with a Package

While enhancing the checkout experience is New Seasons’ primary motivation for shifting to Digimarc Barcode, Teisher understands the larger potential of “the connected package” and how a brand can now tell a story via an “always on” network identity. “In the past, we’ve tried to convey information about our private-label producers, details about their farms and ranches, through a series of in-store posters, but it’s a challenge to tell a story without creating clutter.” He added the customer engagement aspect of Digimarc Barcode—something New Seasons is not currently working on—offers interesting opportunities for retailers to load their packages with a variety of content, so consumers can scan the package in the aisle, and do everything from watch a video profiling a local farm producer, to browsing recipe ideas.

In the immediate future, New Seasons’ front-end staff will soon enjoy a much easier, quicker scan when handling its Partner Brands, allowing them to better engage with the customer. New Seasons is hoping that by being the friendliest store in town, it can be more than a grocer where customers pick up crunchy almond butter and apple cider, but a place where they find community.

Watch a video to learn more about how New Seasons is leveraging Digimarc technology.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2017 issue of StoreBrands and RetailLeader magazine.

Return to Blog Newsletter Sign Up