Understanding how members spend their rewards

Our data gives us insights into what our members need and want from their Co-op and it shows us where we need to improve our products and services.

When members swipe their Co-op Membership cards, they earn 5% back on what they spent on Co-op branded products and services. They can redeem that 5% at any point against any transaction. But at the moment, members aren’t spending their rewards as much as we might expect and we have £22 million of redemption funds waiting to be spent.

A million members have over £5 in their accounts, and 500,000 members have over £10. 50% of all rewards spent to date have been redeemed by just a third of our members. This means lots of people are losing out on savings at the checkout.

We wanted to find out why this is happening. First, we looked at the data we already have on how often people spend their rewards, then we did some user research to get a better understanding of the underlying reasons.

When do people redeem?

This chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The horizontal axis shows the amount of money accrued in pounds, and the vertical axis represents the number of members redeeming.

The chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The chart shows that every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions; and this is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

As we might have expected, significantly more people cash in smaller amounts than larger amounts. Considering how long it can take to build up a £10 reward when shopping for food and how often people use the Co-op for regular top-up buys, this is not a surprising find.

However the graph shows something else too. Every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions. This is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

It’s difficult to say exactly why this is happening. We had thought perhaps people were building up their rewards before using them. But actually it doesn’t seem to be a conscious decision. When customers are at self-service tills, for example, they are more likely to redeem when they see a whole number in front of them than if it is, say 77p. There’s definitely interesting psychology at work.  

We also noticed that there are spikes in redemption at Christmas and Easter. So where customers may not redeem as part of their usual shopping habits, they may see holidays as more of a time for treats, and so choose to cash in their rewards then instead.

Speaking about redemption habits with members

Our data is compelling, but it can only tell us so much. To find out more about redemptions, and the thought process behind them, our product team visited 5 stores in Manchester to do some mystery shopping and to interview customers.

We went into this research with 4 aims. We wanted to know:

  1. Why people aren’t redeeming as much as we would expect.
  2. Whether members are being prompted to redeem when they’re in store.
  3. How members approach redemption in general.
  4. How members redeem for the first time.

What we discovered was a set of remarkably mixed results.

From those we spoke to, we found that members often aren’t aware of how to redeem unless they had been shown how by another person (and once they had been shown, they would redeem again and again). Those most knowledgeable about Co-op Membership in general will mostly have spoken to Co-op colleagues to get the information they wanted.

We also saw that redemption can, more often than not, be a spur of the moment decision. If a member sees a prompt on one of the self-service tills, they can decide there and then that they want to use their rewards. All they need is the reminder.

Perhaps most interesting though was the different patterns we observed. We saw some members using their rewards regularly, no matter what amount had been accrued, some waiting until they had a whole number, and others using their rewards to make up the shortfall when they were low on cash.

What this means for the future of redemptions

Our data and research have given us fantastic insights into store behaviour and the reasons members do, or don’t, cash in their rewards. But there is much more to learn, and we will be testing the lessons learnt from our research, as well as carrying out more surveys of our members.

We know we haven’t worked together as multidisciplinary teams as much as we should have in the past as well. This work on redemptions has shown how much can be done when different parts of the Co-op, from data science to product owners to user researchers come together. We will definitely be looking to build on that.

Ultimately we also want to see how the Co-op can increase redemptions. We see these rewards as good for us, and good for our members because they show what the Co-op is all about: giving back. Every time members trade with the Co-op they get 5% back for themselves and 1% back for social causes. This is something we all want to see grow.

Alex Waters, data scientist
Charlotte King, product lead
Tom Norgate, customer offer manager
Simon Hurst, user researcher

32 thoughts on “Understanding how members spend their rewards

  1. struanf July 25, 2017 / 3:36 pm

    As a store manager my team have tried saying to customers have a free day when they have a full balance on their member rewards and this has been most successful .Otherwise majority are saving for Xmas


    • Denize Ford August 18, 2017 / 5:32 am

      If our customers spend say 3.50 and hand over a fiver or tenner I find this is a good chance to offer them to use rewards and have the cash back…..it works sometimes and shows how rewards can be used…..I also point out to customer s paying with cash they can use part of rewards…… shopping comes to 11.34 hand me say 10 pounds and look for change I explain I can take the 1.34 of rewards…many do not realise this can be done…..


      • Daniel October 14, 2017 / 3:01 pm

        How do you take part of the reward off the card rather than the whole reward


      • Paul NEWMAN November 22, 2017 / 5:57 pm

        I’m vague about my own practice. I have £26+ in my wallet but tend to leave it there. On Council there are differing views as you may become aware as many of us would like an eventual share dividend account option instead of or alternative too this cash-back equivalent.


      • Denize Ford November 23, 2017 / 3:13 am

        you can only take the small amount off if they are paying cash….
        shopping comes to say £10.50p the reward amount on till is £11.65 …if you put in the £10 and use cash button it will then change the amount of rewards to 50p you can then press the reward button and it will only take 50p off…..it will only work with cash payment…..since I have pointed this out many customers have used this option and think it is a great idea. it also show them how it works as many were still waiting for a voucher through the post.


      • Paul NEWMAN November 30, 2017 / 10:50 pm

        Is the expectation of receiving vouchers a confusion with the dividend payment method of Mid Counties and other independent Societies?


    • Lynda February 14, 2019 / 1:47 pm

      No one has ever offered me chance to receive, or advise how to receive, points.


      • Lynda February 14, 2019 / 1:48 pm

        Spend , sorry


      • amymcnichol2 February 15, 2019 / 10:48 am

        You can ask to spend them when you next go into a store, Lynda. Either ask the Co-op colleague at the till or choose to spend them at the self-service checkout. Enjoy!


  2. Aswin Gorasia July 25, 2017 / 6:19 pm

    Here at our Chalfont St. Peter store a lot of our customers are saving there rewards till Christmas when they will treat them selfs. Which means sales will be great this Christmas 😍


    • Charlotte King September 5, 2017 / 2:20 pm

      Thanks Aswin, we’ve also heard this from members 🙂 to help this along, there will also be marketing in store at Christmas time to encourage members to spend their reward which we are working with the Food marketing team on so look out for that!


  3. Kat R. July 26, 2017 / 7:40 am

    Your findings certainly ring true for this member. The 5% is like a no-effort savings account: you don’t always have a specific reason for putting money in a savings account, but it is reassuring to know you have some funds in there in case you’re ever a bit skint. Also, if you’re going to withdraw money from a savings account, it needs to be a decent (round) figure to make it worth your while.


  4. Kat R. July 26, 2017 / 7:48 am

    If you want members to spend their savings, why not make it advantageous to do so? Special price reductions when people buy certain products using only their rewards savings.


  5. Martin Meteyard July 26, 2017 / 10:39 am

    I generally only redeem my rewards when reminded that I can do so by a staff member at the till. Is this something that staff in general are trained to do?


    • struanf July 26, 2017 / 5:17 pm

      Hi Martin ,as a store manager yes they are trained and encouraged to ask you to spend your rewards ,they are also aware of many members who do not wish to cash in


      • Paul NEWMAN August 17, 2017 / 7:23 pm

        I don’t feel the need to spend my ‘wallet’ but wish we could return to a Share Account, revising the governing rules.


      • Jamie April 18, 2018 / 7:40 am

        i told the cashier the other day i have £180+ on my card can i use it (was just picking up milk/bread etc) and he didnt have a clue what i was on about, then started talking about a coop gold card (maybe its a credit card you offer) so i dont think all staff are trained up on this, surely upon scanning my card it should of prompted him?


  6. Paul NEWMAN July 26, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    I am intrigued by my own psychology in not wishing to redeem and think it is because I’d prefer to have a shares dividend account.

    Paul A Newman


  7. Vivian fitzsimmons July 28, 2017 / 8:09 am

    I want to keep mine till Christmas,and find it annoying being told how much rewards i have constantly. why do you not want us to acrue it? in my area staff are reminding members but it is annoying and time consuming.


  8. Lisa Newton July 28, 2017 / 2:48 pm

    Could be a spike in full pounds being redeemed as staff at Royton store encourage customers to swap rewards to savings stamps if they inform them that’s what they are saving for (Christmas)


  9. A Colleague July 28, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    Our regular customers love our 5%. Some are waiting for key events (Easter, Christmas, Summer hols, kids going off to uni etc), some will wait until they want to treat themselves to something nice (like using it to pay for a nice bottle of wine to go with the dinner they’re buying).

    We are finding we’re still explaining membership to customers. Some have said they had no idea, their usual coop doesn’t tell them, and are using us as they’re on holiday etc. One person thought it was too good to be true, and I didn’t blame them. This is still such a new concept, I think some find it hard to consider it as a “norm”

    Some of our customers are using it to buy saving stamps, so they have a bit of security (not all eggs in one basket).


  10. Denize Ford July 28, 2017 / 6:30 pm

    At our store moss side in Nairn we noticed many of our older customers still thought that they would receive vouchers through the post once they got to say ten pounds…..we took the time to explain how it worked in more in depth…..but when working with one ctm and one supervisor/manager we do not always get the time to explain how it worked with every customer…..after a short time I noticed that many said they were keeping it for Christmas and we to started to encourage them to exchange for stamps as they got to an amount they were happy with say £10……many of our younger customers did not realise we did stamps and have started to save for Christmas……
    I do really hope that STAMPS will stay they say they like the idea of buying one or two when they can and have been surprised how quick they have managed to fill a card ready for Christmas at a time they notice money does not go as far they know they have put some a side for food.
    We point out how much each customer has if they do not wish to redeem at that shop and what they can spend it on.
    What may encourage redemption is possibly highlighting certain products through out store with say…..USE SOME MEMBERSHIP REWARDS TO BUY ME! Changing the products every week or so.


  11. Darren July 29, 2017 / 12:37 pm

    A lot of customers we deal with tend to save up for a nice bottle of wine or whiskey or for special occasions . If incentives were given to spend points it may be useful to arrange these for Bank holiday s and other seasonal events.


  12. Daniel Dias July 31, 2017 / 10:28 pm

    Most members when prompt with the question reply:
    *No, I am saving for xmas, special occasions or to a day I may not have enough money.
    The easiest time to convince a member to spent their reward is when it covers the entire shopping, big or small.


  13. John Sharman June 24, 2018 / 3:27 pm

    The nearest coop shop is 10 miles from where I live and I have over £200 on my card. Am finding it difficult to spend it


    • denize ford June 25, 2018 / 7:43 pm

      Have you thought about something from coop electrical…. if nothing there what about coop gift cards to give/keep for Christmas or birthdays for many this can work.


      • ALLAN JONES May 1, 2019 / 8:46 pm

        Unfortunately the Coop electrical has now ceased trading. A pity really because it was a good alternative for those of us who have accumulated quite large sums.


  14. Paul NEWMAN July 10, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    Might it be worth driving or bussing occasionally for a worthwhile spend? Co-op (Group)
    deserts are a problem


  15. Tracey Waller August 2, 2018 / 2:09 am

    I had no idea how to redeem my rewards till reading this. I’m sure I’ve never been told in store and actually thought the balance was paid into my bank. I logged on as I realised I’d changed my bank account details about a year ago and thought I could be missing out, so wanted to update them. It was only after being unable to find anywhere on the web site to update my bank details that I googled how to claim a coop reward balance which came up with this


  16. sophie bowman August 14, 2018 / 8:40 am

    how do i spend my reward points i have of £6.41


    • gailalyon August 21, 2018 / 11:57 am

      You can just ask to spend them on your next shop Sophie.


    • Paul NEWMAN August 21, 2018 / 2:21 pm

      Understanding how members “don’t” spend their credits. If paying at staffed till, couldn’t we simply say to each one how much they have in their wallet? ie draw attention to it? We are neglecting their realisation of member value, a keystone in our rebrand of member-trading and rebuild.


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