Mike Bracken: advisers, our local community fund and 30k new members

Mike: Hello, welcome to the weekly update. Week 3, big week back for us, the Digital team. Firstly 2 big meetings.

Board meeting for the whole group, they’ve seen our preparation, our presentation for the year, very happy with that, lots of good challenge.

For us as a team we have a digital advisers group, and our Digital Advisory Board met this Wednesday, we have 4 advisers, Jonathan Luff, who is helping us with our horizon scanning and vendor market place review; Jeni Tennison from the Open Data Institute and Andrew Eland from Google Deep Mind, those 2 are really helping us with our data services and our open data principles and standards work. And Sophie Fenwick-Paul who’s helping us with our communities and our futures work, particularly helping Rufus around membership and community.

Those 4 constitute our Advisory Board and I’m delighted they are helping us. We are also looking for at least one other person to help us with our e-commerce development around our electrical business, so if you know anybody please let us know.

And just a couple of stats this week to wrap up. I’m delighted that at the end of the period of our community cause programme, we’ve had over 6000 applications from causes, charities, social programmes all over the country who want to participate in the 1% programme. And we’ll be putting money into these causes over the next few years.

We’ve now got some sifting work to do because we were very, very much oversubscribed, but we should have causes in every part of our country and in every one of our 1500 communities, so that’s a great achievement.

And finally membership continues to grow. The Join Us campaign is starting to make an impact and last week we had over 30,000 new members join the Co-op. So that’s some great stats, I hope to give you some more next week, but until then, join us.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Mike Bracken: data, dividends and ‘Join Us’

Mike: This week, stand out stuff is data and dividends and join us. Let’s start with data, had the data leaders back this week for the second, people from all over from the co-op working on our data principles. We’re getting to grips with this, remember I said last year at the AGM, we would become synonymous with radical transparency. We’re really getting ready to get those data principles out, not just in the Co-op but with our partners and supply chain, that’s better for our members, so keep watching the blog for that.

This week some more numbers around Membership. We have made a real breakthrough with member data. We’ve gone past 4 million active members, that’s a huge rise. That more than 412,000 new members since September 21st (2016). That keeps going upwards, we keep improving the service, Derek, Nathan, all the team working on membership are continually iterating and making it better for members.

Big feature this week for some older people like me, is the dividend numbers. Many people remember the dividend and the dividend points, you can now see those on your own personal page on the membership site. You can go to coop.co.uk/membershipdata and see all those dividend points and all the other things that make up great membership.

So, the final number on membership is we’ve now passed the 20 million mark in returns we’ve passed back to our members, both in the 5% back to individuals and the 1% to causes, so it’s looking great and we keep passing barriers all the time.

The final thing to say this week is we launched our campaign and you’re gonna see more of this nationally and locally about how to join the Co-op. We’ve have a great film by Shane Meadows, we showed that as we always do to colleagues first in Manchester on Wednesday, the first place you can see it is shown before Trainspotting in cinemas in the very near future so do watch it. The film is all about the Co-op, all about our values and it encourages people to join us, so if anyone’s watching this video, join us.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Mike Bracken: a busy first week back

Mike: Hello, happy new year, I’m Mike Bracken and I want to wish every member of the Co-op, particularly the digital team, happy new year. Hope you had a restful holiday and for those of you who have worked through, unlike myself, visited store and lent a hand, thank you for doing that, and have had a great Christmas.

It’s a brief update this week. But I want to just mention a couple of really important things.

Firstly, we moved into The Federation, a building where we’re building out our digital centre working with partners, SMEs and other organisations in the digital economy and already this year we’ve increased our footprint.

We received new leases for the other 4 floors of that building yesterday and I’m glad to say that that means we’ll be expanding our footprint right through the building and into the centre of Manchester further in 2017.

We also had a great opportunity to show our executive around, and show them all the products and services that we’ve been working on for the last year, and they were thrilled with that, and I can already say that we’re gonna have a lot more demand coming our way. So already a great start to the year.

Probably the biggest thing that happened last week as we moved into the new year, was that we passed the 4 million membership mark. Now, membership is central to everything that we’re about, and it was only on September 21st last year, that we reissued our membership scheme. We’ve added just under 400,000 new members since then and as I say, we now got over 4 million active members of the Co-op. So it shows that people are coming back to the Co-op and joining in substantial numbers.

So that’s great news, and do keep your eyes on those numbers which are published live and they’re updated at the end of every week.

This week ahead, well, we’ll welcome Richard, our CEO, to our all digital meeting on Wednesday afternoon in 1 Angel Square and then we’ll spend more time with our businesses through the end of the week.

I’ll give you an update on that next week, but again, just to say happy new year.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Here’s to 2016 – a very good start

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard product teams present their work to representatives from the Members’ Council, to our Group Board and to the rest of the Co-op Digital team. It was a great reminder of how much we’ve achieved in the past year thanks to the support, challenge and expertise of our colleagues from across the Co-op Group.

In April, I presented the Co-op Digital team’s plans to the Group Board. We said we’d focus on 4 things: Membership, Products, Platforms and Ventures. We’re on target and within budget.

Here’s a recap of some of the progress we’ve made this year.

Our new ‘old’ brand

In May we revealed our new branding. We reverted to a brand identity rooted in the Co-op’s history. We were ‘back to being Co-op’. So far we’ve rolled the redesign out across 558  locations, 153 Co-op Funeralcare homes and 2,000 own brand products. In August our rebranded carrier bags even made it onto The Guardian’s weekly fashion trends. Being fashionable isn’t our goal, but it’s nice to be noticed!

Picture of Co-op Food Store in Shoreditch

We relaunched Membership

We rolled out the new Membership to 3,000 colleagues in our support centre in June; 70,000 colleagues in July; and over 3 million active members in September. We sold 120,000 new Membership cards within 72 hours when we launched Membership in September – without advertising. Since then, 339,000 members have joined. The Co-op now has almost 4 million active members. We’re being transparent and publishing Membership data every week.

Co-op Membership is good for both members and their communities. Each time members buy Co-op branded products or use certain Co-op services they get 5% back on what they spend. Members can also choose a local cause through our online service and 1% of what they spend will go towards supporting it.

We’re listening to what our members want. Over the past few months, more than 12,000 members have signed up online to join in and give feedback on our products, our stores and their shopping habits. We’ve hosted 29 ‘join in’ opportunities and we’ve been engaging with members online and in their communities. Members have given us over 770 hours of their time. And listening to them makes a difference: sales of wine recommended by members are up by 25%.

Picture of our new Co-op Membership card.

The new domains are live

We’ve improved our websites. Colleagues no longer have to be at work to access information about working here. Instead they can do it by visiting coop.co.uk/colleagues from home. Last week we blogged about how we’ve made co-operative.coop better – a really significant step to being able to respond to and meet members’ needs quickly.

Thank you to Nick Crofts, President of our National Members’ Council, for helping us understand the members’ perspectives about what the sites needed to be.

We’ve developed digital products

Some of the products the Co-op Digital team has worked on this year include:

These products help our colleagues work more efficiently and make it easier for customers to do things like make a will.

Colleagues like Claire Carroll and Cathryn Higgs from Co-op Food, James Antoniou at Co-op Legal Services (CLS), and Robert MacLachlan who runs Co-op Funeralcare have challenged and championed the digital teams who have worked on product alphas and betas. Thank you for your help.

The Co-op Digital Wills team worked closely with James Antoniou’s CLS team. Together, they launched the Wills beta in August and it already makes up around 25% of CLS’s Wills business. The Co-op Digital team is now in the process of handing over the daily running of the beta to CLS.

The Funeralcare at-need service is giving our Funeralcare colleagues more time to spend with clients. They’re building products that make it easier for Funeralcare colleagues to do their paperwork and give them more oversight of the different aspects of arranging a funeral. Our colleagues in Bolton are already using the service and we’re rolling it out to more funeral homes in Edinburgh in 2017. Redesigning an entire service around people’s needs could not have been done without the support of our colleagues across the Funeralcare business.

We’ve worked with design agency UsTwo to build Product Finder and the Store Dashboard for the Food business. Product Finder is now helping our call centre colleagues give customers product information quickly, over the phone. It’s been saving each colleague around 7 hours per week. During the alpha, small groups of colleagues had access to the Store Dashboard too. It gives them up-to-date information about delivery times as well as other information they need to do their jobs. It’s giving store managers up to 10% more time to spend on the shop floor. Both products show what digital can do for the Co-op colleagues and customers.

Screen shot of the Product Range Finder. A map view of stores that stock a chosen product

We’ve also been working with tech start up provenance.org, to see if it’s feasible for the us to collect accurate, verifiable data about food supply chains and track food products at scale. The Co-op has always been committed to transparency about food, from the time of the Rochdale pioneers through to championing Fairtrade. In the digital age, trust will come from transparency.

The products work isn’t over. We’ll keep building products and services that make things easier and more efficient for our colleagues, members and customers in 2017.

Platforms and Ventures

Platforms and Ventures are the next stage of the digital approach I presented to the Board earlier this year. Federation House, home to many of our product teams, is the foundation of this work. Emer Coleman and Claire Braithwaite are making The Federation an innovative and ethical place where digital people can draw on each other’s skills to build sustainable businesses. We’re talking to several start ups about joining us, and will have more to share in 2017.

A product team updates Co-op Digital colleagues on its last 2 weeks in the auditorium at Federation House

Multidisciplinary teams, co-operating

And we’re building a great team. People who have been at the Co-op for a while, working with people who are new to the Co-op, and with co-operators and people outside of the Co-op who share our values. We have so many talented people working with us to do the right thing.

Thank yous

Thank you to Nick Croft, the President of the Council who’s helped us work with the Council and their working group. Thanks also to the Group Board which has given us the time and space to deliver during a very busy phase. Thank you to our business unit leaders who have collaborated and co-created the products we’ve delivered to achieve the best outcome for our members. Finally, thank you to the Co-op Digital teams for all your hard work.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2017. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

We’re looking for people to join the team.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

We’ve made co-operative.coop better

Today we’ve released a new improved version of co-operative.coop. Previously, if you went to coop.co.uk or co-operative.coop you would see exactly the same content. Not anymore. They’re now 2 separate websites, each supporting different needs.

We’ve split up the content so that:

  • coop.co.uk is the way to access our products and services
  • co-operative.coop is the way you can find out how our co-operative is working and how you can get involved with it   

Fixing the basics

The new co-operative.coop fixes a lot of the basics. The new site is:

  • responsive it works well on mobile, tablets and laptops
  • fast – it takes less than a second to load a page compared with 6.5 seconds on the old site
  • secure – it uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) when loading a web page which means that when you use some web browsers you see a green padlock

This is important because next month the Chrome web browser will highlight non HTTPS sites as not being secure.

The content’s better too

All the changes above are the features you’d expect on any modern website. Like we said, they’re the basics. The biggest change we’ve made is the content. It’s very easy to create a lot of content but it’s much harder work to create good, concise content. For this reason we’ve removed hundreds of pages so that the content meets the needs of the people using the site.

We’re not finished

Changing to co-operative.coop is just the start. The improvements will be ongoing. Previously an external company looked after the site for us which meant only occasional changes.

Our new site was built by our in-house team. They work in an agile way. We ask for feedback at the bottom of each page which means the team is continually listening to our members and anyone else using the site. 

Feedback prompt on each page asks site visitors to tell us what they liked or what we can improve'

Doing things ourselves and working in this way means we can iterate quickly, and often. Making it better every time we make a change. 

We’ve worked with our Group Secretariat, consulted our Members’ Council and have shown the new site to the Digital Working Group on several occasions. Thank you to all.

Our team shows members of the Digital Working Group our work co-operative.coop in Federation house

Thanks also to Peter Brumby and all the team who’ve made this happen.

We’re going to continue to work together to improve the new site for our members.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Nick Crofts
President of National Members’ Council

Publishing data on Membership

At the Co-op AGM 2016 we said that we’re going to use digital to make membership stronger and more vibrant.

Since then we’ve been engaging with members online and in their communities to give as many people a voice as possible. We shared the data we’d found around our active members once we’d defined what ‘active’ means back in August.

Part of the reason for publishing that data is to be clear on where we’re starting from. We can use these numbers to find out how much stronger and how much more vibrant the new Co-op membership is, and how engaged people are with it.

The data we collect belongs to all of us – that’s the nature of a co-operative. This is why we’ve created a Co-op Membership Data page where you can see:

  • the number of active members
  • the number of new members
  • how much our members have earned for themselves and local causes
  • how much members have spent in the core business

Screen grab of the Membership data page showing 3.92 million active members and 303,000 new members. Members have earned 9.72 million pounds worth of rewards and 26.6% of our food turnover is from our members

We’ll update the numbers every week and blog regularly about the progress we’re making.

Rufus Olins – Chief Membership Officer
Mike Bracken – Chief Digital Officer

Our response to the Digital Economy Bill

Last week I gave oral evidence to the Digital Economy Bill Scrutiny committee in the House of Commons. It was a joint session with Jeni Tennison CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI) and a member of our Digital Advisory Board.

You can watch the full session on Parliament Live or read Hansard.

We support the sentiment behind the Bill, there’s much to applaud in it. But it’s really important that Government embodies the principles of open access to public data, with strong and transparent operational processes in place. This is a commercial issue because of the extra friction of duplicate and inconsistent public data. For us it’s also a member data issue, in terms of access, privacy and trust.

We need registers to do this. Sharing of data between different areas within Government has the potential to worsen the current situation.

I talked about radical transparency at our AGM. We should all be able to see where and how Government shares data.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of this Bill in the weeks and months ahead.

Mike Bracken

Chief Digital Officer

Hello to Claire Braithwaite

I’m thrilled that Claire Braithwaite has joined the digital team this week as partnerships & ventures consultant.

Picture of Claire Braithwaite

Digital is integral to the way we do business and we’ve translated our digital approach into four key elements; products, platforms, members and ventures. Opening up to the digital economy, especially in the North, is key to delivering on this.

Who better to support us in doing this than Claire. Along with being the founder of an award winning online retail platform and work in the tech for good and impact investment space, Claire has been instrumental in driving attention and investment in the digital economy in the North for some time, with roles as tech advisor to the Manchester Growth Company and as the first head of Tech North.

We’ve begun to create shared spaces for digital collaboration and product delivery with our partner NOMA in Manchester city centre. Claire will be working alongside Emer Coleman and Ian Dunnett developing our relationships with civic technology partners, businesses and organisations, helping us to create a truly co-operative digital hub in Manchester.

Welcome Claire.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

The Co-op’s response to the Government consultation on Land Registry – a follow up

At the Co-op, we’re passionate about how we use data for the good of our members, and believe that, more broadly, the UK economy stands to benefit from new services that are built on data.

That’s why in May we published our concerns about the Government’s proposals to move Land Registry operations to the private sector. We weren’t alone, with 65 MPs from all sides of the House of Commons joining David Lammy in urging the government to reconsider its plans.

So it’s a good signal that there was no mention of plans in the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill that went before the Commons at the end of last week.

Let’s hope that the government has listened to all those who share our view that a commitment to open data has the potential to stimulate growth, ingenuity and innovation which are vital to the Co-op’s Rebuild and the future success of the 21st century British economy.

It’s important to us that our members voices are heard in policy debates, and that’s why we’re working on a way to make that easier in the future.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer