A 10-day discovery into an app for members

Part of our job at Co-op Digital is to listen to our colleagues in the wider Group and help them help our customers and members. Our Food store colleagues get to know customers really well, often by name, so insights that come through them are super valuable. One of the most frequent bits of feedback is that colleagues would love to see a digital version of Co-op Membership because they’ve seen members forget their cards and use temp cards regularly.

A discovery into a mobile app

We know that 71% of the UK’s adult population own a mobile phone and many carry them with them most of the time. It’s reasonable assume then that mobile could be an important platform for us. Many projects in Co-op Digital have highlighted opportunities for mobile technology and we’ve experimented with some in the past.

We started to think about what an app for Co-op members might look like and what it could do.

We started by speaking to customers

I’m an interaction designer and I teamed up with service designer Kathryn Grace to find out how customers might interact with a mobile app and what functionality might provide the most value to them.

Our goals for the 10-day discovery were to:

  • speak to real customers and members
  • speak to stakeholders
  • gather ideas from different businesses within the Group
  • form early assumptions to test and validate later
  • produce some indicative designs of what the solution might be
  • give a recommendation that could be explored further

Ten days. We had our work cut out.

Asking colleagues 5 questions

We already knew that many colleagues had strong opinions on what a mobile app should or shouldn’t be. To understand their ideas we went to speak to them and documented what they told us. The best way, given our time constraints, was to conduct a series of stakeholder interviews. Kathryn led these sessions by asking each stakeholder:

  1. Explain your role.
  2. How do you see digital and mobile working for customers and members?
  3. What issues are you currently having to address in your role?
  4. If you could have one bit of functionality in an app what would it be?
  5. What does the Co-op mean to you?

Being consistent with the questions makes it easier and quicker to pull out themes from the interviews and document them.

A colleague sketching session

I gathered information in a different way. I ran a sketching workshop alongside Kathryn’s sessions. It was an opportunity to engage a people from Food, Funeralcare, Digital, Membership and Insurance.

The aim of the session was to get ideas out of people’s heads and onto paper. But not everyone’s immediately comfortable with a piece of blank paper so I guided the session with discussion points. I asked the group to think about things like:

  • how the Co-op could benefit communities better
  • how we can get more customers to become members
  • what Co-op Membership could mean in the future

The prompts encouraged the group to think about solutions to problems rather than Membership or technology specifically. It got them thinking about genuine user needs.

Photograph of two overlapping pieces of paper with sketched from the sketching session on.

At the end of the session we had over 80 different sketched ideas and the stakeholders left feeling engaged and invested.

Stuff we learnt

From the interviews and sketching workshops, we learnt that each business area has their own agenda and their own idea of how we should engage customers and members. However, despite that, the same things kept cropping up about what the app should offer including:

  • having a membership card on your phone
  • seeing your 5% reward balance
  • being able to choose a cause
  • signing up to be a member
  • digital coupons

Talking to customers in stores

Kathryn spent some time in Co-op food stores in central Manchester and suburban Leeds speaking to a diverse range of customers. Armed with a short questionnaire and a quick paper prototype based on our early assumptions, Kathryn looked into how people shop and how they use loyalty cards generally.

Photograph of 3 sheets'worth of paper prototypes that Kathryn showed to customers.

The research raised some interesting needs, attitudes and behaviours.

One of the more surprising observations was that some customers have made their own workarounds to augment their membership experience, from taking a photo of their membership card to adding it to Apple or Android Wallet. Interestingly, stakeholders had mentioned similar things when they’d spent time with Kathryn too.

Things to think about

Membership is central to the Co-op and a physical membership card has been central to Co-op Membership – at the moment it’s what identifies them as a member to us as a business, to colleagues in store. But a plastic card can be easily lost, damaged or forgotten. As a non-interactive thing, it also means that the interaction a member has with their account is usually at the end of their in-store experience.

Our research has made us understand that there’s an opportunity to change the ‘thing’ that links a member to the Co-op might be. At the moment this is the Membership card and it’s typically at the end of the member journey. An app could change that.

At the end of the 10 days of research, we’ve found there’s a user need for:

  1. A ‘digitised’ membership card.
  2. Allowing a user to check their rewards balance on demand.
  3. Accessing coupons from a phone.

We were given lots of ideas that would add value to members if we built an app but including them right away doesn’t make sense. We’ll start small, build the right thing and we’ll iterate and grow over time. By putting the membership card on someone’s device we create a platform for more functionality in the future.

We’re building a Co-op app

A small team has started building an app for members. We’ll build it and test it to gather more insights and identify risks. It’ll also give us an opportunity to observe people using the app in a real environment. Not all tills can scan barcodes on phones so we’ll be trialling the app with colleagues in the Angel Square store because we know that the tills here can. If it’s a success we can then begin to roll the app out to selected stores.

The value behind this kind of trial is that we have no commitment to do more, we can test this initial slice of functionality, learn from it, and then use that learning to decide where to go next.

Jack Sheppard
Interaction designer

Kathryn Grace
Service designer

Steve Foreshew-Cain: a Member Council event, an award win and Food colleagues come to Federation

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update. It’s been a really big week this week.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of joining our National Members Council to share with them the work that we’ve been doing in Co-op Digital over the last year. Catherine Brien was with me and she talked about our thoughts on data and the work that we’re doing to become trusted with our members’ data.

And a big thank you to Mary McGuigan who presented with us as well. She’s a council member who was presenting on her experiences working with our teams as a member of the Digital Working Group.

Catherine’s had a busy week as she was also representing the Co-op at the Manchester Digital Summit. Now this was a summit that was arranged by the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, and was a really great opportunity for us to get the chance to share our thoughts and our experiences about how to connect people and businesses and their communities.

On Wednesday we welcomed some of the food store managers to Federation House. They shared some brilliant ideas with the team who were working on the Leading the Way project so thanks to them. And a big thanks to Steve who took some time out of his busy diary to sit with Kim Morley as she demonstrated some of the exciting work that the Leading the Way team have been working on.

A massive well done to the team working together with our colleagues in Funeralcare to transform their business. I’m not sure if you’re aware but they won an award last week. The Digital Leaders award for the best large enterprise project. That’s a brilliant achievement for Robert, Andy, Carl and the whole team and very well deserved.

And finally a hello to some of our new starters. We welcome Sophie Benger to the Digital Engagement Team where she’ll be helping our data science team explain some of their work. We also welcome Adam Westbrook who’s joined the Engineering team this week as a platform engineer.

Well that’s about it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.

See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Digital Chief Operating Officer

Making the move to user research

User research helps make products and services that work for the people who use them. It takes loads of different forms including lab sessions and interviews, onsite visits and analysing data but, regardless of its form, it must be present throughout the design process. And even after the thing is live.  

Moving into a user research role

I’ve worked at the Co-op for just under 2 years. I originally joined the Analytics and Optimisation team, but for the last 10 months I’ve been a user researcher at Co-op Digital.

User research really appealed to me because it’s about listening to users as well as looking at data. My old role was heavy on the quantitative side of things: I evaluated data collected from user journeys and improved the experience for users. Good user researchers consider both quantitative and qualitative research so I’ve been working on my qualitative research skills. Now I feel even better equipped to help teams design the right thing.

User research at Co-op Digital

I applied for a user research role after seeing the work that our now Head of User Research James Boardwell and the team were doing with wills. The multidisciplinary team was working in an agile way to build a digital service to make it simpler and quicker for Co-op customers to get a will.

I saw how both data and qualitative research fed into the design process. User research formed the basis for discussions and the team could test ideas, put them in front of people and iterate them quickly. The whole team came to user research sessions so that everyone saw first-hand how users behaved when we put prototypes in front of them and asked questions. The team analysed the themes that came out of the sessions together which meant that everyone had a similar idea about where the design was heading.

Everything moved so quickly and decisions were based on things that the team had seen or heard. At each show and tell the team knew so much more than the week before – they’d added another piece to the jigsaw. They’d started small and built the right thing, quickly. I loved watching their progress.

My first taste of user research

Supporting James was my first experience as a user researcher. I joined the Wills team during a sprint focused on increasing the number of people making it to the confirmation page. I already had good experience in this from my previous role but here I also got to see James talking to people, showing them the prototype and doing qualitative research in lab sessions.

The data I’d collected told us what was happening with real people using the website, and James’ conversations with people told us why it was happening. The data showed that the exit rate from the ‘Your details’ page was disproportionately high. Qualitative research told us that people felt uncomfortable giving their personal details before knowing exactly what the service offered. Changing the order of the pages, so, giving the user more upfront information, resulted in more people completing the form.

The 2 kinds of insight complemented each other. You can read more about this in James’ post, User research and sample sizes.

Learning how user research works in a product team

I spent 6 months working with the Membership team too. User research gives us the chance to test things to make sure we’re doing the right thing for users. This way, any decisions we make are better informed.

Working on Membership opened my eyes to other ways of doing research too. It’s not just about interviews. We:

  • used qualitative website feedback and quantitative analytics to compare what users told us with what they actually do
  • visited stores to find out what our members and customers talk to colleagues about
  • spoke directly to members

It’s about analysing all available resources.

Leading my first project

Photograph of a user research session. Shows 10 members of the Electrical discovery team talking about and analysing what they've seen in the user research lab.

For the last 2 months I’ve been leading the user research on a discovery in our Electrical business. This project has helped me learn a lot about how user research informs service design through techniques like customer journey mapping and service blueprints. Service design is a fairly new way of thinking at Co-op Digital so leading this project was sometimes challenging, but we’ve got a strong user research community at Co-op Digital and support and advice was always available if I needed it.

Hard work, but worth it

I think the biggest challenge for a user researcher is using all of their observations and data to find the need, and working with the team to translate these into things we can work on.

User research encourages teams to take a more balanced approach to design. It changes the way teams work and brings the business and digital sides of things together. It’s a way to stop people jumping to conclusions about what’s ‘right’ because we’re using evidence to make decisions. And ultimately, that’s going to work better.

If learning about how people behave and why sounds interesting and you want to help teams build the right thing, quickly and cost-effectively, get in touch with James Boardwell or leave a comment on the blog.

Vicki Riley
User researcher

Steve Foreshew-Cain: Goodbye & thanks Mike. We’ve got this.

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello. It’s been another big week this week at Co-op Digital.

We welcomed three members of our Group Exec into the Digital team this week. Our Group CEO Steve, our Group Deputy CEO Pippa and Rod who’s leading the work on developing our new strategy which has digital at its heart.

We were very fortunate that Steve and Rod were very gracious with their time and gave us two hours at our all team event this week where they took questions on what they think the future of digital is here at the Co-op. They talked about a momentum that is building as we look into Renew.

We also welcomed Pippa to The Federation where she met with some of the teams that are working very hard on Co-op Digital products and services. She took a tour of our new co-working space which we’ve opened here at The Federation, taking time to make her mark on the on the table on that floor.

And of course it wouldn’t be a Friday video without mentioning some of our new joiners in the Co-op Digital team. So a big welcome to Gillian MacDonald who joins our user research community to Eliza Tyrrell and Chris Winkley who are joining our agile business analyst community and to Rachel Murray who is joining our content design community.

And the other big news of the week on a slightly sadder note is that we’re going to be saying goodbye to our friend Mike Bracken. Mike leaves an incredible legacy here at the Co-op, he has literally attracted hundreds of people to come and join the Co-op as it embarks on its digital transformation journey.

We’ve had a number of successes over the years already not the least of them is this building that I sit in today.

So, whilst it’s with sadness, a message to Mike. We’ve got this.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Chief Operating Officer – Digital

Introducing our informal cross-Group meet ups

Around 70,000 people work for the Co-op Group across 5 business areas so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of people we’re never going to get to know. It’s really easy to only spend time with people you come into contact with which is a shame because we can learn a lot from colleagues working in other areas.

To help bring people from the Co-op Group together and to start conversations we hold ‘Tea for 3’ meet ups. Over the last 3 years there have been over a thousand meet ups and over 350 people have connected. We’re hoping more people will get involved after reading this post.

The meet ups are an opportunity for colleagues across the business to say hello, find out what other people do and whether they have any common interests inside or outside of work. Ultimately, meeting and chatting to people with different expertise is an excellent way to get different perspectives on solving problems and ways of working.

How it works

The meet ups are open to colleagues across the Group. If you’re interested in getting involved you can sign up to take part. Three people are chosen at random and introduced over email beforehand. They then meet in person, over the phone, videoconference, Google Hangout or however works best.

The next 30 minutes is up to them. We haven’t proposed a series of questions or conversation cards or anything. The whole thing is supposed to be really informal so that conversation will flow freely.

The lowdown from this month

Photograph of Nassali, Sabrina and Mike sitting at a table and smiling at the camera.

We were involved in this month’s Tea for 3 meet up. We are Nassali Douglas, a food project manager in the Retail Support Centre and Sabrina Jacobs, a community programme management office (PMO) manager.

Nassali’s role is to manage changes that affect our food stores. This includes things like our customer service learning and development initiative, Service Rocks, as well as setting up email in our stores to improve the way colleagues can communicate with the business and their communities.

Sabrina helps manage many aspects of the Community Change programme which aims to build on Membership as the community strategy. She also looks after budget management, recruitment, governance reporting and risk and issue management.

The third person at our meet up was Mike Bracken, Co-op’s Chief Digital Officer. Mike is responsible for making the Co-op an organisation that can operate effectively in the digital age.

We spent most of our meeting chatting about how we can use digital to encourage younger people to become Member Pioneers, and how the Digital team is helping some of the exciting developments in our food stores.

If it wasn’t for this meet up, it’s unlikely our paths would have crossed and even more unlikely that we’d spend half an hour chatting and learning from each other.

Tea for 3: networking works

Since the meet ups started, people have made new friends and acquaintances and there have been occasions when people’s informal networking has been useful in other ways.

One example of many would be when Nassali went to a meet up and found out that our Co-op Academies were looking for school governors. The person who told her encouraged her to apply because Nassali had mentioned she had a background in teaching and was looking for a way to reconnect with education. She’s now a governor for the Co-operative Academy of Manchester.

Every now and then you bump into people you’ve met through Tea for 3 and it’s great to already have a connection. It turns out that Nassali will be joining the same team as Sabrina when she moves roles in the next few weeks – good to have a friendly face in a new team.

You can sign up to take part in Tea for 3 or email EA.ThinkTank@coop.co.uk if you have questions about it.

See you for a cuppa soon.

Sabrina Jacobs and Nassali Douglas  
Community PMO manager and food project manager

Mike Bracken: 4.5 million active members, Federation and thanks to Jamie

(Transcript) Mike Bracken: Hello, welcome to the Co-op Digital weekly update.

We’ll start as ever with a big number, 4.5 million active members now at the Co-op, so those numbers keep growing and that’s a huge change since September 21st last year, so well done to the team for that. And that work’s being recognised.  This week the team in Membership have been shortlisted for a Retail Week Technology Award for that program, so well done to them.

Other highlights of the week, we’ve opened our co-working space in Federation building, the Federation right over the road from Angel Square you can now go see that check out the details on the blog.

I’d like to welcome a few people Nassali Douglas has joined as a Member Pioneer Manager, Richard Shenton coming as a Finance Manager, they’ve come from other parts of the Co-op, Louise Nicholas has joined us as a designer welcome to the Co-op and I’d like to say goodbye to Jamie Arnold who’s been brilliant leading our agile work as a delivery manager, he’ll be much missed.

Thank you very much to him and see you next week.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

The co-working floor is now open at The Federation

We’ve blogged before about how the work is progressing at Federation House. The co-working floor at The Federation opened this week. Victoria Howlett the Federation Manager agreed to show us around the space.

(Transcript) Victoria: Hi, I’m Victoria Howlett and I’m the Federation Manager over here at The Federation. We’ve just added a bit more work to the first floor which is open this week, so would you like to come and have a look?

So as you can see, we’ve added some artwork to the walls here which was done by the wonderful artists Nomad Clan. We actually added this artwork after the attack at the MEN, which we thought was an incredible thing to do for our city and the people here.

As you can see all the furniture is now in place, we’ve got the lovely Chesterfield lemon sofas here, we also have green and pink sofas dotted around.

Here we have the main communal kitchen point on the floor and we’ve got these picnic benches here. We’ve asked everyone who’s been involved in this project and all Co-op colleagues to come over and sign the benches, which is actually such a lovely thing. We’ve had some amazingly heartwarming messages on here. We welcome everybody to come and sign these and anybody that visits the floor please grab a sharpie that will be on here and sign.

We’re really excited because the NHS research and development North West team moved in here this week. Kainos moved into the pods here this week too and we’re welcoming the Startup Factory.Tech on this floor soon. We’ve had such a high interest in the pods on this floor that they are more or less all taken now, we’ve only got one left.

Now we come to the second floor, and on this floor we have 9 private suites which roughly range from 200 square foot all the way up to 1,400 square foot.

This is the main kitchen point, the communal kitchen point on the floor and I will walk you through the corridor here. You can see on this hallway we’ve added in the windows here along the sides and this is just to create that community feel still. There are private suites here, but it’s also to ensure that there is that level of community engagement throughout the building and that everybody’s a part of each of the businesses that are based here.

Keep an eye on Twitter and the blog for more updates on The Federation.

Victoria Howlett
Federation Manager