A 10-day discovery into an app for members

Part of our job at Co-op Digital is to listen to our colleagues in the wider Group and help them help our customers and members. Our Food store colleagues get to know customers really well, often by name, so insights that come through them are super valuable. One of the most frequent bits of feedback is that colleagues would love to see a digital version of Co-op Membership because they’ve seen members forget their cards and use temp cards regularly.

A discovery into a mobile app

We know that 71% of the UK’s adult population own a mobile phone and many carry them with them most of the time. It’s reasonable assume then that mobile could be an important platform for us. Many projects in Co-op Digital have highlighted opportunities for mobile technology and we’ve experimented with some in the past.

We started to think about what an app for Co-op members might look like and what it could do.

We started by speaking to customers

I’m an interaction designer and I teamed up with service designer Kathryn Grace to find out how customers might interact with a mobile app and what functionality might provide the most value to them.

Our goals for the 10-day discovery were to:

  • speak to real customers and members
  • speak to stakeholders
  • gather ideas from different businesses within the Group
  • form early assumptions to test and validate later
  • produce some indicative designs of what the solution might be
  • give a recommendation that could be explored further

Ten days. We had our work cut out.

Asking colleagues 5 questions

We already knew that many colleagues had strong opinions on what a mobile app should or shouldn’t be. To understand their ideas we went to speak to them and documented what they told us. The best way, given our time constraints, was to conduct a series of stakeholder interviews. Kathryn led these sessions by asking each stakeholder:

  1. Explain your role.
  2. How do you see digital and mobile working for customers and members?
  3. What issues are you currently having to address in your role?
  4. If you could have one bit of functionality in an app what would it be?
  5. What does the Co-op mean to you?

Being consistent with the questions makes it easier and quicker to pull out themes from the interviews and document them.

A colleague sketching session

I gathered information in a different way. I ran a sketching workshop alongside Kathryn’s sessions. It was an opportunity to engage a people from Food, Funeralcare, Digital, Membership and Insurance.

The aim of the session was to get ideas out of people’s heads and onto paper. But not everyone’s immediately comfortable with a piece of blank paper so I guided the session with discussion points. I asked the group to think about things like:

  • how the Co-op could benefit communities better
  • how we can get more customers to become members
  • what Co-op Membership could mean in the future

The prompts encouraged the group to think about solutions to problems rather than Membership or technology specifically. It got them thinking about genuine user needs.

Photograph of two overlapping pieces of paper with sketched from the sketching session on.

At the end of the session we had over 80 different sketched ideas and the stakeholders left feeling engaged and invested.

Stuff we learnt

From the interviews and sketching workshops, we learnt that each business area has their own agenda and their own idea of how we should engage customers and members. However, despite that, the same things kept cropping up about what the app should offer including:

  • having a membership card on your phone
  • seeing your 5% reward balance
  • being able to choose a cause
  • signing up to be a member
  • digital coupons

Talking to customers in stores

Kathryn spent some time in Co-op food stores in central Manchester and suburban Leeds speaking to a diverse range of customers. Armed with a short questionnaire and a quick paper prototype based on our early assumptions, Kathryn looked into how people shop and how they use loyalty cards generally.

Photograph of 3 sheets'worth of paper prototypes that Kathryn showed to customers.

The research raised some interesting needs, attitudes and behaviours.

One of the more surprising observations was that some customers have made their own workarounds to augment their membership experience, from taking a photo of their membership card to adding it to Apple or Android Wallet. Interestingly, stakeholders had mentioned similar things when they’d spent time with Kathryn too.

Things to think about

Membership is central to the Co-op and a physical membership card has been central to Co-op Membership – at the moment it’s what identifies them as a member to us as a business, to colleagues in store. But a plastic card can be easily lost, damaged or forgotten. As a non-interactive thing, it also means that the interaction a member has with their account is usually at the end of their in-store experience.

Our research has made us understand that there’s an opportunity to change the ‘thing’ that links a member to the Co-op might be. At the moment this is the Membership card and it’s typically at the end of the member journey. An app could change that.

At the end of the 10 days of research, we’ve found there’s a user need for:

  1. A ‘digitised’ membership card.
  2. Allowing a user to check their rewards balance on demand.
  3. Accessing coupons from a phone.

We were given lots of ideas that would add value to members if we built an app but including them right away doesn’t make sense. We’ll start small, build the right thing and we’ll iterate and grow over time. By putting the membership card on someone’s device we create a platform for more functionality in the future.

We’re building a Co-op app

A small team has started building an app for members. We’ll build it and test it to gather more insights and identify risks. It’ll also give us an opportunity to observe people using the app in a real environment. Not all tills can scan barcodes on phones so we’ll be trialling the app with colleagues in the Angel Square store because we know that the tills here can. If it’s a success we can then begin to roll the app out to selected stores.

The value behind this kind of trial is that we have no commitment to do more, we can test this initial slice of functionality, learn from it, and then use that learning to decide where to go next.

Jack Sheppard
Interaction designer

Kathryn Grace
Service designer

13 thoughts on “A 10-day discovery into an app for members

  1. Callum Johnston July 21, 2017 / 11:08 am

    Presumably learnings will be taken from MidCounties which has already introduced a digital membership card


  2. Debbie July 21, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    Hi Jack and Kathryn, it’s really good to hear this.
    I am a phone wallet user and am frustrated that most self scans don’t recognise it, meaning a longer time punching the number in and not being able to spend rewards, or just not bothering.
    I think this is a large part of our city stores Membership penetration issues too.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing the results of this. Great stuff
    Divisional Membership Champion


  3. Andrea Heslop (Funeralcare) July 21, 2017 / 1:25 pm


    I really like this idea – I have often forgot my card but now have an app called Stocard that stores all my membership cards on and has worked in the stores I’ve visited

    Just thought I’d let you know in case it was of any help


    Andrea Heslop
    Communications Manager
    Funeralcare Legal Services


    Letters: 12th Floor, 1 Angel Square, Manchester, M60 0AG
    Parcels: Co-operative Group, care of Swiss Post Solutions Ltd, Unit 550, Metroplex Business Park, Broadway, Salford Quays, Manchester M50 2UE
    [Description: Matt MacBook HD:Users:studio:Desktop:coop.gif]


  4. Kat R. July 21, 2017 / 6:07 pm

    No more lost coupons! Really hope this app makes it. 😀


  5. Ross July 21, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    It would be great if store colleagues could be involved in testing, I would love to get involved – many of my customers have created ways to digitise their cards so very passionate about seeing this succeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Stephen Willey July 22, 2017 / 10:20 am

    Can’t wait to see this come to life, I work in a store and sometimes customers hand you their phone where they’ve digitised their own card on other apps such as Stocard (me included) but it doesn’t always scan, screen brightness is a major factor! Look forward to hearing and seeing more on this!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. George Kay July 23, 2017 / 6:01 pm

    As both a designer and a Co-op member, I’m delighted to hear about the app. Any chance of a members beta test at some point? My number one request would be native Apple Wallet support from the off.


  8. MJ Ray August 12, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Oh gawd. Not another flaming app, eating battery and sneaking around in the background slowing down the phone, using up data allowance. Please just make a good light quick simpler mobile members website and include advice on how to use loyalty card apps with co-op tills best.


  9. Tom Hennessey January 31, 2018 / 12:36 pm

    Any update on this? It’d be great to see an app, as Tesco are already winning with their own app – digital coupons, digital clubcard, even location information to bring up your clubcard when in a Tesco store. We need to tap into this!


  10. MIchael Robson April 11, 2018 / 3:38 pm

    How is this going? How are you going to win over users who may be using third party loyalty card apps such as Stocard already? Would it not be easier to create a web UI for your account portal that is mobile compliant and provides the functionality such as digital membership cards etc?

    Mike Robson
    Southern Co-op
    Membership & Loyalty Systems Specialist


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