2021: remote-first, but business as usual 

This time last year, I think we all imagined that working from home so regularly would be temporary. But here we are, a year on. The Digital Product and Design team is not fully remote like we were for most of 2020, but we are a remote-first team now.   

Although this has had its downsides, we’ve navigated the shift well. We’ve continued to iterate our processes and adapt our tools and, if anything, we’ve become a more flexible, pragmatic, impactful team. This hasn’t been easy though, and while we’ve continued to deliver for Co-op customers and members, we’ve also had to deliver for each other. We check in with each other more often to help balance the stresses and strains of the outside world with the ones inside Co-op.  

Our colleague happiness survey, Talkback, shows 90% of colleagues feel they can have open and honest conversations; 95% of people feel we have an environment where they can be themselves, and 98% feel their manager role-models a healthy balance between their work and home life. These results reflect the open, honest culture we strive to create – we all contribute to this culture, so we can all be proud.  

To everyone in the Digital Product and Design team, and to all our close collaborators across Engineering, Delivery and the wider Co-op, thank you for all your hard work and kindness this year. It’s been tough but rewarding, and there’s a lot to look forward to in 2022. 

Adam Warburton

Chief Product Officer 


Operational Innovation team 

In Operational Innovation we use technology to simplify tasks for Food store colleagues.  

After months of remote research, we’ve loved getting back into stores and speaking to colleagues in person ❤️  

This year we: 

  • released several improvements to the Date Code app, reducing the number of date checks colleagues need to carry out 
  • launched the News and Mags app, to save 2.7 million sheets of paper and reduce leakage in newspaper and magazine returns  
  • started new discoveries into the even more thorny store problems such as leakage, colleague safety, and deliveries 

We also became a permanent part of the Retail Support Centre following the end of the Leading the way programme. Thank you to all our colleagues past and present who helped us get here! 

Elisa Pasceri (Lead designer) and Rachel Hand (Lead user researcher) 


Online Services team  

We exist to help teams: 

  • create, test and iterate quicker 
  • create coherent experiences  
  • save time and money  
  • focus on meeting their customer’s needs 

This year: 

We’ve optimised journeys 

We’ve used search engine optimisation (SEO) and experimentation to improve user journeys, get more people to the site and meet business goals across Co-op. We’ve:  

  • used a/b testing to deliver £6 million in incremental revenue 
  • helped 26,000 new members sign-up 
  • increased web enquiries by 7,000   
  • understood what people are searching for to increase traffic from unpaid sources (organic sources) by 40%  
  • used a Google Maps location management tool to generate 20,000 new calls a month for Funeralcare 

And in 2022 we want to do even more using paid activity, store roll-outs and bolder tests that will give us more insights. 

We’ve built, maintained and enhanced Co-op’s digital foundations 

This includes: 

  • designing and building our own blog on coop.co.uk to make it easier and quicker for us to update and maintain – saving Co-op money and improving our search engine optimisation performance 
  • making our cookie banner clearer and more transparent for users so they can make informed choices  
  • changing and improving how and where we host coop.co.uk making it scalable, quicker and more reliable  
Our new blog on coop.co.uk

We’ve launched the Experience Library

Our Experience Library

The Co-op Experience Library is a collection of guidelines, tools and resources to help us create better customer experiences at Co-op.  

It’s a reinvention of the Co-op Design System, iterated based on what we’ve learnt from colleagues. By understanding how the design system was being used we were able to: 

  • learn what was missing and focus on what was needed 
  • work with other experts, teams and business units to include a broader range of topics, for example new accessibility and search engine optimisation sections  
  • communicate in the open, share what we’re doing and regularly get feedback from colleagues 

It also helped us prioritise what to work on next: form guidelines and patterns.  

Blog post: Introducing the Co-op Experience Library 


Digital Engagement and Loyalty  

The Digital Engagement and Loyalty portfolio (previously Member and Customer) re-organised ourselves this year, adding Co-operate to the fold and building a new team around improving the membership experience. We’re now 5 product teams (Co-op App, Personalised Offers, Co-op Account, Co-operate and Membership Experience) working to make Co-op a brand that inspires loyalty.  

We’ve delivered valuable features… including the most-requested feature in our app reviews (adding your membership card to your digital wallet), an easier way to become a member (paying via Apple/Google) and ensuring Co-op Accounts are accessible to all (earning a zero issues report in testing).  

We’ve contributed to the success of the wider business… by delivering millions in incremental sales via the personalised offers programme, driving 10% of ecommerce sales via a new in-app promo, and making it easier to checkout online, so that signed-in users spend more and convert 35% more often. 

We’ve helped deliver Co-op’s vision of co-operating for a fairer world by making it easy for 1.2 million members to select a local cause to support with just one click. We’ve also: 

  • connected the Local Community Fund with Co-operate, our online community centre, to help more than 10,000 local groups apply for funding and access wider support 
  • introduced a new volunteering service to help people find opportunities locally  
  • encouraged almost 250,000 people to engage in communities 
  • showcased relevant opportunities to participate and support our community missions locally 
Our new volunteering service

And we’ve paid down important technical debt… by switching our identity provider (a huge endeavour that’s reduced fraud, whilst causing barely a ripple to the user experience) and introducing a new Membership API Gateway that makes the way we share membership information easier to maintain, more secure and quicker to extend when new opportunities arise.  

Looking forwards to 2022 we’ve been working with our stakeholders across the business to set shared objectives and priorities. We’ve been using decision stacks to unite teams from different areas (including marketing, commercial, CRM, and data science) around a set of priorities with KPIs that we think will have the greatest impact. It’s been fun to work with colleagues with different perspectives and build diverse thinking and expertise into our plans.


Customer Experience Strategy team 

We set up the Customer Experience (CX) Strategy team. We’ve been well-received so far. 

Delivering financial value through CX strategy   

We identified the funeral arrangement to probate journey as somewhere we could prove the value of our CX strategy. Why? Because you never need one without the other.  So, we moved probate to the right place in the online Funeralcare journey and improved the content. 

Comparing the 16 weeks since the content went live to the previous 16 weeks, there has been:  

  • 49% increase in probate leads  
  • 50% increase in bookings (where we quote for probate)  
  • 55% increase in number of probate sales – an extra £140k per year 

Enabling teams to move from strategy to delivery  

We’ve been supporting teams in the wider organisation to adopt a customer experience approach to designing services. We’ve been documenting them too so that guidance and support will be available after we leave the project. 

We’ve co-designed various tools with Co-op Power including:   

  • A service design toolkit for the Power product development team 
  • A product definition canvas focused on customer needs 
Here’s the service design toolkit for Co-op Power

Working with Nisa to connect business and experience strategies   

We improved the customer experience for Nisa’s independent retailers (Co-op acquired Nisa in 2018). Our work is a good example of building a vision framework based on a detailed understanding of how customers interact with Nisa across each touchpoint. Ultimately, a customer’s experience is the sum of all the individual decisions the business makes, the systems they use and the processes they follow. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in helping us learn about, understand and improve each tiny part.  

Image shows the connection between principles, recommendation, strategic priorities and the experience vision.

Customer Experience Day events  

We marked CX Day 2021 with a series of CX best practice talks covering Insurance, Funeralcare and Food. Across 3 days, over 200 colleagues watched the sessions showing there’s an appetite from colleagues across Co-op to learn more about what customer experience is, why it’s important and how it can be improved for our members, customers and colleagues.  

A screengrab from one of the events

This year our focus has been on optimisation. 

  • We have redesigned our Co-op Wills Writing service using web analytics, data from our existing platform, and user research with the aim of improving conversion rates and reducing lead times. We are launching soon and estimate that the time spent drafting a will be reduced by up to 1 hour.  
  • We’ve improved our end-to-end conversion rate by 46% on the Co-op Probate service by optimising our content and creating 2 different journeys: one for people looking for a quote, another for those seeking general advice

We also created a new digital lasting power of attorney service (not publicly available at the moment). 


Customer Platform Service team  

This year, we restructured, and we’ve made great progress in re-branding and simplifying processes and tools like our Statuspage, Service Catalogue, Runbooks and Impact matrices to optimise how we work. 

This year we’re proud of the work we’ve done to: 

  • Introduce standard change which means we have cut manual effort to review and approve changes by up to 70%. Our Change success rate across all products was 98.6%! 
  • Offer 24/7 support for Food eCommerce web-platform and Funeralcare customers  
  • Reduce costs by approximately £50K by decommissioning the archaic server for Membership wallet 
  • achieve a record run of 110 consecutive days without a major incident in some products! Work in Problem Management ensured a reduction in major incidents by 32% compared to 2020. 

Nasir Qureshi and Poonum Bhana, Service analysts 


Inclusive meeting guidelines 

In 2021, many organisations have been hybrid working. This is probably why our ‘inclusive meeting guidelines’ resonated with so many people. We wrote them to try and improve the way we collaborate in person and remotely. Read more on why and how we created them.  

Jake’s tweet generated over 30,000 engagements including many industry heavyweights like Lauren Currie and Andy Budd

We appeared in ‘Leading Designs’ weekly newsletter compiled by Clearleft, as well as in Public Digital’s newsletter. Joanne Schofield and Suhail Hussain presented the guidelines to the design community at the Department for Education. 


Food Customer Experience

There are now 1,600 Co-op Food stores that accept online orders through our ecommerce site, shop.coop.co.uk This time last year, only 760 of our stores were taking part, up from 32 stores in 2019. 

Given the increase in numbers of participating stores, it’s not surprising that 2021 has been busy. We: 

  • made it easier for shoppers to see which products are included in deals 
  • made it possible for the Merchandising team to edit product titles and descriptions  
  • added a ‘Top deals’ page 
  • added a contact form to the site to help customers report order issues saving our contact centre colleagues time 
  • made it possible for shoppers to use Apple Pay on service 
  • made stock availability visible to customers and offered alternatives on out-of-stock products 
  • trialled ‘delivery within an hour’ 
  • still maintain crucial operational services like Shifts and How Do I for our colleagues 
Our shop.coop.co.uk page showing some of the top deals

Funeralcare’s Core Transformation and Guardian team 

Guardian is our colleague-facing digital service. We designed and built it in-house so our Funeralcare colleagues could spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with clients. Since its roll-out in 2018, we’ve supported the maintainance and we’ve continued to listen to colleagues and support the great work they do by iterating Guardian. This year, improvements include: 
 

  • Adding a Contract transfer system so colleagues can manage the collection of someone who has died from the police and hospitals. The system also makes sure each party is invoiced correctly. 
  • More accurate tracking of ashes so funeral directors can check the deceased’s ashes are collected within mandatory 3 days and reduce administration overhead. 
  • Creating a Direct Cremation functionality so colleagues can easily track whether the mandatory cremation paperwork is complete 

Our team has also replaced existing architecture to connect the website front-end to the new Microsoft product supporting the Funeralcare strategic systems upgrade programme known as ‘core transformation’. 


Funeralcare’s Customer team 

Image shows the pay for a funeral service

This year, we’ve created: 

  • a new online payment journey that has allowed over 2,500 clients to pay their funeral balance online, saving both clients and Funeralcare colleagues time 
  • a new regulatory compliant online pricing component on 900 branch pages allowing clients to understand and compare local Funeralcare prices 
  • a trial to help understand how we can help clients make appointments with branches, through the website 

User research was at the heart of all our work again, with some emotional sessions. All participants reassured us they want to help us make services better and enjoyed the research, tears and all.  

We’ve also changed a lot in 2021 – halfway through the year we introduced an entirely new engineering team. 


Responsible design: more important than ever

Over the past decade, digital delivery teams have adopted the mindset of ‘moving fast and breaking things’ and we’ve reached a point where a lot has broken. We’ve spoken a lot over the years about designing the right thing in the right way, but we need to keep adapting and changing what ‘the right way’ means in the context of the challenges we face in our communities and globally. We’re having more conversations around ‘responsible’ design and this will continue to be at the forefront of our minds going into 2022.

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