The first 8 months of the new Co-op Membership

We’ll be talking a lot about Co-op Membership, in the company of many of our members, at our Annual General Meeting tomorrow. We’ve also just had a retrospective where leaders from across our business got together to look at Membership. We reminded ourselves of what we originally set out to achieve, evaluated our progress and discussed what’s gone well and areas we feel we can improve on.

This seems like a good time to talk about where we’re at.

A good start

We launched the new membership scheme back in September last year and we’ve been blogging about the progress we’ve made since.

In January, we posted about our ambition: we want 1 million new members this year. Last week, Mike Bracken announced that we’ve reached 850k new members. It’s been a fantastic team effort to get to this point.

Members have earned over £45 million from the 5% they get back by buying our own-brand products and services. They also earn 1% for local causes and since September they’ve accumulated £9 million. Last month we gave that £9 million to over 4,000 local causes across the UK.

And it’s not just about new Membership. We’ve also reconnected with our loyal existing members. Since September, almost 1 million of our existing members have started to use their cards again. This means we now have 4.5 million active members trading across all our businesses.

You can see how membership is doing here.

But there’s still room for improvement

We’re pleased with what we’ve achieved over the past 8 months but there’s still much more to do. We’ve been listening to feedback from colleagues, members and customers along the way so we can continue to improve things. We do regular user research and retrospective reviews to make sure we’re continually building a membership scheme that works for our members. This is reflected in our service map that Jack blogged about recently.

photograph of Membership service map.

Just 7% of members chose a local cause during the first 6-month cycle

Members love the idea of choosing a local cause to support with the 1% they earn on own-brand purchases, but they’ve also told us that choosing a cause needs to be easier.

The team has been working hard to make it simpler on the website. We’ve iterated our design in line with learnings from research and the rate of members choosing a cause has increased by over 10%. We’re now looking to make choosing a cause simpler and more accessible in store.

There’s some confusion around reward structure

Screenshot shows Membership dashboard and rewards in punds and pence. And dividends.

We found that people get confused when a loyalty scheme rewards them with ‘points’. They ask: ‘but what are they worth?’ To make things simpler, Co-op rewards are shown in pounds and pence. But, because Co-op members are rewarded in 3 ways (dividend points, the 1% community reward and the 5% member reward) there’s still some confusion with members around how much they’ve actually earned and how to spend it.

We’ve been doing trials in store to make it easier to understand what the 5% means in terms of value by highlighting receipts, printing coupons with value and changing labeling on the shelves. We’ll be looking at making our communications simpler through things like member pricing and member baskets.

Not enough temporary member cards are fully registered

At the moment, customers can pick up a temporary card in store and start collecting rewards immediately. Then they need to register their temporary card online to become members and to be able to use their rewards. Not as many people are doing that as we’d like so we’re looking at how we can make it easier to do the whole thing in store.

We’ve been testing different options and will be running more pilots in June including use of in-store tablets and SMS messaging. We have also been considering how we take the £1 share payment. This is a really important step to be recognised as a member and we need to make it easier.

Helping more members have their say

When you’re a member you have the chance to influence what we do and how we do it by joining in. The membership website offers opportunities to ‘Get involved’. Recently, members sampled our new beers and wrote the tasting notes – a great example of the Co-op difference! Although we’ve seen some fantastic involvement from members, we think we can do more to help them find out about the opportunity in the first place.

We know that most involvement has been from new members, aged under 30, who have seen the ‘Get involved’ section of the site when they’ve completed registration. We’re looking at how we can display these opportunities in the right places to make them much more easy to find for all members.

Where we’re going from here

We’ve been listening to colleague, member and customer feedback as we’ve been going along so we can make improvements. We’ll never stop doing that. Next we’ll be thinking about new products and services we can launch, and we’re developing a plan as to how we’ll better meet our members needs on mobile throughout the rest of the year.

This is just the start. There’s a lot more to come.

Roberto Hortal
Director of Membership Products and  Services

Catherine Brien: great speakers at our data trust and transparency event

(Transcript) Catherine: Hello and welcome to this week’s Digital blog.

You may have noticed that I am not Mike Bracken, my name is Catherine Brien and I’m Data Science Director here at Co-op which means I’m on a mission to make data a valuable asset that we’re using every day in the business to deliver more for our members and our customers.

The big event this week that you’ll have heard of is our AGM which takes place on Saturday and I want to take this opportunity to share with you an event we’re holding, a fringe event in Federation House, 5.15pm to 7.30pm. The purpose is for us to speak to our members about how their personal data is used to help us shape the most appropriate and best policy we possibly can to build trust with our with our members.

I’m delighted that Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute will be joining us to give a keynote speech and we’re joined by 3 fabulous panelists Jessi Baker from Provenance, Sarah Gold from Projects by If and Richard Potter who’s CEO of Peak, a start up from here in Manchester.

You can still register on our Eventbrite page and if you’re not able to make it in person we will be streaming parts of the event live online so please do look out for the links on our Twitter feed.

Separately, we always use the opportunity weekly to welcome new joiners to Digital and this week we’ve got two new joiners I’m delighted to welcome. First is Nathan Langley second is Katherine Wastell both designers joining us working for Andy Travers. Welcome to the team.

That’s it for now, thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

The data trust and transparency event will be at Federation House from 5.15pm on Friday 19 May.
Sign up for the event.

Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used

Last month, the data team blogged about how we want to become trusted with our members’ data. We said that one of the pieces of work we’re doing to help us strengthen our position of trust is around understanding how members feel about personal data. We wanted to find out what our members thought about their data being used and shared for various things.

A survey to start

We asked members to take part in a survey. 148 people completed it but not everyone answered every question.

Here are 5 things we’ve learnt so far.

1. 50% want more transparency around how data is used1.2.50%-want-to-know-more

Half of the people who took the survey said they’d like to know more about how personal information is used by organisations and businesses, but they don’t know how to find out. To set the Co-op apart from the rest, we should be clear about how we’re using this information and, if people want even more information, we should make that easy to find.

This leads us to our next learning…

2. Members would like to understand how their data is used

We asked members whether they thought they understood enough about how organisations use their personal information.

Three out of 10 members said they feel they know enough or everything about this. Which leaves 7 out of 10 wanting more information or having no idea about how personal information is used. That’s good to know. It indicates we should be explaining more about what we do, and what we don’t do, with member data.

3. What people do before trusting someone with their data

When it comes to thinking about trusting an organisation with personal details, only 2% of people said that didn’t do anything before hitting the submit button.

We asked: “Which of the following do you routinely do before submitting personal information?” The most popular answer was: “Make sure I amend my marketing preferences.” “Check for secure symbols/assurance marks on the website” was a close second.

Only 3 out of 10 people said that they read the terms and conditions or small print though. We think that we could go further in making our privacy notices easier to understand and more likely to be read and understood.

4. Members are happy to share their data for the right reasons

We asked our members if there were any reasons why they’d be happy for us to safely and anonymously share their data. Unsurprisingly for Co-op members, 70% said they’d be happy if it benefited the local community! Some of the comments around this were “Because the Coop is for local people”, “Local community is important” and “Because it’s for a worthwhile reason”.

One respondent said that although they don’t like the idea of their data being shared, the best reason to do it would be if it helped the local community. That person emphasised that their data must be safe and whoever has the data must be accountable. We completely agree and we’ll continue to prioritise data safety. We will also continue to speak to our Member Council and Members as we go.

5. People trust us

Over three quarters (76%) of our respondents said that they trust us to keep their data safe and to use it sensibly (79%). This is also good news. However we can’t sit back and relax on that one. We know that we must do the right thing, not the easy thing in order to bring our Co-op difference to data. We’ll continue to work in the open.

image shows text that says: People trust us and a graphic of two hands shaking an the Co-op logo

Turning learnings into policy

We’ll look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes. But the conversation around whether we use and share member data, and how we do it, isn’t closed now. We’re still listening to your thoughts on this. Over the next few months we will start to discuss improvements to our policies around data and, with a lot more information and discussion start to make those policies real.

Tell us what you think

We’re holding an event Shaping our Co-op: Data trust and transparency event at Federation House on Friday 19 May, 5:15 to 7:30pm. You can register for tickets.

We’d like to speak to members regardless of how much you know about how your data is and can be used, as well as people with an interest in data consent. The only prerequisite is that you have an interest in doing the right thing for members.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

Mike Bracken: 850k new members, Agile Manchester and Mental Health Awareness Week

(Transcript) Mike: Hello. Thanks to Dave for doing this video last week. I’m back this week and again another big number 850,000 new members joined the Co-op since September 21st last year. That’s a terrific achievement by the team and membership continues to grow.

On that note, our members will be voting next week in our AGM, in Manchester at the end of next week. If you’re eligible to vote, please do. The cut-off date is a 15th of May.

Four big shoutouts this week. The first goes to Rufus, Paul Gerrard and the team have published our Modern Slavery report. It’s vitally important that the Co-op backs this initiative and we’re taking real action to put people back into society, back into the workplace. Do check out the report on the website.

Another shout out to Tom Walker, one of our user researchers has been leading on Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s great to see the Co-op support him and him engage with all the colleagues in Manchester and in the wider community to support mental health issues.

Also shout out to Anna Dick, James Boardwell, Ian Drysdale and the team for speaking at Agile Manchester a big event that we sponsored here and that we’ll continue to back, as we back that agile way of working.

And finally I got a little time this week in Federation. You see that on our website and great work with Victoria and the team who have fitted out nearly 5 floors now and with local designers and local artists, the place looks amazing.

We’ll be having a launch event later in the year and I look forward to seeing you there.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Introducing the Digital Operations team

On the Co-op Digital blog we’ve spoken a lot about the products and services we’re working on like Membership, our new coop.co.uk site and location finder. We’ve spoken less about the Digital Operations team and the work it does before those products and services can be made available to the world.

Time for an intro?

We recently did a show and tell over in Federation but for those who couldn’t make it, here’s what we spoke about.

Photo shows a group of colleagues watching the Digital Operations team show and tells.

The Digital Operations team’s responsibilities

The Digital Operations team looks after 3 things:

  1. Service management.
  2. Platform infrastructure.
  3. IT security.

The role we play differs for each area of work. For example, for Membership our role is to run the live service and its infrastructure, whereas for location finder we’re supporting the team while they run things themselves. Sometimes, our role is more about helping teams who are designing new services to think about how they’ll be operated and made secure during their life cycle, right from the early idea through to being live.

How we support teams

Photo shows 4 members of the Digital Operations team at their show and tell.

The Digital Operations team doesn’t take on development, support or responsibility for running new services. These things fall under a product or service team’s remit and we advise them. When teams need platform or operations engineers to build and run something, we help them find the people and resources they need.

We help Digital and Group work together

Co-op Digital is only one part of the Co-op, so it’s important that the work we do is in line with the wider policies. We help digital and non-digital people work together by translating Group policies into something accessible for digital teams to work from, and by helping Group colleagues understand how agile ways of working can support the policies.

Saving teams times by creating patterns

A really important part of our role is to build a set of patterns and ways of working that will help teams build things that are secure, reliable and scalable and perform well. We’re still in the early stages but the plan is that using the patterns will help teams make sure their product or service has security controls, disaster recovery, monitoring, alerting, a way for users to tell us about issues, and a support route to get those bugs to the developers.

The patterns are being built around Co-op policies such as our security and data protection policy, which means that if a team uses one to build they will have ticked most of the security policy checkboxes.

Ready for public consumption?

We’re also the keepers of the ‘readiness checklists’ – a list of things that need to be in place before teams make something new publicly available. Points on the checklist includes whether an alpha is publicly accessible; whether it captures colleague, member or customer data and if it integrates with any internal Co-op systems. The checklists aren’t a hoop to jump through just before a service goes live – teams need to start thinking about being production-ready right from alpha phase.

Working on something new? Tell us all about it!

Our big message to teams at our show and tell was: if you’re working on something new, involve us as early as possible. This way we can share any patterns and technology that might help you work more efficiently. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel each time we build something new. If we’ve got something that works – your team can just reuse it.

Coming to us early usually means we can pick up any problems and point out anything on our checklist that your product or service might not meet much earlier. That’ll mean we won’t have to delay anything.

Another place we can help is if you’re thinking of subscribing to an online service or purchasing a product. Maybe you are thinking of starting a new blog, creating a wiki, using a productivity tool or anything else that will help you with your job – you should make sure you speak to us to find out if it needs review or if there is a suitable product already available.

Come and say hi

We have a regular ‘surgery’ on the sixth floor in Federation House at 11am on Tuesdays. We also have a Slack channel or drop us an email on digitaloperations@coopdigital.co.uk

Michaela Kurkiewicz
Principal service manager

Our mental health meet ups and why they matter

Mental health problems affect around 1 in 4 people in the UK each year according to the latest stats from Mind. In England, 1 in 6 people say they’ve experienced a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in any given week.

This week is mental health awareness week so it seems like a good time to talk about how we’ve been supporting each other at Co-op Digital.

Opening up

Getting people to talk is something I’ve been encouraging people to do here for a little while now. Since September last year, I’ve been running a mental health meet up.

I set up the group after finding that opening up about my experience with anxiety helped me. I also noticed that friends and colleagues I’d spoken to would often then open up to me and say things like, “I’ve never talked about this with anyone before”. That’s not good. I wanted to change that. So, twice a month a group of us have been meeting to talk about all issues relating to mental health.

A safe place to speak

I knew the most important thing for anyone who came to the meet ups would be knowing that anything they said would be confidential and for them to feel they were among empathetic people who understood. This way they could talk freely.

So our meet ups started out small and very informal. Everyone was welcome but I didn’t want to risk opening up the group to spectators, which would be easily done in an organisation as big as ours, so I didn’t involve HR.

No minutes, no register, no pressure.

At the meet ups

We hold the 1-hour meet ups on site because it’s hard to find a safe space off site. Doing it on site also means it’s in the open and makes it as accessible for people as possible. There’s no pressure to come to every session. Come when you want to.

Sometimes, we have an agenda but most meetings start with people saying how they’re doing. Then we talk. Loneliness, depression, isolation, medicine, stress, sex, relationships – no topic is off limits. Some like to talk a lot and some don’t like to talk much, and that’s ok. Whatever works for them.

This is a place where you can come to feel reassured you’re not alone, and a place you can let others know that they’re not alone either.

A few guidelines

To keep people safe in the meet ups, we have a set of guidelines that we stick to.

Photograph shows 5 post it notes. 1 says "guidelines" the other 4 have one guideline on each.

  1. Everything said during meet ups is confidential.
  2. There’s no need to apologise for how you feel.
  3. Instead of advice, offer personal experience. Ask, “Can I tell you what I’ve done in a similar situation?”
  4. Try to speak openly. The more we do that, the more we can remove the stigma around talking about our mental health.

Learning as we go

I regularly ask the group how they think the meetings are going. This cycle of feedback means I can continually iterate and do what’s right for the group. In the early days, I learnt that even though what we talk about may be hard and people might feel sad, the meet ups shouldn’t just be a place to be sad together.

To prevent that happening, we try and end on a positive note. We’ll look at a feel-good article or a funny YouTube video or Twitter account. Just something that helps people leave feeling more positive.

In the future

The group has gone from strength to strength and we’re keen for it to become an even stronger support network. We’re throwing around ideas about how we could help more people. At the moment, we don’t know the answers so we’d like to hear from you.

If you’re a Co-op colleague, let us know what you’d like to see. We’d also like to hear how other organisations help their staff. You can leave a comment below (anonymous if you like), or email tom.walker@coopdigital.co.uk

Mental health is a big deal and is often an unseen issue. It affects so many of us and workplaces need to give their colleagues the time to build stable and useful support networks.

Tom Walker
User researcher

Co-op employees, we meet every second and fourth Thursday of the month at 12 noon in Federation House. I post reminders in the #general Slack channel a few days before.

Dave Johnson: an update on Co-op engineering and our AGM

(Transcript) Dave: Hello I’m Dave Johnson, I’m the Director of Digital Engineering here at the Co-op. This is our weekly digital blog and I’d like to share with you some of the progress we’ve made in the last week.

The Digital Engineering team, which I am responsible for, builds the foundations on which we build all our services and new digital products. We focus on architecture, cloud platforms, some new ways of working such as DevOps and we do that at scale so you’ll see our services across the whole of the Co-op.

This week is a really big week for the Co-op and for all our members. Our voting packs went out this week and if you’re an eligible member you’ll have received a pack to vote on the motions for our AGM which is on Saturday the 20th of May. We’d love
for you to join us and you’re welcome. But please remember to tick the box within those voting packs letting us know that you’re coming, so we can be ready, and we look forward to meeting you here in Manchester.

And we have some colleagues to celebrate this week too. Firstly, Sam Johnson. Sam is a new general manager of The Federation, our new tech hub that we built here in Manchester. Wendy Coello has also joined us. Wendy will be leading our member and colleague communications here at the Co-op. We’re also celebrating a big promotion: James Boardwell has been promoted to Head of User Research here at Co-op Digital. Well done James.

Finally, if you’d like to join Co-op Digital we continue to hire. The blog’s up to date and we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you.

Dave Johnson
Director of Engineering