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Shoppers at a Yokes store in Mead Wash are able to receive offers from a touchscreen and redeem them at the checkout via an RFID network
Shoppers at a Yoke’s store in Mead, Wash., are able to receive offers from a touchscreen and redeem them at the checkout via an RFID network.

Yoke’s Tests RFID Promotion System

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — In a novel test of new in-store technology, employee-owned Yoke’s Fresh Markets here has turned one of its 11 stores into a digital marketing network comprising promotional touchscreens and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

Over the past three months at the 55,000-square-foot store, located in Mead, Wash., shoppers pushing RFID-tagged shopping carts have been exposed to targeted brand and private-label offers on seven-inch screens, each one attached to in-aisle shelving in eight to 10 categories such as cereal, pet food, salad dressing and snacks.

A shopper who touches an offer on the screen, selects the promoted item on the shelf and purchases it at the checkout will automatically receive the discount, which is printed on the sales receipt.


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Shoppers at the store “find this really interesting and kind of exciting,” said Joe Hanson, senior vice president of operations, Yoke’s. “They don’t have to mess around with clipping coupons; it’s free money.”

The technology, which has been gradually deployed in the Yoke’s store over the past year, is supplied by VisibleBrands, Kirkland, Wash., which hopes to leverage the results of the test store into a broad network of similarly equipped stores beginning this year.

Hanson declined to provide data on the impact of screen promotions to date but said “my expectation is it will do great things for our market basket size and give us insights into people’s buying habits and relational purchases.” Yoke’s intends to add the system to its other stores “once we’ve worked through the test process.”

During the test and deployment phase he noted that the screen offers have not changed frequently, and said he would like to see them “refreshed on a timely basis” when the system is fully rolled out and achieves scale. He is also looking to have more screens in the store — 20 or more in total.

Timothy Morton, co-founder and chief executive officer of VisibleBrands, said he expects to deploy the system at one or two “tier-one” retailers by the end of this year, at which point a wider rollout at Yoke’s would be possible. He said between 1% and 3% of shoppers selected screen offers at Yoke’s, and 60% to 70% redeemed them at the checkout.


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VisibleBrands is trying to drive interest in its program among retailers by offering them a percentage of revenue earned by selling promotional space on the touchscreens; Hanson declined to divulge Yoke’s cut. Retailers are also able to sell tracking and campaign-performance data to brands, though Yoke’s has not done this yet. Retailers do not pay for the equipment installed in their stores, but would be required to pay for space on the network to promote their own brands, which Yoke’s has not yet done.

In the Yoke’s store, about 18 to 20 ceiling-mounted RFID readers are positioned around store in a network that tracks the movements of the uniquely identified carts (and hand baskets) and feeds the information to a cloud-based data center. (Shoppers are not personally identified.) As a shopper approaches a screen, the RFID network “sees” her cart, and when the shopper presses an offer on the screen, her RFID tag becomes associated with the offer in a Microsoft cloud-based data center.

Hanson acknowledged that some shoppers may object to having their carts tracked, and expects non-tagged carts to be available.

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