What is the difference between the 2D codes Data Matrix, GS1 DataMatrix and QR code?

GS1 DataMatrix, Data Matrix and QR code are all 2D codes approved for use with GS1 standards. They are currently not approved for use in open supply chain in stores’ checkouts (POS). If you currently use any of these 2D codes on a product, an EAN code will be needed until the transition period is over.

All three can be coded with GS1 Application Identifier such as GTIN, batch / lot number and expiration date. GS1 DataMatrix uses a syntax, or data element, called the GS1 Element string. QR code and Data Matrix use the GS1 Digital Link URI syntax. See the differences in how the data is coded in the readable text at the barcodes below.

GS1 DataMatrix


QR Code

Data Matrix




 Uses GS1 element string syntax

 Uses GS1 Digital Link URI syntax

  • GS1 DataMatrix uses the syntax GS1 Element String which is also visible in other GS1 barcodes. This data format is widely used throughout the supply chain and supports the ability to provide important data where it is needed in healthcare, food, logistics units and a host of other locations. It does not offer the web compatibility that a QR code or a Data Matrix does in order to increase consumer engagement.


  • QR-code and Data Matrix use the GS1 Digital Link URI syntax which places GS1 data in a web compatible format. This allows the information to be used for traditional supply chain applications, such as pricing, while being linked to online services. Note that the readable text below the barcode images above matches the URL format that we are all used to. This means that GS1 Digital Link in a QR code or a Data Matrix can connect GS1 identifiers with all the benefits of the web.

  • QR -code is what is preferred today to create consumer engagement because the standard camera on most mobile phones can scan the QR code and direct the user to a website.


  • Data Matrix can also be used to connect users to the web, but at present not all mobile cameras can read it. An advantage mentioned about Data Matrix compared to QR code is that Data Matrix is usually smaller and takes up little space.
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