The first 8 months of the new Co-op Membership

We’ll be talking a lot about Co-op Membership, in the company of many of our members, at our Annual General Meeting tomorrow. We’ve also just had a retrospective where leaders from across our business got together to look at Membership. We reminded ourselves of what we originally set out to achieve, evaluated our progress and discussed what’s gone well and areas we feel we can improve on.

This seems like a good time to talk about where we’re at.

A good start

We launched the new membership scheme back in September last year and we’ve been blogging about the progress we’ve made since.

In January, we posted about our ambition: we want 1 million new members this year. Last week, Mike Bracken announced that we’ve reached 850k new members. It’s been a fantastic team effort to get to this point.

Members have earned over £45 million from the 5% they get back by buying our own-brand products and services. They also earn 1% for local causes and since September they’ve accumulated £9 million. Last month we gave that £9 million to over 4,000 local causes across the UK.

And it’s not just about new Membership. We’ve also reconnected with our loyal existing members. Since September, almost 1 million of our existing members have started to use their cards again. This means we now have 4.5 million active members trading across all our businesses.

You can see how membership is doing here.

But there’s still room for improvement

We’re pleased with what we’ve achieved over the past 8 months but there’s still much more to do. We’ve been listening to feedback from colleagues, members and customers along the way so we can continue to improve things. We do regular user research and retrospective reviews to make sure we’re continually building a membership scheme that works for our members. This is reflected in our service map that Jack blogged about recently.

photograph of Membership service map.

Just 7% of members chose a local cause during the first 6-month cycle

Members love the idea of choosing a local cause to support with the 1% they earn on own-brand purchases, but they’ve also told us that choosing a cause needs to be easier.

The team has been working hard to make it simpler on the website. We’ve iterated our design in line with learnings from research and the rate of members choosing a cause has increased by over 10%. We’re now looking to make choosing a cause simpler and more accessible in store.

There’s some confusion around reward structure

Screenshot shows Membership dashboard and rewards in punds and pence. And dividends.

We found that people get confused when a loyalty scheme rewards them with ‘points’. They ask: ‘but what are they worth?’ To make things simpler, Co-op rewards are shown in pounds and pence. But, because Co-op members are rewarded in 3 ways (dividend points, the 1% community reward and the 5% member reward) there’s still some confusion with members around how much they’ve actually earned and how to spend it.

We’ve been doing trials in store to make it easier to understand what the 5% means in terms of value by highlighting receipts, printing coupons with value and changing labeling on the shelves. We’ll be looking at making our communications simpler through things like member pricing and member baskets.

Not enough temporary member cards are fully registered

At the moment, customers can pick up a temporary card in store and start collecting rewards immediately. Then they need to register their temporary card online to become members and to be able to use their rewards. Not as many people are doing that as we’d like so we’re looking at how we can make it easier to do the whole thing in store.

We’ve been testing different options and will be running more pilots in June including use of in-store tablets and SMS messaging. We have also been considering how we take the £1 share payment. This is a really important step to be recognised as a member and we need to make it easier.

Helping more members have their say

When you’re a member you have the chance to influence what we do and how we do it by joining in. The membership website offers opportunities to ‘Get involved’. Recently, members sampled our new beers and wrote the tasting notes – a great example of the Co-op difference! Although we’ve seen some fantastic involvement from members, we think we can do more to help them find out about the opportunity in the first place.

We know that most involvement has been from new members, aged under 30, who have seen the ‘Get involved’ section of the site when they’ve completed registration. We’re looking at how we can display these opportunities in the right places to make them much more easy to find for all members.

Where we’re going from here

We’ve been listening to colleague, member and customer feedback as we’ve been going along so we can make improvements. We’ll never stop doing that. Next we’ll be thinking about new products and services we can launch, and we’re developing a plan as to how we’ll better meet our members needs on mobile throughout the rest of the year.

This is just the start. There’s a lot more to come.

Roberto Hortal
Director of Membership Products and  Services

Introducing the Digital Operations team

On the Co-op Digital blog we’ve spoken a lot about the products and services we’re working on like Membership, our new coop.co.uk site and location finder. We’ve spoken less about the Digital Operations team and the work it does before those products and services can be made available to the world.

Time for an intro?

We recently did a show and tell over in Federation but for those who couldn’t make it, here’s what we spoke about.

Photo shows a group of colleagues watching the Digital Operations team show and tells.

The Digital Operations team’s responsibilities

The Digital Operations team looks after 3 things:

  1. Service management.
  2. Platform infrastructure.
  3. IT security.

The role we play differs for each area of work. For example, for Membership our role is to run the live service and its infrastructure, whereas for location finder we’re supporting the team while they run things themselves. Sometimes, our role is more about helping teams who are designing new services to think about how they’ll be operated and made secure during their life cycle, right from the early idea through to being live.

How we support teams

Photo shows 4 members of the Digital Operations team at their show and tell.

The Digital Operations team doesn’t take on development, support or responsibility for running new services. These things fall under a product or service team’s remit and we advise them. When teams need platform or operations engineers to build and run something, we help them find the people and resources they need.

We help Digital and Group work together

Co-op Digital is only one part of the Co-op, so it’s important that the work we do is in line with the wider policies. We help digital and non-digital people work together by translating Group policies into something accessible for digital teams to work from, and by helping Group colleagues understand how agile ways of working can support the policies.

Saving teams times by creating patterns

A really important part of our role is to build a set of patterns and ways of working that will help teams build things that are secure, reliable and scalable and perform well. We’re still in the early stages but the plan is that using the patterns will help teams make sure their product or service has security controls, disaster recovery, monitoring, alerting, a way for users to tell us about issues, and a support route to get those bugs to the developers.

The patterns are being built around Co-op policies such as our security and data protection policy, which means that if a team uses one to build they will have ticked most of the security policy checkboxes.

Ready for public consumption?

We’re also the keepers of the ‘readiness checklists’ – a list of things that need to be in place before teams make something new publicly available. Points on the checklist includes whether an alpha is publicly accessible; whether it captures colleague, member or customer data and if it integrates with any internal Co-op systems. The checklists aren’t a hoop to jump through just before a service goes live – teams need to start thinking about being production-ready right from alpha phase.

Working on something new? Tell us all about it!

Our big message to teams at our show and tell was: if you’re working on something new, involve us as early as possible. This way we can share any patterns and technology that might help you work more efficiently. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel each time we build something new. If we’ve got something that works – your team can just reuse it.

Coming to us early usually means we can pick up any problems and point out anything on our checklist that your product or service might not meet much earlier. That’ll mean we won’t have to delay anything.

Another place we can help is if you’re thinking of subscribing to an online service or purchasing a product. Maybe you are thinking of starting a new blog, creating a wiki, using a productivity tool or anything else that will help you with your job – you should make sure you speak to us to find out if it needs review or if there is a suitable product already available.

Come and say hi

We have a regular ‘surgery’ on the sixth floor in Federation House at 11am on Tuesdays. We also have a Slack channel or drop us an email on digitaloperations@coopdigital.co.uk

Michaela Kurkiewicz
Principal service manager

Changes in our Colleague Communications team

I’m really pleased to welcome Wendy Coello to the Co-op as our new Head of Colleague Communications. Wendy is joining us from government where she has led communications teams in a number of areas, most recently the Government Digital Service.

Wendy will be helping us tell stories of Co-op difference to our colleagues right across the Group, working closely with our Business Units and our Social Media team. A priority for Wendy will be looking at the channels we use to talk to colleagues so that every one of our 70,000 colleagues feels engaged and excited to be a part of our new Co-op and equipped to have great conversations with members, customers, friends and family.

Robert Cohen who has been leading the Colleague Communications team for the last 2 years is starting an exciting new role as Head of External Executive Communication where he will be working with our senior leaders to identify and plan opportunities to take our Co-op difference message to a wider group of stakeholders. One of Robert’s first tasks in his new role is working on the speeches for our AGM on 20 May but he will quickly look to develop a pipeline of other speaking opportunities to showcase our unique difference.

Please join me in welcoming Wendy and congratulating Robert on his new role.

Have a good week.

Jon Church
Group Director of Communications

Steve Foreshew-Cain: paying £9 million to local causes and hosting our first digital operations show and tell

Steve: Hello and welcome to the weekly Digital update. Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise that I’m not Mike Bracken but given that I have shaved my beard off for Easter this week you might also not recognise who I am. So, I’m Steve Foreshew-Cain and I’m the Chief Operating Officer for the Digital group.

As is the tradition in these updates we start with a big number and it’s important big number this week because this week marked the day that we gave away £9 million to our community local causes nominated by our members.

And there’s another big number associated with membership this week which is that we have welcomed 800,000 new members to the Co-op since we launched our renewed membership proposition. An impressive achievement by any standard.

The other important thing to call out for those of you who are interested in the community work that we do is an opportunity to get directly involved in that by joining as a Member Pioneer. The deadline for that, to sign up, for that is the 26th of this month so less than a week away, but if you’re a colleague or if you’re a member of the Co-op you still have an opportunity to join that important work.

Another important activity this week was the first of our digital operations show and tells where we talked about platforms, we talked about service management and we talked about security and how those capabilities form a part of the digital services that we deliver and we operate.

And as is also traditional in our weekly update we say a big hello to new members of the Digital Team to a big shout out to Ian Thomas and Michael Davis who’ve joined our data team and a big hello to Debbie Roycroft who’s joined as a software engineer in our digital engineering practice.

And of those of you who are watching this because you’re interested in the work that we’re doing here at the Co-op as ever the opportunity to come and join us exists so please look at all of the opportunities that we have out there and get in contact.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Digital Chief Operating Officer

The Federation: our plans are progressing

Victoria: Hi, I’m Victoria Howlett and I’m the Federation Manager over at Federation House as part of the Co-op Digital team.

The Federation is a digital community hub. The Co-op Digital team and Co-op have put this together and it’s based on the Co-op’s ethical values.

Federation is going to be home to many different tech and digital businesses. It’s going to have a co-working floor with private offices on that floor which seat from 6 to 8 people. We’re also going to have hot-desking options on that floor so permanent desks, flexible desks, that will be available to book through the website.

We’ve been extremely lucky to be in contact with two wonderful ladies of Nomad Clan who are the artists and you’ll see some fantastic work that they’ve done throughout the north of England. We’ve ask them to look at the history of Manchester way beyond it being a Roman city and they’ve been to the archives of the Co-op and we’re going to combine that to create something really unique and unusual as it will be the first entrance point for the building, so that’s really exciting.

Roughly we’ll have 12, 13 private suites ranging from 3,000 square feet down to 300 square feet, so there’s a lot of difference there, and so were able to be home for lots of different companies and startup businesses.

It’s really exciting actually that we’re welcoming Thought Works into the Federation and they’re taking the whole of the fourth floor which is really exciting.

One thing that Co-op wanted to ensure is that they’re here to nurture, help nurture, businesses so that businesses can grow. This is really going to feel like home and for a lot of businesses and we think that that’s essential for businesses to be comfortable relaxed and grow.

So we’ve gone very neutral pastel colours, very relaxed environment, there’s Chesterfield sofas that are in yellow, there’s hanging wicker baskets that people can go and get some time out in, there’s picnic benches that will be around in the kitchen area just to relax on and then again, we’ll have the spiral staircase that will lead down to the coffee shop floor, so nobody feels closed off. We really do want everyone to feel like they can have a wander around and see see what’s going on and communicate really well with each other.

So very, very excited about the future Federation. Personally, I see Federation just going to go from strength to strength and will be around for a long time helping businesses in Manchester.

Victoria Howlett
Federation Manager

We’ve updated the ‘forms’ bit of our design manual

On 26 January 2017 we posted to say we’d released our design manual so we could start to share design styles, patterns and advice for people building digital services at Co-op.

We’ve now updated the section about making forms. We’ve done this so that our forms are clear, simple and easy to understand for anyone who wants to use them.

The forms section now includes information about ‘inputs’ (any point that the user gives us data), ‘patterns’ (ways to solve commonly occurring problems) and advice about how to design a good form.

Form inputs and patterns

We’ve updated our form input and pattern guidance with things that the design team has learned over the past 2 months.

You can use the manual to find out why, when and how to:

  • use things like radio buttons, checkboxes and text areas
  • ask people for personal information like their name, address, date of birth and so on
  • tackle recurring patterns like validation messages and ‘progressive reveals’ (showing more information based on a previous answer)

Designing a good form

But, we didn’t want it just to be a pattern library. As Steve Krug said in his foreword to ‘Forms that work‘ by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney:

“[Form design] isn’t just about colons and choosing the right widgets. It’s about the whole process of making good forms, which has a lot more to do with making sure you’re asking the right questions in a way that your users can answer than it does with whether you use a drop-down list or radio buttons.”

So, we’ve included advice about forming, structuring and wording questions to encourage us to consider the effect on the user at every point of the interaction.

What’s next

The next thing we’re going to look at is how we should design tables and data visualisation at Co-op. This will include research about:

  • how words and figures are presented
  • horizontal and vertical space
  • type sizes and weights
  • lines
  • colour
  • basic trends and comparisons

We’ll update you with the things that we learn.

Tell us what you think

Check out our updates to the form section and let us know what you think — you can now send us feedback directly from each page of the manual, without having to email.

Your feedback will make the design manual better.

Joanne Schofield
On behalf of the Design Manual Team

Rufus Olins: recruiting for Member Pioneers and paying £9 million to local causes


Rufus: Hello, I’m Rufus and I’m doing the weekly update this week because Mike’s away. I want to talk to you a bit about Membership and community, because this is a landmark week for us. There are 2 big things that are happening that I’m going to tell you about.

The first is we’ve started recruiting for Member Pioneers. We launched on Friday, a big campaign so that we’ve got 50 pioneers at the Co-op in time for the AGM, and we’re building to 1,500 pioneers.

That is a huge moment for us as we reinvent our concept of pioneers from what they were in 1844 to a 21st century version, where we have someone connecting people in every community in the UK, and improving people’s lives.

So, we got off to a great start and we’ve already had, on the first day, 40 applications or expressions of interest in the role. And that’s just the beginning. The applications are open until April 10th and we want a really high calibre of committed people that have got an appetite to make their communities better. So if you know anybody, or would like to do it yourself, please don’t hesitate to go online and fill out the form. It’s a really easy process.

The second initiative I want to talk to you about is the pay out that we’re giving to local causes. On April 19th we’re going to be paying out £9 million to 4,000 local causes. It’s a huge milestone event for the Co-op and signifies a moment where the world can see that we’re moving from being about financial transactions, which are important, to really participating and supporting those causes in our local communities.

We’re doing a social media campaign, there’s going to be celebrations in every store throughout the UK, and we’ve highlighted 46 beacon stores which are really special and will be great examples of what the best really looks like. If you can go and support your local store and get a taste of what’s going on and develop a relationship with the local cause, that’s what we’d like to see so please look out for it on April 19th and do what you can to take part.

Rufus Olins
Chief Membership Officer