We’re opening up data to meet customer and member needs

Opening up some of our data will help us meet our customers’ and members’ needs better and help us play a bigger part in their lives and their communities.

By ‘opening up’, we don’t mean we’re about to start selling our customer or member data, we mean we’re starting to build a platform that makes our data more accurate and makes some of it (not confidential stuff, of course) easier to access. This is really important because teams will be able to build useful things more easily.

We started building our platform by looking at our location data for our food stores and funeral homes. This is the addresses, the coordinates and associated information which includes things like opening hours, facilities and directions.

It’s important that the data for each store or funeral home is both accurate and easy to access. Here’s what we’ve been doing to make sure it is.

Making sure it’s accurate

Firstly we built an improved food store finder around user needs.

image shows the new Co-op store finder. it shows a search box for the user to write a location followed by search results. on the right it shows a map with pins to show the results.

We put a feedback form on the finder so users could tell us if the data was accurate or not.

image of the store finder feedback form. it shows a shop's details and underneath there's a box asking: 'tell us what's wrong with the details above' and a submit button.

We learnt that our latitude and longitude co-ordinates were showing many stores in the wrong place on the map. We also found out through user feedback that many stores had the wrong opening hours and some of the facilities needed updating too. Each one of these things needed to be accurate to meet the main user needs of a store finder.

To make things better, we put some tactical fixes in place to make the data more reliable. It’s actually just a temporary measure while the Food team undertakes the huge challenge of rebuilding how it manages, stores and maintains its data. So, right now the accuracy is better but there is still much more to do.

Earlier this month we released a new version of the funeral home finder. We’re hoping that the feedback form on there will help us quickly uncover any inaccuracies with our data like it did with the store finder. Of course, we might find that users are less compelled to give feedback given the journey they may be on. We’ll wait and see and make changes if we need to.

Making data easier to access with APIs

We built the store finder in such a way that it uses an Application Programme Interface (API). APIs turn webpages from static words and pictures to dynamic, contextual information sources by connecting them with databases. Mulesoft explains APIs well in an online video.

For us, creating APIs is the first step in making our data easy to access and open because it provides a widely understood way for developers to quickly start building things that use our data. We chose to build a .JSON API as it’s a machine readable format that is also quite readable for us humans too.

Now, both internal and external developers can build their own services and interfaces featuring Co-op location data. Co-op Digital teams have used the Location Services’ API to build a product finder, the Membership team have used it to create prototypes to test and of course, we have re-used it for the new Funeral Home Finder.

image show two overlapping screenshots from product finder and a prototype form the membership team. both use the location services API

It’s good for us to work with our internal teams to learn the best ways to build and support APIs.

Not just for Co-op teams

Fair Tax Mark is our first external user who has used the API for its Fair Tax Map. From this, we’re learning how to support and improve the API for third parties.

screen shot of the Fair Tax map

We’ve got plans…

We’ll continue to collect, prioritise and build requests for new features, as well as helping wherever we can to improve how the data is kept up to date within the business. We’re also working with a cross-team bunch of engineers and developers to agree a common set of principles and standards, so that our APIs are consistently easy to access. We’re experimenting with how we can make them easy to find in one place, where non-developers can see what’s available and developers can get quickly get their hands on our data.

We’ve had a play with Swagger, a popular open source framework for presenting APIs.

screen shot of what it looked like when we played with Swagger to make our API accessible

It’s basic but the intention is that we’ll style it up in the Co-op brand and add useful content. So it might look a bit like this.

Image contains same information as one above but styled in a more Co-op way.

It’s also likely that we’ll introduce access keys to help us support users better and ensure that we can manage demand.

These are all good first steps for the Location Services team. If you have thoughts on this stuff, leave a comment below. We’re particularly interested to hear ideas on how you could use Co-op Data.

Ben Rieveley
Product lead

Co-op Finder Alpha Update

In my previous post I talked about the work we’re doing to improve our store and branch locator. We’ve continued to improve our new Co-op Finder Alpha and added a page for each store.

All the updates have come from:

  • user feedback from the form on the page
  • user research sessions
  • comments on the blog
  • messages on Twitter

So, if you gave us some feedback, thanks very much. You’ve helped to shape our service for colleagues, members and customers.

Design

Here’s a couple of the design changes we made.

We improved the text input box and how we show the ‘use my location’ option. This was because our users were confused when we tested it out:

image 1

We have reduced the space taken up by the list and map tabs. It was pushing the most important information too far down the screen:

image-2

Local pages

Users asked us to show facilities and services for each store. We’ve added a link to more information that goes to a page about each store. These pages are essential for helping people find stores more easily on search sites. They give us a great opportunity to test new features about a store and its local community.

Information accuracy

Most of the feedback we received was about:

  • opening hours
  • the accuracy of where the pin appears on the map 
  • the need to quickly update information about stores that have closed or changed ownership

The good news is that we’ve improved the accuracy of the location coordinates from 17% to around 88%. That’s around 3,500 stores now with an accurate pin on the map.

There are lots more improvements in the pipeline and we’ll keep you updated here.

Our show and tell is every Wednesday, 10th Floor, 1 Angel Square in Manchester at 10.15-10.45. All colleagues and Member Council members are welcome.

Ben Rieveley
Product Manager, Location Services

Co-op Finder Alpha

Co-op-Finder-Alpha
Co-op Finder Alpha – list results view

We’ve made live our Co-op Finder Alpha. Have a look https://alpha.coop.co.uk/finder.

If you’ve ever used our old store locator, you’ll see there are lots of things that aren’t in the new one. There’s a reason for that. We don’t know whether it was useful or not, in fact there’s a lot we don’t know. 

We’ll use our Co-op Finder Alpha to learn more.

We do know a lot of people choose to come to our website to use our store locator to see whether we are open, usually around those times when opening hours in general are not obvious, like Sunday evenings and national holidays.

We also know that the next most common thing customers need, is to know where the nearest Co-op is to a specific location. 

We’ve kept a few obvious elements, like telephone numbers and links to get directions, but other than that we’ve removed anything that we don’t have an evidenced user need for.

There are two opportunities for users to provide feedback on the experience itself and whether the information is correct, through this and further user research we will understand better what needs to be there.

We’ve already learnt a lot and have some solid improvements in the pipeline that we’ll make live shortly.

Our show & tell is part of the coop.co.uk session every Wednesday, 10th Floor, 10.15-10.45 – all colleagues and Council members welcome.

Please let us know what you think.

Ben Rieveley
Product Manager

Transformation observations

We’re going for it. Shifting a massive chunk of our digital development programme to continuous delivery. That gives me butterflies!

Having run a team of ‘UXers’ that all ache to work in a proper Agile way has been a challenge. We often found ourselves reliant on a super-human delivery manager (namecheck: Victoria Mitchell) to hold back the mountains of Waterfall documentation and ‘sign-offs’ to enable us to work in our Agile bubble. It didn’t really work.

By bursting that bubble and working alongside the business, engineering and operations we are immediately… but I’m not going to espouse the virtues of that here, there’s plenty bigger brains that have done that.

I just want to share some early observations from a UX team perspective as we make that change:

1) We all do UX

We don’t call ourselves a UX team anymore, we are part of a design team. We are all responsible for the user experience: marketing, IT, designers, shop colleagues, call centre colleagues, CEOs… it’s how we work together that delivers the experience. I believe our artists-formerly-known-as-UXers have a key role in evangelising their ingrained user-centric principles across the business. Ensuring everybody is focused on delivering a service that meets people’s needs.

2) Lose the IT and Business/Marketing divide

Being in ‘Digital’ I have often been the buffer between Marketing and IT, the former feeling restricted and stifled, and the latter feeling criticised when all they want to do is keep the business safe. Not only does an understanding have to break out, but the boundaries need to be removed completely. Have multi-disciplined teams, delivering specific products not departments emailing huge documents over ‘the fence’ ensuring they are safe from blame of failure. We now have a team of Engineers, Delivery Managers, Business Analysts, Interaction Designers, Content Designers literally sat side by side delivering the ‘thing’.

IMAG0004
Our multi-disciplined team in post-it heaven

3) Find, empower and trust super-smart decision-makers

Another massive change is required to make this work. The multi-discipline team can’t do their thing if the business isn’t able to provide decisive direction at the same pace. This is where our next challenge is. We need rapid, smart decisions and for that, rapid, smart, decision-makers who are trusted and empowered to take responsibility for their product. Enter product managers, new roles to the Co-op, but very much needed to ensure that the transformation happens. It is these folk that will play a vital part in ensuring the Co-op can transform now, but continue to help a modern Co-op respond rapidly to members’ and customers’ changing needs.

Are you a product manager? Contact Polly Haslam to see if there’s an opportunity for you.

 

Digital Designer wanted

Hello, me again.Image of Ben Rieveley

I mentioned that there’d be more jobs coming soon, well here’s another great opportunity to join our growing band of digital co-operators.

Our ambition is bold: to re-create the Co-operative for a digital era, and demonstrate a different way of doing business for an increasingly connected community. To achieve this we need to ensure the visual impact of our digital services communicates our brand whilst meeting our users’ needs.

Photo of Co-op Design Studio team

We need you to produce, creative, coherent and consistent design across all digital channels for our family of businesses. You’d be joining our Manchester based design studio and support the Digital team by providing the visual design that helps us communicate our message and deliver a truly user-centric service to our customers online.

If you are a naturally creative person with a keen sense of business context this could be the job for you. You’ll need to be passionate but not precious, a collaborator with the confidence to present and explain ideas to both the digital team and colleagues throughout the business.

If you’re interested then take a closer look on our jobs board and submit your CV.

Have a great weekend!

Ben

Find me on twitter @barthelmess 

We’re hiring!

Image of Ben Rieveley

Hi, I’m Ben 2 (there’s 3 of us), I work in the Co-op Digital Team and have done since it was a team of one.

I have a huge passion for the Co-op and have always believed that it has immense potential in the new digital world we can be as pioneering as we were back in 1844 (I joined a couple of years later).

With our new digital leadership team we have just turned a massive corner and are about take big steps towards realising our potential. There’s much to do and to do it we need talent. We have talent but we need more. So we are immediately looking for a User Researcher to join us.

We need someone to help build a clear picture of our users and generate new and useful user insights that will allow us to iteratively improve the service for our users.

Are you experienced in using a variety of user testing methodologies to reveal actionable customer insights? Do you have  excellent analytical and problem solving skills with the ability to quickly develop recommendations based on quantitative and qualitative evidence? Are you confident in explaining user needs to colleagues outside of the digital team, and can act as a persuasive advocate for those needs across the whole business?

The Co-operative Support Centre, Angel Square, Manchester

Do you want to be part of transforming this iconic organisation, working in this awesome building in Manchester?

Then take a look at our jobs board and submit your CV today.

Good luck!

Ben

p.s. If this isn’t the job for you, keep your eye on this blog as there’s more to come…

Find me on twitter @barthelmess