2019 highlights: there’s a lot to be proud of

Today the Co-op Digital team came together at our Christmas conference to share and celebrate our successes from 2019.

This year hasn’t been without its challenges but it’s important to reflect on what we’ve achieved thanks to talented and conscientious delivery teams, communities of practice, and individuals. Their commitment to meeting colleague, member and customer needs is unfaltering.

Here’s to many more victories in 2020.

:tada: :raised_hands::skin-tone-3:

‘One web’ platform

In 2019, we’ve increased the number of websites, products and services on the coop.co.uk platform from 3 to 10. Between May and October this year we had over 4 million visitors – that’s an increase of over 200% for the same months in 2018.

Next year we’ll continue to replatform our business sites – we re-platformed Co-op Food and most of Funeralcare this year and in 2020 we’ll be prioritising Co-op Legal services and Insurance. The aim is to give teams autonomy over their own sites so they’ll be able to update content themselves and use the Design system as a guide to improve brand familiarity.

Rebekah Barry, Content designer

Funeralcare customer-facing work 

This year we got involved in the customer journey after focusing on colleagues for so long. 

photograph of team standing in front of a white board of post it notes and sheets of paper on the floor listening to tom speaking

In February, we created the ‘service map of a death’, which shows everything people do after a death. 

It includes the touchpoints with our service, pain points and opportunity. The map formed the basis for a year of digital working on the customer journey and played a part in building the exec’s confidence in our ability to deliver a great customer experience that would help Co-op Funeralcare meet its goal: increase funeral numbers.

We created ‘After party’ – how we’d disrupt recommendation and consideration in the Funeralcare market. It showed the problem isn’t around which tool people use to plan for their funeral, but how Co-op Funeralcare can motivate people to plan theirs. This piece of work stopped the exec simply buying a later life planning tool and gave them the confidence to ask us to work on the Funeralcare website. We were also commissioned to create the new visual design and do discovery into priority areas, ready to start creating new features in 2020. 

So many highlights, so little space. But Rae, Tom, Helen and Gail have smashed it out of the park all year.

Hannah Horton, Principal designer

Digital Skills team

We help teams in the wider Co-op adopt digital culture and agile ways of working. In 2019:

  • 457 people attended one of our agile masterclasses
  • we coached 22 teams in agile ways of working
  • 450 people attended a training session or workshop
  • we’ve partnered with teams on 2 discoveries

Our highlight of the year was collaborating with members of the People team on a discovery to understand how colleagues experience and understand their benefits package.

Thanks you card. It says: Thank you for all you've done through the discovery, for enlightening us on new tools and techniques and for helping us understand how we can make a difference to our colleagues. from paul and team.

Above is a thank you card – we’re very proud to have influenced ways of working and helping the team become more user-centric.

Vicki Riley, User researcher

Guardian plans

Guardian plans is part of Co-op Funeralcare and aims to improve the experience of creating a pre-paid funeral plan. Traditionally, a colleague filled in paper forms, posted them to head office and the information was typed into our system. The new site allows colleagues to add information during a meeting with a client which means it’s recorded instantly – it used to take up to 7 days. It has also improved accuracy.

This year, we tested the site in 2 regions, learnt lots, iterated and scaled up. Now, over 90% of pre-paid funeral plans from over 1000 funeral homes come through Guardian plans.

Liam Cross, Product manager

Shifts

In 2019 we’ve iterated, researched, and iterated again on the Shifts’ ‘exceptions’ feature which helps managers make sure colleagues are paid correctly for extra hours they’ve worked. We ran 2 trials involving 130 or our 2661 stores (around 5%) and now around 15% of all exceptions are managed through Shifts.

Here’s some of the feedback:

Screenshot 2019-12-11 at 15.33.39.png

Screenshot 2019-12-11 at 15.53.29

We’ve also helped reduce the most common type of payroll error by almost 49% and colleagues have praised how Shifts helps stores find cover for shifts at short notice.

In the last half of 2019 we averaged 4 releases a month (around twice as many as in the first half).

Thank you to subject matter expert Julie Haselden at head office – she’s been so generous in sharing her knowledge.

Robyn Golding, Delivery manager 

Tech ops

In 2019, the Tech ops team completed:

  • 1,065 changes (as of 10 Dec) with a change success rate of 98.21%
  • 1,127 service requests such as new starters, Leavers and access requests
  • 27 stories and 118 sub tasks since we changed to 3-weekly sprints in September

Steven Allcock, Digital service manager

Pay in aisle, Visit and SmartGap (Operational Innovation Store team)

Our team looks after 3 services used in Co-op Food stores. Here are our 2019 highlights:

  1. Pay in aisle – lets customers skip queues by paying for items on your phone. Trial in 32 stores with a significantly improved, frictionless user experience, reaching up to 1% of transactions across particularly engaged stores.
  2. SmartGap – removes a cumbersome, time-consuming daily paper process. We’ve gone from prototype, to alpha and beta within 9 months, it is now rolling out to all stores to save colleagues time, and over 20 million sheets of paper and better product availability for customers. visit-on-till-screen
  3. Visit (as shown above) – replaced the need for a signing in book with a digital sign-in on till screens. Saving colleague time, and meaning we are more compliant with asbestos and fire safety, and can better track our contractors.

Charles Burdett, Designer

Co-operate

We’ve had loads to celebrate this year but we’ve pulled these points out as our highlights of 2019. We’re proud because:

  • 12% of people are returning to Co-operate
  • feedback about the platform has been positive – for example: “How fantastic that Co-op are empowering communities!”
  • the community has added over 300 events to our ‘What’s happening’ page since July
  • there were 1,600 page views in 2 weeks for our ‘How to organise a community event’ guides
  • … and the feedback on them was good too, for example: “A really useful guide for organising community events!”, “This is great, really useful” and “Love this, what a great idea!”

Special shout out to Natalie Evans, our community subject matter expert and resident Member Pioneer. Her energy and focus have been incredible.

Ben Rieveley and Jen Bowden-Smith, Product managers   

Food Ecommerce

This year we’ve replaced the proof of concept third-party front end with our own. When the 2 were running side by side, the performance stats from 12 to 24 November showed:

  • for London traffic on mobile conversion rate increased from 3.3% to 5.15% (a 56% percent increase)
  • A 22% decrease in bounce rate on mobile

Regular workshops and working transparently have helped us create valuable relationships with the wider Co-op Food Ecommerce team. We’ve also been able to show value in our approach and have started to change the way some of the business team interact with us for guidance, as opposed to just delivery.

A great team to work with. Challenging (in the right way!). Always pushing us to think of the customer first and to be different when the easiest thing is to stick with the familiar.

Gary Kisby, Head of Web Operations

Sophia Ridge, Product manager

Digital newsletter

The newsletter gently pokes the organisation to look at future digital opportunities and threats, and it helps show public readers what we’re thinking.

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Subscriber growth is around 170% year on year and the open rate is approximately 50%. Big thanks to beloved readers, Richard Sullivan, Jack Fletcher, Linda Humphries and everyone else who has sent stories to the #newsletter Slack channel.

Rod McLaren

Co-op Digital blog

In 2019 we published 32 posts, by 41 authors – 22 of these identify as female, 19 as male. We’ve heard from a range of seniorities but a less balanced mix of disciplines – 7 posts from researchers; 3 posts about product decisions and the same number about delivery; but only 1 post by an engineer. We’ve gained 169 subscribers – some internal, many from orgs like Citizen’s Advice and the fin tech sector.

My highlight was working with the Design team on a series of posts to support their 90 minute show and tell which explained the benefits of being a design-led business to our stakeholders.

The posts are something to point at when stakeholders would like to know more about our ways of working.

Amy McNichol

Customer and member

We’ve made a lot of improvements for customers and members this year. Here we are looking at our screens and the big screen.

mx0YD

Here are our top 10 in no particular order.

  1. We’ve made 339 changes to date with 98% success rate and 99.5% availability.
  2. We launched the Co-op app and it’s had nearly 200,000 downloads.
  3. We’ve built a single place to sign into Co-op online services (500,000 API calls a day).
  4. Fought off constant bot army attacks. :robot_face:
  5. We launched digital offers and members are making around 656,000 offer selections a month.
  6. Local causes pay out supported (£17M paid out!).
  7. This year was the first time we’ve launched with 3 new local causes in every community. This was made easier at least in part because we helped with changes to remove the need for the charities aid foundation vetting and paying out to causes.
  8. All new systems were built with serverless technology.
  9. Reduced AWS cost by more than £5,200 per month.

Paul D’Ambra, Principal software engineer

Co-op Insurance

Co-op Insurance design team won Best in Digital – Direct to Customer at the Insurance Times ‘Tech and Innovation’ awards.

insurance

The judges were impressed with our customer and metric-focused approach, alongside the lengths we go to benchmarking ourselves against competitors and better understanding the challenges customers face, now and in the future.

Azra Keely, Optimisation consultant 

Legal services

We are a new team working on a series of alphas to test if we can increase sales and product mix by using a conversational tool.

The first alpha is to help recommend the type of will someone should get. Wills are challenging to understand and research has told us they’re not at the forefront of people’s minds. We want to educate people about what wills can protect against and which will might be right for their circumstances. We are working closely with our stakeholders and we’re really pleased they’re attending our user research sessions showing they are bought in to listening to user needs.

Liam Cross, Product manager

Guardian

Last year, we completed the rollout of Guardian to all Co-op funeral homes across the UK (over 1000!). In 2019, our focus has been continued iteration and improvement.

25% of users responded to a National Promoter Score (NPS) style survey we sent out and the average rating was 7.5 out of 10 – positive but still room for improvement. We worked closely with our 2 least satisfied groups of users, to design solutions to their problems.

We developed 8 new features, eradicated 3 bits of time-consuming paperwork and simplified workflows to save over 100 hours of time to-date. We got some excellent feedback from colleagues about the changes we made. One said:

Hi Guardian Team, just wanted to say thank you for all the previous changes done recently. From a Funeral service operative point of view it has helped amazingly.

We’ve also done lots of work to increase the stability and resilience of Guardian, with some major missions to improve our release process, our backups and re-work some legacy features to keep them fit for the future.

Daniel Owen, Product manager

Co-op Health app

In May we launched the Co-op Health app. In the app you can order your repeat medication and choose how to get it – either collect it from your chosen pharmacy, or get it delivered to your door for free.  

Health Blog Post

Different GP surgeries use different systems to manage their patient’s prescription. Since launching the app we’ve integrated with more of these systems, meaning patients from 99% of surgeries in England can use our app.

In October we were also the first service in the UK to offer ‘NHS login’. This means people can choose how they register for Co-op Health – either by visiting their GP surgery or completely online (using NHS login)Around 20% of new customers choose to register using NHS login.  

Being the first organisation to use NHS login is a massive coup for Co-op. We’ve worked closely with NHS Digital, sharing designs and feedback. Massive credit to Jack Fletcher, Dan Cork, Catherine Malpass, Ben Dale, Ayub Malik, Andrew Bailey, Stephen Gatenby, Alex Potter and the rest of the Health team for making this happen.  

So far, we’ve delivered 12,447 prescriptions to customers and have a 4.1* rating in the Google Play and Apple app store. 

Joanne Schofield, Content designer

We’re testing digital offers for members

Back in March, we posted about running a discovery to find out what would be possible with digital offers for Co-op members. That was 6 months ago and a lot’s happened since then – here’s an update on the work Digital have been doing with the Personalisation team in Co-op Food.

Quick research recap

Our work on digital offers is an extension of the work we did last year when we tested out an app for members. One of the reasons that this turned out to be a no-go was that lots of our stores don’t have tills that could scan the app.

However, we did find that people like the idea of having something on their phone rather than carrying a membership card around with them. Research said this was true of offers too. At the moment, members receive their personalised offers on paper from the till, just before their receipt is printed. To take advantage of money off they have to take, keep, bring back, and then remember to use the paper coupon next time they shop with us.

Quite an arduous process.

What we’ve done so far

With that research in mind, the Food teams have been hard at work changing the offers platform to make sure we can offer digital offers, and we, the Digital team, have built a website and an app that will present the offers to users each week.

Here’s how the website is looking:

Digital offers member website

Here’s how the app is looking:

How the app looks. Scrolls through offers.

Now it’s time to test

Next month we’re going to test the service on a website and on an app with real users. We’ve recruited 12,000 members to be involved though our ‘Member Voice’ programme. These are engaged members that shop with us regularly, and who understand that things might not always work the way they expect them to.

The most important outcome right now

The main objective of this phase is to make sure everything works as it should, technically. Our aim is for:

  • members to be able to choose offers through the website and the app
  • members to be able to redeem the offers in store
  • all the data to flow to the right places, for example, offers show up in till transactions which can be fed back into Finance which funds the offers

We’ve worked with the teams in Food and Retail IT to build the service in a way that doesn’t rely on changes to our tills. Once a member has chosen an offer, it’ll be loaded onto their membership card, and redeemed automatically when the card is swiped and the matching product is in the basket.

For this phase of work, we’ve focussed on making changes to the system that produces paper coupons to support a digital offers service. Regardless of how the service will eventually look, these things need to talk to each other before it will work for customers. Once we get this part right, we can build on and improve things such as the more commercial aspects – for example, how many offers would we give, how frequently they’d change and whether there’s a type of offer that works best.

Learning as we go

Testing with real customers in real stores is so important for us, as it will inform what we build next. People tend to get overly excited about money off their shopping in research sessions, but observing what people actually is the most valuable.

We’ll analyse the data we get back to measure how members are using the service, and gather feedback to learn what works for them and what doesn’t .

Around 20% of the 12,000 test members have agreed to participate in further research, so we’ll gather more feedback after the trial through surveys, phone interviews and face-to-face sessions.

Fixing things before moving forward

Before we go bigger with this, we need to fix some things. The priorities in our backlog are:

  1. Make digital offers available to all members – existing ones and brand new ones too.
  2. Make it easier to find and upload images for offers – at the moment, new photographs sometimes need to be taken.
  3. Look at the data trends to work out how we can keep offers varied and interesting as well as personalised.

Of course, we’ll also use the feedback gathered in the trial to prototype and test different ways we could present offers to members. We want to build a service that’s simple and intuitive to the point it doesn’t need explaining at all, but has the depth and value to keep people coming back to use it week on week.

We have lots of ideas here, but until we’ve tested them with real customers we have no idea what will work.

One Co-op

This alpha is a great example of different Co-op teams bringing their expertise together and working collaboratively.

The Personalisation team in Food are experts in creating the right offers for the right members, so they’re leading the thinking on new offers for new channels. The Retail IT team have made the changes we needed to our offers platform in a way that ensures the customer’s experience at till is protected. And the Digital team have built a new service that’s fit for the future, with a front end that the user will interact with.

We’ll post on what we learn from testing at the end of the year. Watch this space.

Joel Godfrey
Product manager

A discovery into digital Membership offers

Last year we tested out an app for members. The app we built allowed members to:

  • scan their ‘digitised’ membership card
  • check their reward balance on demand
  • choose a local cause for their 1% reward to go to

Listening to members

The feedback we got showed that people like the idea of having something on their phone rather than carrying a card around with them. However, lots of our stores don’t have tills that could scan the app.

We also realised that the features we’d included in the alpha weren’t compelling enough to launch as it was. However, feedback told us that personalised offers are something members really care about, and we felt we could improve them if we digitised them. At the moment, members receive their personalised offers on paper from the till, just before their receipt is printed. This means that to take advantage of money off they have to take, keep, bring back, and then remember to use the paper coupon next time they shop with us.

How can we help members benefit?

We wanted to find out if it’s possible to give members choice and control over the offers they get – this might be through an app or on the Membership website. We thought about how we could show members a pool of offers and then load the ones that appeal to them onto their physical membership card so they could redeem them at any Co-op store.

We worked with the Personalisation team in Food who look at members’ buying habits and match offers to members. Together, we’ve done a discovery to find out what’s possible with digital offers.

Asking questions

We looked at:

  • what our competitors are doing and where we think we can do better
  • if we made offers digital, how many offers would we give
  • how frequently the offers would change
  • if there’s a type of offer that works best in a digital format
  • who’d run the upkeep

Working quickly

Then we built a quick proof of concept, for what we’re calling a functional test. The page showed a group of offers and allowed members to choose 4 to load onto their membership card and redeem on the tills in the test lab in our head office.

It looked like this:

Screen shot of the page we mocked up. It shows a group of offers and allows members to choose 4 to load onto their membership card

This let us prove quickly and cheaply that we can build this for all members, on a website or through an app. The Membership team had already done a lot of research into digital offers in the past, so we were confident that this was something that our members would want and understand.

From a technical point of view, it’s looking promising

With a bit of tweaking, we expect the system that powers coupons at tills will also work with digital offers. It’ll be relatively straightforward to build the parts that the member interacts with, and it should be possible without needing to update our tills.

Testing our commercial assumptions

The more complicated part is figuring out which offers would be popular in a digital format. At the moment, we give paper coupons for things like dairy, bread and meat but we think that if we had the capability to switch offers in and out, offers on these things may get repetitive. So we’d look at giving offers on some smaller groups of products.

We’ll keep working in partnership with the Food team on this, but it might take a bit more time to make good commercial decisions.

What’s next?

We want to test this out with real members to prove if there’s a real appetite to use and keep using digital personalised offers.

To help us measure how many people want it, and help us build a pool of members to go to when we’re ready to test, we put a banner on the Membership website last week. So far, 21% of members who’ve seen it have indicated they’d like to help.

All being well, we’ll launch the first public trial on the Membership website and in an app this summer.

Joel Godfrey
Product manager

Allowing members to access their digital account in store

Membership is at the centre of everything at the Co-op and the Membership team works on ways to make it better.

I’m on the ‘Trading more’ Membership team and this week the first of 3 stores will get a Membership touchscreen for their shop floor. We’ve built 3 interactions.

1. Helping customers become members. The touchscreen gives high level information about Membership. Customers will be able to enter their email address and we’ll send them a link with details on how to join.

2. Encouraging temporary card holders to register and become members. The touchscreen lets temporary card holders see their rewards balance. They can’t spend their rewards until they register the temporary card so the screen asks them to enter their email address so we can send them a link with details on how to register.

3. Helping members add rewards after they’ve completed a transaction. The touchscreen asks members to type in a code from their receipts and adds rewards to members’ accounts for transactions when they didn’t swipe their card.

photograph of colleague Nancy using the touchscreen in the office. Touchscreen shows Nancy is signed into her account, she can see her rewards and she can add a missed receipt.

Why we’re doing this

The Co-op retail team is refurbishing 3 stores as we start to digitise them so we’re trialling touchscreens there. Firstly, we want to find out if customers and members will engage with us digitally, in stores.

We hope that the touchscreens will:

1. Improve conversion rates

We want to increase the number of people registering their temporary cards online. We’re hoping that the touchscreens will make membership more visible and help remind people of the benefits of being a member. By leaving an email address we’ll be able to nudge them to register their card and reinforce that message. We’ll track the conversion rate of customers leaving an email address and becoming members, or registering temporary cards.

2. Help users ‘do it themselves’

If members don’t swipe their card during a transaction, they can ask for a special receipt which allows them to add their rewards to their account later. They can do this themselves online (which accounts for 20% of visits to the site), or they can call the contact centre. These calls make up 8% of the membership-related queries. We hope the touchscreens will make things faster and simpler for members as well as reduce the number of calls our contact centre colleagues have to field.

Learning from user research before launch

We invited some people to come and test our screen in the Co-op Digital office. Seeing how people interacted with the screen was great and we made changes to improve the user experience based on what we saw.

When members and temporary card holders signed in, our original journey asked them to tap ‘Scan your card’ and they’d scan their membership card on the scanner. We found that the majority scanned straight from the home screen and were confused that it didn’t sign them in. We have now added in this functionality to make things smoother.

We also wanted to find out the type of data people would be willing to enter on the screens. We had a hypothesis that customers would not want to go through the full registration process on the screen because they’d need to enter personal details potentially in full view of other customers in store. Our user research told us we were right: almost all participants said they would have an issue entering anything other than an email address.  

What’s next

The screens are only a trial in 3 stores but if proven successful we could roll them out to other stores. We will use user research and monitoring to help us decide our next priorities.

We’ll post again and share how things go.

Liam Cross
Lead business analyst

An app for members: our progress so far

In July we posted about our 10-day discovery into an app for members. Now, almost 2 months in, we’ve built the first version of the app. Here’s an update on our progress: what’s gone great, what’s not gone to plan and why we’ve changed our minds about how we’re going to trial it.

What we’re doing and why

Quick recap: one of the most common bits of feedback from store colleagues is that they’d love to see a digital version of Co-op Membership because they see members forget their membership cards and use temporary cards regularly. This prompted us to spend 10 days finding out what colleagues and members need.

Where we’re up to

We’re working with mobile app specialists Apadmi. So far, we’ve designed and built an app that will allow members to:

  1. Scan a ‘digitised’ membership card.
  2. Check their reward balances on demand.
  3. Choose a local cause for their 1% reward to go to.

This is how it looks.

Image shows three phone screens to show each thing the app can do. from left to right the first shows a log in page, the second shows a rewards balance and the third shows the total for the chosen local cause

Naturally, there are loads of ideas about what features we should include in the app but starting small helps us make sure we’re building the right thing. By putting the membership card on someone’s device, we’re creating a platform for more functionality in the future. We’ll iterate and grow as we learn how people use what we’ve built and as we test new assumptions. There are lots of opportunities we could explore that benefit the Co-op, our members and communities.

What’s gone well

1. The app’s testing well

Throughout the development of the app we’ve been testing our clickable prototypes with real members. Vicky Pipes has been leading the research and so far, the feedback has been positive. Members have been enthusiastic about how the app could change their shopping experience and have said they’ve found it simple and easy to use.

Photograph of member's hand holding phone with membership app at the checkout

2. We know what we might explore next

Chatting to users in context has also been really valuable in terms of thinking about what we might look at next. A significant number of members have mentioned they’d like to see offers and vouchers included in the app. We’ll explore this as we begin to iterate.

3. We’ve delivered more than we set out to

The team’s been super efficient and that’s meant we’ve had enough time to do more work on the local causes section of the app. Users can find and choose local causes within the app without being directed to the website. It’s a much smoother experience and this was outside of our original scope.

Alas, some things haven’t gone to plan

1.We’re missing some data

Part way into the project, we learnt that an important bit of data isn’t available to us. The data would allow us to show a member’s previous transactions in the app. This would be useful because the app shows members’ 5% reward balance so showing previous transactions would add context to that. This could be an important piece of data for future projects so we’ll work on fixing the issue. In the meantime, we’ll leave it out of the trial.

2. We’ve changed our minds on testing. Here’s why

Originally we planned to trial the app with colleagues in the shop at our headquarters in Manchester. We know the tills there can scan a mobile phone and we knew we’d be able to interview the members taking part easily. Trialling here would have been convenient but we know that our colleagues aren’t representative of our members. We realised that for the trial to be effective we needed to get the app into the hands of members in other stores to see how they interact with it and understand how it could grow.

Responding to change

Our research and insight at this early stage suggests we’re onto something. We’re learning all the time from putting ideas in front of users as early as possible, and iterating. Trialling an app like this is a powerful way to deepen our understanding of our members and how to engage with them on mobile, now and in the future. It’s this learning that will shape what comes next.

Keeping everyone informed

Membership spans the entire Co-op Group so there are many stakeholders and it’s been really important for us to work in the open to keep everyone informed. We’ve shared weeknotes, written blog posts and held regular show and tells to show exactly what we’ve been working on. We’re happy to hear feedback if you think we could do more but we hope working in this way has helped everyone understand what the trial is, and crucially why we’ve done it.

We’ll be recruiting a diverse range of members across different parts of the country to trial the app soon. 

 
Jack Sheppard
Interaction designer

Understanding how members spend their rewards

Our data gives us insights into what our members need and want from their Co-op and it shows us where we need to improve our products and services.

When members swipe their Co-op Membership cards, they earn 5% back on what they spent on Co-op branded products and services. They can redeem that 5% at any point against any transaction. But at the moment, members aren’t spending their rewards as much as we might expect and we have £22 million of redemption funds waiting to be spent.

A million members have over £5 in their accounts, and 500,000 members have over £10. 50% of all rewards spent to date have been redeemed by just a third of our members. This means lots of people are losing out on savings at the checkout.

We wanted to find out why this is happening. First, we looked at the data we already have on how often people spend their rewards, then we did some user research to get a better understanding of the underlying reasons.

When do people redeem?

This chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The horizontal axis shows the amount of money accrued in pounds, and the vertical axis represents the number of members redeeming.

The chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The chart shows that every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions; and this is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

As we might have expected, significantly more people cash in smaller amounts than larger amounts. Considering how long it can take to build up a £10 reward when shopping for food and how often people use the Co-op for regular top-up buys, this is not a surprising find.

However the graph shows something else too. Every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions. This is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

It’s difficult to say exactly why this is happening. We had thought perhaps people were building up their rewards before using them. But actually it doesn’t seem to be a conscious decision. When customers are at self-service tills, for example, they are more likely to redeem when they see a whole number in front of them than if it is, say 77p. There’s definitely interesting psychology at work.  

We also noticed that there are spikes in redemption at Christmas and Easter. So where customers may not redeem as part of their usual shopping habits, they may see holidays as more of a time for treats, and so choose to cash in their rewards then instead.

Speaking about redemption habits with members

Our data is compelling, but it can only tell us so much. To find out more about redemptions, and the thought process behind them, our product team visited 5 stores in Manchester to do some mystery shopping and to interview customers.

We went into this research with 4 aims. We wanted to know:

  1. Why people aren’t redeeming as much as we would expect.
  2. Whether members are being prompted to redeem when they’re in store.
  3. How members approach redemption in general.
  4. How members redeem for the first time.

What we discovered was a set of remarkably mixed results.

From those we spoke to, we found that members often aren’t aware of how to redeem unless they had been shown how by another person (and once they had been shown, they would redeem again and again). Those most knowledgeable about Co-op Membership in general will mostly have spoken to Co-op colleagues to get the information they wanted.

We also saw that redemption can, more often than not, be a spur of the moment decision. If a member sees a prompt on one of the self-service tills, they can decide there and then that they want to use their rewards. All they need is the reminder.

Perhaps most interesting though was the different patterns we observed. We saw some members using their rewards regularly, no matter what amount had been accrued, some waiting until they had a whole number, and others using their rewards to make up the shortfall when they were low on cash.

What this means for the future of redemptions

Our data and research have given us fantastic insights into store behaviour and the reasons members do, or don’t, cash in their rewards. But there is much more to learn, and we will be testing the lessons learnt from our research, as well as carrying out more surveys of our members.

We know we haven’t worked together as multidisciplinary teams as much as we should have in the past as well. This work on redemptions has shown how much can be done when different parts of the Co-op, from data science to product owners to user researchers come together. We will definitely be looking to build on that.

Ultimately we also want to see how the Co-op can increase redemptions. We see these rewards as good for us, and good for our members because they show what the Co-op is all about: giving back. Every time members trade with the Co-op they get 5% back for themselves and 1% back for social causes. This is something we all want to see grow.

Alex Waters, data scientist
Charlotte King, product lead
Tom Norgate, customer offer manager
Simon Hurst, user researcher

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