Product Range Finder

Hello, I’m Claire Carroll. My teams speak to thousands of our members and customers every day in our member and customer contact centre.

A picture of Claire Carroll
Claire Carroll

One of the most common calls to our stores and our customer care team is whether or not a particular product is stocked in a store. Our stores stock slightly different products because:

  • they are different sizes
  • customers in different locations have different needs

When we get calls about what products are in a particular store, it takes the team a little time to find the answer. Advisers needed to look in a few different places for the information. The system we used was clunky, taking around 10 minutes to locate a store. Knowing it would take too long, advisers would often tell customers that they would need to call customers back. This was a poor experience for our members, customers and colleagues.

A few months ago, with their service design partner UsTwo, the digital team began a discovery with our Food business to choose 3 alpha projects.

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Product Range Finder Show & Tell

One of the chosen alphas was Product Range Finder. The alpha project was to build a simple prototype, allowing my team to have a single tool to use when answering queries on product range, and to see if this tool improved our efficiency and experience.

The new prototype is much easier to use than the old system and provides more information. For example, it tells customers how many stores stock a particular product, and how many of those stores are in a 15 mile radius from them.

Product Range Finder – showing list view of the products, and how many stores stock the listed product
Product Range Finder – map view of stores that stock the product selected

We receive 200 queries a month about finding product ranges. The prototype saves us approximately 10 minutes on each one. This equates to an extra 7 hours a week.

We’ve found this prototype so invaluable that we requested changes are done out of hours. We didn’t want any down time during the day.

My team’s enjoyed working as part of the product team to test the prototype and suggest improvements. The advisors have loved being the experts and have been amazed how quickly their feedback has led to improvements to the system.

Next for the product team is the beta phase. They’ll make a technically sound, scalable version of the prototype. They’ll make sure the the data feeds are right, look at adding availability information, and take some steps towards making the tool customer facing.

Claire Carroll
Head of Member & Customer Services

Lending a hand in-store

On 21 September we launched our new membership, meaning our members now earn 5% back on Co-op products and services as well as 1% back for their community. Colleagues from our 1 Angel Square support centre lent a hand in-store, picking up the slack and keeping the stores running whilst frontline in-store colleagues took the time to explain our new membership to existing and potential members.

Michael helped Cardigan Road’s Co-op in Leeds

Cardigan Road is a really busy store and was in the busiest week of its trading year as the local freshers arrived the week before. Being back in-store reminded me of just how hard it is on the shop floor: breaking down outer cases, working trolleys of product and keeping the shelves stocked.

There’s a lovely team at Cardigan Road, with some very loyal, long-serving Co-op colleagues. It was really good to see our new packaging coming in too.

Nathan went to his local Co-op in Grappenhall

I spent a day with a great team who had really put the extra effort in to support our membership launch. Friday was delivery day and seeing how the team have to manage the store, customers and shift changes whilst not really knowing what time deliveries would arrive, gave me a great appreciation of how hard it is for store teams to balance everything.

I personally managed to sign up six new members in a 30 minute slot, when I wasn’t stacking shelves.

Catherine spent the day in Camley Street’s Co-op

Catherine Brien

Catherine with Umesh and his team

I spent the day stocking shelves, marking down product and serving customers on the tills. I was most struck by how much juggling my in-store colleagues need to do. Camley Street is a small store, so colleagues need to jump between shelves and tills minute by minute.

My high point of the day was signing up five new members. After an 8 hour shift I was exhausted, I have tremendous respect for my colleagues on the frontline day in, day out.

Russell went to Grosvenor Street’s Co-op in Rochdale

I was joined by Adam, a new starter learning the ropes. Adam didn’t know much about the Co-op, but was fascinated by membership and – by the end of his first shift – was a real advocate.

All the colleagues I met seemed genuinely pleased with our new brand, new membership and new products.

Sophy helped Glentworth Road’s Co-op in Morecambe

Store manager Dave had me helping out with stock reports when I arrived and soon I was chasing round the store hunting for products that had run out and for gaps on the shelves.

Dave, Linda and the rest of the team make me feel welcome. Still, the work is complex and I was slow, (I spent 15 minutes searching for a product called a ‘Sour Cup’ with the chilled ready-meals. It turned out to be a pot of mixed sweets.)

Linda visited West Street’s Co-op in Leek

I helped the team take in their deliveries and restock the shelves. The store manager, Christian, was excited to hear about the digital projects that came from our service design workshops with Food and how they could help stores and customers alike.

Ian went back to his home city, Peterborough, to help Werrington’s Co-op

It was great to see store manager Richard and Debbie, the store’s community pioneer, getting involved in events. The team found some extra budget to create a fantastic Halloween display and had begun planning an afternoon tea, with games and prizes, for the local community residents’ group, (which Richard was coming in to support on his day off.)

Richard has also been supporting other stores in the area which don’t currently have full store manager cover, some nearly an hour’s drive away. Richard stepped up without complaint, confident his team would continue to do what‘s right for customers and members in his absence.

Together colleagues from across our Co-op helped to inform existing members about their new membership and also recruited nearly 500,000 new members.

Provenance alpha

Hello, I’m Cathryn Higgs. As head of food policy I’m constantly looking to find ways we can live and breathe co-op values to help our customers and members.

Picture of Cathryn Higgs

The Co-op has always been a leader when it comes to championing the customer’s right to food that is formulated, manufactured and marketed in a way they can trust. The Rochdale Pioneers set up their own shops to protect workers and provide ordinary people with good food at fair prices at a time when food was regularly not what it said it was – bread flour bulked out with chalk, milk diluted with water and tea that really wasn’t made with tea leaves.

We’ve always campaigned for clearer food labelling and easy to understand nutrition labelling which led to us  introducing a front of pack scheme a decade ahead of the government’s traffic light system. We’re also proud to have been the first to label eggs intensively produced, a technically illegal step but which directly led to the law being changed allowing eggs to be labelled ‘from caged hens’.  

More well-known is our commitment to Fairtrade. We believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and take seriously our commitment to improving the lives of people in the communities we trade with. Which is why are still the only retailer to have converted all of our own brand tea, coffee, block chocolate, sugar, bananas and roses to Fairtrade and are proud to be the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine.

Openness, honesty and social responsibility are part of our Co-op ethical values and we have a long history of taking action to support customers right to know about how the products they buy are made and sourced so that they can make an informed purchasing decision and the best choice for them personally.

Right to know – for the digital age?

We’ve started exploring ways we can deliver on this policy using digital and one of the ways we are doing this is by looking at partners who are already leading the way.

We’re working with, a social enterprise using blockchain technology to enable  transparency of data and verification of claims in supply chains, in order to  tell verifiable stories about where our food comes from and how it gets from source to our shops.

Picture of the Provenance alpha team

To do this, we are running an alpha to see what’s possible. Then we will consider the value this could offer our customers and members as part of our commitment to help them make decisions that fit their budget values and ethics.

We’ll update you on our progress as we go. 

Cathryn Higgs
Head of Food Policy

Service Design workshops in Co-op Food

Last week we began a series of Service Design workshops with our Food business.
We’re working on a two week discovery phase by the end of which we’ll pick three projects to take in Alpha.

The project is being led by myself and Jo Whitfield the Finance Director in Food. We’re working with UsTwo as our service design partner. Importantly, as the unit of delivery is the team, our team is made up of CoopDigital, Food and UsTwo.

The team have visited stores, spoken to our colleagues, spent some time in a depot and with our call centre. We’ve been out talking to customers and members.

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Food Service Design discovery

There’s lots to cover so we’ve been sketching user journeys with colleagues from every part of the business. We’re looking for clear user needs that will make things easier for members, customers or colleagues.

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Outputs from a sketching workshop

As we believe in working in the open, we’ll blog about our progress on this blog.

Ben Terrett
Group Design Director

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: