Gail Lyon: events at Federation and £50 million in member rewards

(Transcript) Gail Lyon: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital weekly update. As you can see, I’m definitely not Mike. I’m Gail Lyon and I’m responsible for digital engagement at Co-op Digital.

As is tradition with all our updates, I’ll start with a big number. £50 million has been earned by our Co-op members since the new membership scheme was launched on the 21st of September last year.

If you’re a Co-op member it’s really easy to see how much that you’ve earned. You can do it online or you can do it by simply checking your till receipt the next time you shop at one of our food stores. And you can spend it anytime as well, you can even spend it at Co-op Electrical.

We welcomed 2 events at Federation House this week. On Monday, Hacks Hackers has their first Manchester meet up, and on Wednesday, DotEveryone joined us to talk about how we can make digital fair for everyone. It’s an important question and only the start of this conversation. Thanks to Ian and Emer from the team for presenting.

And a big thanks to Steve Murrells, our CEO, for dropping in to take a look at our recently opened co-working floor in Federation House and adding to the signatures and the positive messages on the picnic benches.

And finally, subscribe to the blog for regular updates on what the team’s been working on. We really want to hear from you and if you’ve got any questions you can comment on the blog or please send us a tweet.

Thanks, and that’s it for this week.

Gail Lyon
Digital Engagement

How we’ve helped users understand Membership

At one point or another, most digital teams have been convinced that their assumption about how to fix something will work but when they’ve tested it, they’ve found they’re still way off solving the problem.

That’s ok.

It’s fine to ‘fail’ as long as you do it quickly, learn from it and make changes to make things better. It’s part of working in an agile way. We should talk about failing more often. So, here’s an example of how we failed fast and learnt quickly in the Membership team.

Making assumptions based on user research

We’d seen from user research that most people, especially those who were new members, didn’t understand what a co-op is, how one operates and why it’s a different way of doing business.

Most people, especially those who are new members, don’t understand it even though we include loads of info on co-ops when we send out membership cards. But it looks like people either don’t read it at all, or, if they do, they don’t remember the information. Without that understanding, the Co-op Membership is just another loyalty card to most people.

During user research sessions when we talked about the idea of a co-op, people seemed interested. Not everyone, but some. The problem seemed to be not with the quality of information being given, but where and how in the user journey it was given.

It seemed if we could more effectively convey the concept of a co-op, that would be enough for some users to become more engaged. Certainly they would be better able to make an informed decision whether they wanted to get involved. They’d become true co-operators as opposed to just loyalty card users.

Making changes based on our assumptions

We designed an interaction where the information about co-ops and Co-op Membership was introduced to people as part of the online registration. Our hypothesis was that at this point in the user journey the member is more committed and more likely to have time to read this information and be more receptive to it.

By chunking the content into sections and importantly making it dismissable, the user would be able to digest as much or as little as met their needs, rather than being faced by the entirety of the proposition in one hit.

We know people don’t read things online. In fact you’re lucky if people read more than 20% of what you stick on a screen so we kept that in mind with the design.

Here are 2 examples of pages from the prototype.

Image shows a screenshot of a member account and a box out with information about Co-op Membership. It says: 'Your say in what we do' and gives an overview of things members can do.

Image shows a screenshot of a member account and a box out with information about 'Your 5% reward'

Then we tested the new design

During 2 rounds of research we spoke to 12 people (you can read more about our views on samples sizes in James Boardwell’s blog ‘Small is beautiful’). The group included a mixture of ages, online capabilities and length of time being a member.

Before showing them our new design we asked each participant to fill in a short questionnaire to find out what they understood about Co-op Membership. We then interviewed them, and showed them the prototype that was intended to help them understand the idea of a co-op.

At the end of the session we asked them to fill in the same questionnaire.

Results showed we hadn’t got it right

As we expected, before looking at the prototype people didn’t understand:

  • what rewards they earned as a Co-op member
  • what a co-op is
  • elements of the Co-op such as the dividend, democracy and engagement

And the post-prototype results weren’t any better – the new design had had zero effect on users’ understanding.

Picking ourselves up. Trying again

We’d seen people read the information, but they didn’t take it in. Although we were giving them more control, we were still imposing a bulk of potentially irrelevant content rather than letting the user discover it in their own time, and reading as much or as little as met their need.

For some people, some of the information would have been both relevant and necessary – but for most their primary need at this point was to find out ‘what’s in it for me’ and everything else was a distraction.

So we iterated again. This time we wanted to give people a positive interaction that let them get only what they wanted, at a time when they needed it.

We added a ‘what’s this?’ drop down within members’ accounts to explain both rewards and Co-op points. Here’s how the current design looks.

Image shows a screenshot of the current design that has tested well. It shows the 'what's this' drop down box in a closed position.

Image shows a screenshot of the current design that has tested well. It shows the 'what's this' drop down box with content underneath that explains what this is.

We’d seen in research that many people often didn’t know exactly what they got for being a member so adding this was important.

Better results this time

During research we watched people time and again interacting with the drop down, unprompted. Responses were often comments from the user such as ‘ahhh, so that’s how it works’ or ‘I didn’t know that, I thought they’d send me vouchers’.

If there wasn’t that immediate, unprompted reaction we’d then follow it up with questions such as ‘what made you click on that’ and ‘what did it tell you’. This made us confident in what we were seeing had met the need we’d identified and so we released it. We know people are making use of it. Google Analytics tells us those drop down controls have been clicked 250,000 times since we released it on 14 February.

So after failing often and learning from, and iterating on, what users were saying to us, we’ve made good progress on helping people understand what rewards they’ve earned as a Co-op member.

We’re still researching how best to help people get a deeper understanding of what a Co-op is including elements of the Co-op such as the dividend, democracy and engagement. Those are things we haven’t solved yet, but we will. And it’ll probably involve a lot of failing fast.

Simon Hurst
User research

The Membership team is maturing, and so are our ways of working

On the Membership team we’re switching up how we organise ourselves to help us be more effective. Here’s why and how we’re doing it.

Evolving with the product

As teams mature, ie, they get bigger and the scope of work widens, it’s not hard to figure out that they’ll need to reorganise. American investor Ben Horowitz famously wrote about this in the book ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’. He said he believes that every time a team doubles in size, it should review its ways of working.

We’re doing something similar in the Membership team. Back in September, the product management team was just one person, Derek Harvie. Since we relaunched Membership, the scope of work has been getting larger so the team needs to scale up. The product team is now 4 people to reflect the change. One of those newbies is me.

Realising we’d outgrown stuff

When I joined, we had 3 teams: Blue, Orange and Pink. They were named after the colour of the post-it note that corresponded with what they were working on in the backlog. And that all made sense when the team was starting out; being lean and nimble negated the need to be aligned. But as our ambition for Membership grew, the team became more and more thinly spread and it became more difficult to properly focus on one thing, and really do it well.

Clarity around where we’re going (and how to know when we’ve got there)

We’ve introduced OKRs (objectives and key results) to make sure that everybody is moving together, in the same direction and aiming for the same things. Now, each team has a set of objectives and has agreed on a set of results that will show when it’s achieved what it set out to.

We looked for natural ways to split up the work so teams don’t have competing objectives. It means they can be in control of their own scope of work without lots of dependencies.

4 teams, 1 direction

At this point we naturally fell into 4 teams. This time, we’ve named them in a (slightly) more self-explanatory way. There’s:

  • More members (recruiting more members)
  • Member trading (looking at how our members shop with us)
  • Member engagement (engaging with Membership, causes and community)
  • Member services (managing the membership platform, ie, the backend infrastructure)

With clarity comes better prioritisation

Now we’re all on the same page we’ll find it easier to prioritise. Before, it was hard for the team to understand what to work on next because the tasks in the backlog fell into different areas.

Prioritising will be much simpler now we have the 4 teams working on different areas. Tasks are compared against other tasks from within that area so now it feels like we’re comparing apples with apples rather than apples with pears!

Better for us. Better for stakeholders

Working in this way is also really good in terms of how we’re working with stakeholders. The old way of working meant we had 30 plus stakeholders all wanting the tasks that fell under their area to be the priority. Hopefully, things will be calmer now each team has around 10 stakeholders to work with and include in decision making.

In a few more weeks we’ll be able to see if we’re achieving our targets and back it up with data, but at the moment it just feels like the right way to be working.

The team will continue to grow. Keep an eye on our work with us page.

Adam Warburton
Head of Membership Product

Introducing our informal cross-Group meet ups

Around 70,000 people work for the Co-op Group across 5 business areas so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of people we’re never going to get to know. It’s really easy to only spend time with people you come into contact with which is a shame because we can learn a lot from colleagues working in other areas.

To help bring people from the Co-op Group together and to start conversations we hold ‘Tea for 3’ meet ups. Over the last 3 years there have been over a thousand meet ups and over 350 people have connected. We’re hoping more people will get involved after reading this post.

The meet ups are an opportunity for colleagues across the business to say hello, find out what other people do and whether they have any common interests inside or outside of work. Ultimately, meeting and chatting to people with different expertise is an excellent way to get different perspectives on solving problems and ways of working.

How it works

The meet ups are open to colleagues across the Group. If you’re interested in getting involved you can sign up to take part. Three people are chosen at random and introduced over email beforehand. They then meet in person, over the phone, videoconference, Google Hangout or however works best.

The next 30 minutes is up to them. We haven’t proposed a series of questions or conversation cards or anything. The whole thing is supposed to be really informal so that conversation will flow freely.

The lowdown from this month

Photograph of Nassali, Sabrina and Mike sitting at a table and smiling at the camera.

We were involved in this month’s Tea for 3 meet up. We are Nassali Douglas, a food project manager in the Retail Support Centre and Sabrina Jacobs, a community programme management office (PMO) manager.

Nassali’s role is to manage changes that affect our food stores. This includes things like our customer service learning and development initiative, Service Rocks, as well as setting up email in our stores to improve the way colleagues can communicate with the business and their communities.

Sabrina helps manage many aspects of the Community Change programme which aims to build on Membership as the community strategy. She also looks after budget management, recruitment, governance reporting and risk and issue management.

The third person at our meet up was Mike Bracken, Co-op’s Chief Digital Officer. Mike is responsible for making the Co-op an organisation that can operate effectively in the digital age.

We spent most of our meeting chatting about how we can use digital to encourage younger people to become Member Pioneers, and how the Digital team is helping some of the exciting developments in our food stores.

If it wasn’t for this meet up, it’s unlikely our paths would have crossed and even more unlikely that we’d spend half an hour chatting and learning from each other.

Tea for 3: networking works

Since the meet ups started, people have made new friends and acquaintances and there have been occasions when people’s informal networking has been useful in other ways.

One example of many would be when Nassali went to a meet up and found out that our Co-op Academies were looking for school governors. The person who told her encouraged her to apply because Nassali had mentioned she had a background in teaching and was looking for a way to reconnect with education. She’s now a governor for the Co-operative Academy of Manchester.

Every now and then you bump into people you’ve met through Tea for 3 and it’s great to already have a connection. It turns out that Nassali will be joining the same team as Sabrina when she moves roles in the next few weeks – good to have a friendly face in a new team.

You can sign up to take part in Tea for 3 or email EA.ThinkTank@coop.co.uk if you have questions about it.

See you for a cuppa soon.

Sabrina Jacobs and Nassali Douglas  
Community PMO manager and food project manager

Mike Bracken: 4.5 million active members, Federation and thanks to Jamie

(Transcript) Mike Bracken: Hello, welcome to the Co-op Digital weekly update.

We’ll start as ever with a big number, 4.5 million active members now at the Co-op, so those numbers keep growing and that’s a huge change since September 21st last year, so well done to the team for that. And that work’s being recognised.  This week the team in Membership have been shortlisted for a Retail Week Technology Award for that program, so well done to them.

Other highlights of the week, we’ve opened our co-working space in Federation building, the Federation right over the road from Angel Square you can now go see that check out the details on the blog.

I’d like to welcome a few people Nassali Douglas has joined as a Member Pioneer Manager, Richard Shenton coming as a Finance Manager, they’ve come from other parts of the Co-op, Louise Nicholas has joined us as a designer welcome to the Co-op and I’d like to say goodbye to Jamie Arnold who’s been brilliant leading our agile work as a delivery manager, he’ll be much missed.

Thank you very much to him and see you next week.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

The co-working floor is now open at The Federation

We’ve blogged before about how the work is progressing at Federation House. The co-working floor at The Federation opened this week. Victoria Howlett the Federation Manager agreed to show us around the space.

(Transcript) Victoria: Hi, I’m Victoria Howlett and I’m the Federation Manager over here at The Federation. We’ve just added a bit more work to the first floor which is open this week, so would you like to come and have a look?

So as you can see, we’ve added some artwork to the walls here which was done by the wonderful artists Nomad Clan. We actually added this artwork after the attack at the MEN, which we thought was an incredible thing to do for our city and the people here.

As you can see all the furniture is now in place, we’ve got the lovely Chesterfield lemon sofas here, we also have green and pink sofas dotted around.

Here we have the main communal kitchen point on the floor and we’ve got these picnic benches here. We’ve asked everyone who’s been involved in this project and all Co-op colleagues to come over and sign the benches, which is actually such a lovely thing. We’ve had some amazingly heartwarming messages on here. We welcome everybody to come and sign these and anybody that visits the floor please grab a sharpie that will be on here and sign.

We’re really excited because the NHS research and development North West team moved in here this week. Kainos moved into the pods here this week too and we’re welcoming the Startup Factory.Tech on this floor soon. We’ve had such a high interest in the pods on this floor that they are more or less all taken now, we’ve only got one left.

Now we come to the second floor, and on this floor we have 9 private suites which roughly range from 200 square foot all the way up to 1,400 square foot.

This is the main kitchen point, the communal kitchen point on the floor and I will walk you through the corridor here. You can see on this hallway we’ve added in the windows here along the sides and this is just to create that community feel still. There are private suites here, but it’s also to ensure that there is that level of community engagement throughout the building and that everybody’s a part of each of the businesses that are based here.

Keep an eye on Twitter and the blog for more updates on The Federation.

Victoria Howlett
Federation Manager

What we learnt from talking to our members about data

On the Friday before our AGM, we held an event at Federation House so we could continue the conversation about how the Co-op uses and shares members’ data. We wanted to invite our members to help us shape our data policy in person. It was an open invitation and 63 people took the time to chat to us.

We ran 3 workshops to find out:

  1. How the Co-op compares to other businesses when it comes to being trusted with data.
  2. What data are people willing to share for social benefit and commercial benefit.
  3. What types of usage of data people are happy with.

Being trusted with data

IMG_5889

In this workshop, we asked people about the organisations they trusted (or didn’t) to use their data, with examples from banks, telecoms, member organisations, broadcasters to bring the subject alive. Depending on their personal experiences with those organisations, people have very different views around who they trust to hold their data securely and use that data sensibly.

An important thing we learnt was that the organisations people trust with their data have very clear reasons for why they hold different data and how they use it. Some people thought that, as the Co-op, we might end up with large amounts of data from across our different businesses (insurance, food, electrical and legal services). They wanted us to be clear about how we use those different types of data. So, as we build new data stores, we need to make sure that we’re careful and transparent when sharing members’ data across the Co-op.

Willingness to share

IMG_5906

Our second workshop asked if members were OK with sharing different types of data with the Co-op – information like their age, gender, salary, religious beliefs. We split the group into 2. One half was thinking about sharing data for commercial reasons, to improve our products and services. The other half was thinking about sharing data for social reasons, like community research.

We gave the groups a scale of how comfortable they were with sharing, from “Not at all” to “Yes please”.  People have many different opinions and different worries, concerns or reasons for sharing. Most people made up their minds with a firm “no” or “yes”, but the reasons for their answer varied widely, and some people changed their mind as the group debated the issues.

What does this tell us? Well, if we’re going to be trusted with holding more data, we’re going to have to give people choices around how their data might be used, both within the Co-op and externally.

Play your consent right

The third workshop was a game where people voted about whether they would give consent to companies to use their data for specific purposes. For example, if people would consent to the Co-op using their habits of purchasing pet food from Co-op stores to let them know about special offers in pet insurance.

Feelings were pretty much summarised by 2 responses:

  1. “I’m an individual – don’t assume what I’m interested in by age, postcode, gender.”
  2. “Maybe I shouldn’t provide more data about myself in case I miss out on special offers that the Co-op targets at particular people.”

We’ll need to think about how to use data to help people find the things we think they are most interested in, whilst not precluding people from other offers.

IMG_5914

Hearing from data experts

We live-streamed the opening discussions and you can watch the keynote and panel discussions on our Youtube channel.

A massive thank you to our experts who gave up their time to travel to Manchester, speak, answer questions and mingle throughout the event. So thank you:

What’s next

It’s not too late to join the conversation because we’ll keep talking to our members about data. Last week we published a post called Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used. We’re going to look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes and add what we found out at this event

In the coming weeks, we’ll join Data Leaders to plan improving how we use data across the Co-op. We will also be working with our colleagues in Data Protection. And of course, we’ll discuss all of this with our Members’ Council and advisory boards.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering