The way we pay

This week our colleagues in food published a report on how people like to pay in their stores. Contactless payments (the ones you make by tapping your debit card or mobile phone on a card reader) in our stores have trebled annually to 11 million transactions a month. 


The Findings

  • Customers on average shop with us 19 times over 3 months
  • 65% of our transactions over the last year have been with cash
  • 11 million contactless transactions in March 2016
  • Average basket size using chip & pin £18.16
  • Average basket size using contactless is £8.66
  • 65% of shoppers think that in under a decade all they will need is their phone to pay for daily goods

“The new technology is perfect for convenience stores as shoppers buy fewer items and speed is important to them.”

Cheryl Marshall Co-op Retail CIO  

Over the last year 65% of Co-op food transactions used cash, but it’s expected that contactless payments on cards and mobile phones will overtake it within the decade. 

Our research found that average spend for contactless is £8.66, versus £18.16 using chip-and-PIN. What explains the gap? Perhaps security concerns with new payment mechanisms, or the increased familiarity of Chip-and-PIN over contactless methods. Or simply that many customers aren’t aware that the contactless payment limit was raised to £30 in September 2015. Research by payment systems manufacturer Verifone says that paying by contactless card is faster than chip and pin or cash, a strong pointer that contactless card and mobile payments will eventually be commonplace, making convenience shopping even faster and easier.

You can read our convenience reports in full here:


We’re Hiring Again.

Dave and Polly recently talked about our how we’re looking for lots of talented digital people to join us  @CoopDigital.

We’re now looking for some more people to join Dave’s digital engineering team:

Service Manager
Service Analyst
Principal Engineer
Principal Developer
Principal Architect

Follow the links to find out more and apply. If you have any questions about any of the roles you can either comment on the blog or find us @CoopDigital.


Gender bias in job adverts.

We’re looking for lots of digital people to come and join us @CoopDigital and I’m helping to find them. I was interested to see if there was any link between the gender of the writer of a job advert to that of the applicants. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:

Content Designer

  • Advert written solely by a female
  • Total applications received: 25
  • Female applicants: 13
  • Male applicants: 12
  • This means 52% of applications are from women


 Digital Delivery Manager

  • Advert written collaboratively between female and male colleagues
  • Total applications received: 17
  • Female: 3
  • Male: 14
  • Only 18% of applications are from women.

Product Manager

  • Advert written solely by male colleague
  • Total applications received: 40
  • Female: 5
  • Male: 35
  • Only 12.5% of applications are from females.

Looking at the stats above there appears to be a link between the gender of the writer and the diversity of the applicants.

So how to tackle this? 

There is some great research surrounding gender bias within job adverts. The Women’s College Coalition found that men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, while women wait until they feel they meet 100%. We should definitely consider this when writing future adverts. Do we really need all 10 bullet points highlighting role accountabilities? Could we scale down to just 5 and open ourselves up to more relevant and diverse applications?

What about the look of the advert? The colour, format and font used? All things to consider and I’m to go away and do more research on this.

I am going to use this gender decoder to check all new job adverts. The study that it was based on found that masculine-coded language puts women off more and that the effect on feminine-coded language on male applicants is only slight. Here are some blog posts on the subject that inspired the tool:

I’d be interested to hear any experiences or findings anyone else may have on this subject.

Polly Haslam

Our latest vacancies
Product Managers (applications now closed)
Delivery Managers (applications now closed)
Content Designers (applications now closed)
Head of Engineering (applications now closed)




Co-op Electrical moves to CoopDigital

Co-op Electrical sells, as you’d expect, electrical goods online. From fridges and washing machines to iPads and TVs. It’s a great business with a turnover of £100M and  a Feefo rating of 98%.  That rating stems from a real co-operative sense of customer service –  discounts for members and free delivery for everyone with slots by the hour.

Co-op Electrical competes in a tough market with the likes of, John Lewis and Currys. The team work hard to deliver not only great customer service but consistently offer lower prices than competitors along with warranties at a cost price.

Currently Electrical sits within Co-op Food, but as it’s an on-line business it makes sense to run it from CoopDigital. Today we’re announcing that James and his team will move over to Digital and work under Mike.

James and the team have an ambitious plan to grow the business. We’ll help to speed that up, making Electrical a truly digital business – not just an online one. We’ll invest in service design, agile delivery and focus relentlessly on the needs of our customers and members.

Steve and Mike

Steve Murrells – CEO Co-op Food – @Steve_Murrells
Mike Bracken  – Chief Digital Officer – @MTBracken

What percentage of people use contactless payments in our Food stores?

We believe contactless payments make shopping quicker and easier, but it’s hard to know just how popular or important they are, because not many retailers publish their usage stats.

We finished making it available in all our Food stores in 2014 and in 2015 Chris Whitfield, Paul Wilkins and team promoted it in store and with our colleagues. Chris recently looked at our stats and because we believe in being open here they are: nationally 32.12% of transactions are now contactless. That’s up from 7% in 2014.



It’s lower in our fuel stores at 20.21% as the contactless limit is £30.

Hopefully other people will share too and we’ll be able, together, to make shopping quicker and easier for everyone.

Opening up and visualising data for our colleagues

There’s a nice saying which goes like this: “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” I like this saying because aside from making a relatively simple observation, it gives a time series to the constant challenge of ‘turning numbers into insight’. First get the data available and in order, then look for what it’s telling you.

All sounds a bit simple, right? Well no actually. In a large organisation like The Co-operative Food with billions of transactions a year and terabytes of data, just the first step of getting my colleagues the data they need takes quite a bit of thinking. And that’s before we can even consider how best to then use it.

Fortunately we have new access to Microstrategy Visual Insight software here in the Retail BI team. This powerful tool allows us to now run, manipulate and then visualise large, granular datasets at a speed we couldn’t have even imagined a few years ago.

This ease of viewing SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) level data, selected and filtered in almost any way, is something that can be a real challenge to large retailers like ourselves. We can now not only give our colleagues easy access to this data, but can even visualise it for them all using only one SQL query and one window.

Of course all of this requires not only development time and expertise, but also, and possibly more significantly, business processes, education and culture that facilitate open and self-serve access to data. So whilst we’re not going to all be sat at our desks tomorrow exploring granular data in an interactive visualisation, it may perhaps be a glimpse of what’s to come.

Here’s a small example of what Visual Insight can do:

blog post - graph 1

This chart plots different product groupings against Sales Quantity and Value growth. It also colours the groupings by country and sizes them by Sales Value. This allows quick identification of groupings outside the wider trend line and informs the viewer of which opportunities are most valuable to look at (size of the bubble). You could also see if any particular country displays an anomaly trend.

blog - graph 2
This visualisation networks together product groupings (tea types) to store sizes (big, medium, small). The colour and thickness of the lines visualise sales growth  so you can easily see which products are performing best in which type of store. The heat map on the right is filtered by clicking on a node in the network so that it displays which products (SKUs) are driving the trends in the network. The size of the rectangle demonstrates the value of that SKU in sales and the colour is its growth rate.

Note: The data displayed above has been randomly generated on fictitious products for the purposes on this blog. It does not in any way relate to sales performance of The Co-operative Group or of any products.

Alex Waters, Lead Analyst – @seeing_clearly

Digital Exclusion – and why there’s a “hive” of activity at the Co-op’s Academy

I’m Russell Gill,  Head of Membership & Co-operative Relations at the Co-op. I also Chair the Co-operative Academies Trust which runs eight primary and secondary schools in some of the most challenging areas of Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent.

Last week I was delighted to attend the opening of The Hive – a joint venture between the Co-operative Academy of Manchester, based in Blackley, and YES– a social enterprise helping match the people of North Manchester with jobs, training and volunteering opportunities.

Digital exclusion is a growing problem in communities like Blackley. That’s why the Co-op Academy is so keen to develop the right skills and know-how for its students to thrive in a digital world. So there’s a real opportunity for the Co-op to share our fantastic digital expertise, alongside many other rich sources of learning represented by the Co-op way, to give our students a real head start.

But what about their families and the community more broadly? The Co-op Academy’s vision has always placed the needs of the whole community at its centre. Now, with the opening of The Hive, people in Blackley can learn new skills and look for opportunities to be work-ready. And that’s not all – The Hive also provides low-cost enterprise pods for new business start-ups, freelancers and small businesses, targeted at the burgeoning digital community. We hope that The Hive will provide a strong connection between the Co-op Academy’s students, members of the community who are keen to learn, and the area’s budding entrepreneurs.

A great example of co-operation in action.

To find out more about the Co-op’s Academies, visit us at And for more information about The Hive, go to


Russell Gill, Head of Membership & Co-operative Relations, @RussellMGill

Community Management over Christmas

christmas cmWhen I think back to when I first started my career in social media I don’t think I ever imagined a day when I would spend Christmas Day sat in my office engaging with our communities on social media; yet there I was just 2 days ago doing exactly that.

As I have only worked at the Co-op for 4 months I had no idea what to expect. Would it be busy? Would people be merry? Would people use social media to talk to brands on Christmas Day?

christmas cm 1

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was a busy day in stores and on social media! My colleague Scott had many enquiries about opening hours, stock availability and last minute #DoorStepChallenges.

Christmas Daychristmas cm 2

Christmas Day morning was also busy. Most enquiries were about whether our stores would be open during the day… It appears as though many people forget at least one item for their Christmas dinner!

Conversation was mostly very positive, I engaged with many regular community members who wished our colleagues a Merry Christmas. There were unfortunately a few sad incidents where our produce had fallen short which are always tough to deal with on a regular day never mind Christmas Day – you really feel for the customer in these times. But thankfully we have a fantastic Customer Care team who do all they can to rectify incidents such as this.

Boxing Day

On Boxing Day the number one topic of conversation was store opening hours. There was a big debate among our community on whether any stores should be open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day – people appear to sit on one side or the other regarding this.

Overall Christmas was a merry time to work. Our community showed great thanks to our colleagues who have been there throughout the Christmas period for those last minute dashes to the shop. There was also a fantastic show of support for local communities from our stores who have been out and about spreading a little joy with the #DoorStepChallenge.

Some of the highlights of my day were –

…. I did just that… at 6pm when my working day was over!

Catherine Storey, Social Media Community Manager – @CatJStorey

Why digital made me feel old then quickly young (middle-aged!!) again…

I started my working career in 1992 and in the 23 years that have followed I’ve seen a huge amount of change. None has been more profound or significant than the emergence of the internet and subsequent digital capabilities in how we work.

I’m enormously proud of what we’ve achieved in the Co-op over the last 18 months. We’ve taken a business from near collapse to one that with hard work and a focus on doing the right things will become once again one of the UK’s most treasured things. I can’t wait.

To make this dream a reality we’ve recognised the need to embrace the “digital  revolution” not just in terms of the services and products we offer our customers, but in changing our ways of working. Excitingly we’ve managed to recruit some of the very best people in the world to lead our thinking in this area and help us not just catch up, but get miles ahead of the competition. From “Slack” to “Bimodal Agile”,  our lexicon has changed.

Whilst very exciting, I’ve got to be honest and say it’s also filled me with fear. At 45 years of age was I about to become one of those outdated Execs who lived in a past world that I’d seen and observed in my earlier career? Good for a few words of advice here and there but basically living in an outdated world. For the first time ever I started to feel old.

Six months on and I feel young again…….

Throughout my career I’ve always believed that if you do the right thing for the customer and make the business vision/ strategy/ objectives simple for colleagues to understand then you’ll not go far wrong. I’ve also always said that a great business “creates value for the customers that they’re able to share in”. I’ve realised that the “digital revolution” simply makes this easier to do and puts the customer at the heart of the business even more than before. In that context it makes customer centricity even more important and people who think that way even more valuable.

So yes, the lexicon has changed (a sprint has nothing to do with Linford Christie but is a quick piece of work with an outcome, a “slacker” isn’t someone who is lazy but someone who communicates via a more effective tool – the list could go on) but what matters has become even more important and makes it more difficult to succeed if you don’t get it right.

So as we leave 2015 and look forward to the new year, I’m excited. Not just by the new digital team, but by the realisation that I’m not old and out of date just yet and my views, principles and ways of working are more important than they’ve ever been.

Enjoy Christmas with your wearable technology. I’ll be catching up with re-runs of Tomorrow’s World!

Rod Bulmer, CEO of Consumer Services.

Delivering social media support to Estate Services

Assisting, encouraging and enabling colleagues to use social media in their jobs at the Co-op is just one of the exciting roles that the Group Social Media team get to do.

Today, members of the Social Media Community Management team supported Estate Services in their departmental conference. This conference has been taking part for a number of years but this year they wanted to make it social!

Developing the social media side of the conference started a few months ago when the Social Media team and Estate Services team came together to agree on how we’d incorporate the use of social media into the event for the first time – From introducing the notion that attendees should tweet throughout the day to masterminding the event hashtag.


Sophie and I supported the social media aspect of the day and set up our second Social Media Clinic for attendees so we were on hand for any social media questions –professional or personal. Support was also delivered on the event hashtag where we monitored conversations, gave insights and engaged with  those tweeting about the event. There was even a small prize for the best tweet from the day!

Working closely with and supporting departments across the Co-op is always interesting and it’s fantastic to see colleagues become more open to the opportunities that social media can present.

Catherine Storey, Social Media Community Manager – @catjstorey