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

How we tried to increase temporary card registration with flyers

Recently, in his post How we’ve helped users understand Membership, user researcher Simon Hurst said that “it’s fine to ‘fail’ as long as you do it quickly, learn from it and make changes to make things better.” It made me think about my most recent example of failing fast and how useful it was for the ‘more members’ part of the Membership team to do a quick, inexpensive trial so we could test an idea.

The problem with temporary cards

You can become a member by signing up online. You register your details, pay your £1 and your Co-op Membership card is sent to you through the post. You can also sign up in our food stores. You pay you £1 and you receive a temporary card to use there and then. The idea is that you’ll go online to register your temporary card later.

However, our user research and data show this isn’t what’s happening. 58% of temporary cards we’ve sold haven’t been registered. This is a problem because:

  • around £1 million of 5% reward is sitting in a pot, and can’t be spent until the temp cards are registered
  • we can’t get in touch with customers to let them know the balance they have because their temp card isn’t registered
  • until they register the card, customers can’t access all the member benefits. For example, they can build up their rewards but they can’t spend them or choose a local cause to support

To try and increase the number of temporary cards being registered we ran a few trials in stores. We dubbed one of these ‘the flyer test’.

Encouraging temporary card holders to register

Here’s our hypothesis:

Photo of post it notes stuck on a whiteboard with hypothesis on them. Hypothesis reads: We've seen/we've heard That people aren’t registering their temporary cards We believe this is because They don’t know they have to do anything with it, and the instructions given aren’t clear So if we Give them better instructions We'll see More members registering We'll know this is true when We see an increased temporary card conversion rate

To test this hypothesis we asked colleagues on tills in 10 stores to watch out for customers who were swiping a temporary card. When they spotted this happening, we asked them to hand those customers a flyer which had a call to action on it: ‘register your temp card’. The flyer also explained the benefits of registering the card to try and nudge people into registering.

Image shows front and back of flyer. Front says: Register your card online to claim your member rewards. Back lists things that members are missing out on if they haven't registered their cards online.

We included a vanity URL so we could track how many people registered their cards after receiving a flyer. Simple.

Learning early

We had our hypothesis and agreed our test. Our first failure was cracking the logistics of designing, printing, delivering leaflets across the country. That was hard, and so was making sure our store colleagues understood why we were doing this. This was our first learning: there are colleagues across the business great at doing this, and working with them is better than working alone.

We hadn’t fixed anything. And that’s hard to take

We sent flyers to 10 stores across the country and asked them to hand them out for the next 4 weeks. We put Google Analytics tracking in place and we decided on our measure of success: 10 visits to the URL a week, with 50% of those going on to register their card.

The test went live and we eagerly refreshed the Google Analytics report each morning waiting to see an improvement in temporary card registration. There were none. Nobody was visiting our URL.

We called the test stores. Maybe they hadn’t been handing the flyers out? Turns out they had. And what’s more, colleagues liked them because the flyers were an easy, concise way to tell customers why they should register their cards.

But they weren’t working for customers.

Over 4 weeks, 35 people visited the URL, and 3 of those people registered their cards. We hadn’t hit our measures. The test had failed.

We learnt lots, quickly

The trial taught us that:

  1. People don’t naturally move from a physical thing (a flyer in a shop) to a digital thing (our website). Even if you spell out all the really great reasons why they should. If moving from physical to digital was a natural thing for people to do, they probably would have already registered their temporary card.
  2. Involving wider team members early on is important because they may have ideas, sometimes tried and tested ones, about how to get stuff done.
  3. We should test an idea from as many angles as we can before we go ahead and roll it out further. We based our hypothesis on user research, then came up with an idea that we thought would test it. If we had looked at the data as well, we would have seen that there are only around 50 active temporary cards per store, and that these cards are only seen around around twice a month. So…
  4. Targeting active temporary cards isn’t the best way to solve the wider problem.

Learning a lesson cheaply, and on a small scale

We often say it’s okay to fail, but it’s still disappointing when you’ve put time and effort into something. You start picking it apart. Maybe we picked the wrong stores? Or the wrong time of year? Or the wrong colour flyer?

No, those things don’t matter – our idea just wasn’t that great.

Failing is ok, as long as you recognise when to let your idea go and move onto tackling a problem another way. So yes, we failed but we only failed in 10 shops, not all 3,000. We didn’t spend much money, we didn’t inconvenience our users and we were open about how the tests were performing in our weeknotes and our show and tells.

Most importantly we learnt enough to inform where we should focus our efforts next.

We’re moving away from encouraging users to do something towards giving them the tools they need to do it there and then – our next trial will test if customers would register their temporary cards on a tablet in store.

Joel Godfrey
Digital business analyst

How we’ve helped users understand Membership

At one point or another, most digital teams have been convinced that their assumption about how to fix something will work but when they’ve tested it, they’ve found they’re still way off solving the problem.

That’s ok.

It’s fine to ‘fail’ as long as you do it quickly, learn from it and make changes to make things better. It’s part of working in an agile way. We should talk about failing more often. So, here’s an example of how we failed fast and learnt quickly in the Membership team.

Making assumptions based on user research

We’d seen from user research that most people, especially those who were new members, didn’t understand what a co-op is, how one operates and why it’s a different way of doing business.

Most people, especially those who are new members, don’t understand it even though we include loads of info on co-ops when we send out membership cards. But it looks like people either don’t read it at all, or, if they do, they don’t remember the information. Without that understanding, the Co-op Membership is just another loyalty card to most people.

During user research sessions when we talked about the idea of a co-op, people seemed interested. Not everyone, but some. The problem seemed to be not with the quality of information being given, but where and how in the user journey it was given.

It seemed if we could more effectively convey the concept of a co-op, that would be enough for some users to become more engaged. Certainly they would be better able to make an informed decision whether they wanted to get involved. They’d become true co-operators as opposed to just loyalty card users.

Making changes based on our assumptions

We designed an interaction where the information about co-ops and Co-op Membership was introduced to people as part of the online registration. Our hypothesis was that at this point in the user journey the member is more committed and more likely to have time to read this information and be more receptive to it.

By chunking the content into sections and importantly making it dismissable, the user would be able to digest as much or as little as met their needs, rather than being faced by the entirety of the proposition in one hit.

We know people don’t read things online. In fact you’re lucky if people read more than 20% of what you stick on a screen so we kept that in mind with the design.

Here are 2 examples of pages from the prototype.

Image shows a screenshot of a member account and a box out with information about Co-op Membership. It says: 'Your say in what we do' and gives an overview of things members can do.

Image shows a screenshot of a member account and a box out with information about 'Your 5% reward'

Then we tested the new design

During 2 rounds of research we spoke to 12 people (you can read more about our views on samples sizes in James Boardwell’s blog ‘Small is beautiful’). The group included a mixture of ages, online capabilities and length of time being a member.

Before showing them our new design we asked each participant to fill in a short questionnaire to find out what they understood about Co-op Membership. We then interviewed them, and showed them the prototype that was intended to help them understand the idea of a co-op.

At the end of the session we asked them to fill in the same questionnaire.

Results showed we hadn’t got it right

As we expected, before looking at the prototype people didn’t understand:

  • what rewards they earned as a Co-op member
  • what a co-op is
  • elements of the Co-op such as the dividend, democracy and engagement

And the post-prototype results weren’t any better – the new design had had zero effect on users’ understanding.

Picking ourselves up. Trying again

We’d seen people read the information, but they didn’t take it in. Although we were giving them more control, we were still imposing a bulk of potentially irrelevant content rather than letting the user discover it in their own time, and reading as much or as little as met their need.

For some people, some of the information would have been both relevant and necessary – but for most their primary need at this point was to find out ‘what’s in it for me’ and everything else was a distraction.

So we iterated again. This time we wanted to give people a positive interaction that let them get only what they wanted, at a time when they needed it.

We added a ‘what’s this?’ drop down within members’ accounts to explain both rewards and Co-op points. Here’s how the current design looks.

Image shows a screenshot of the current design that has tested well. It shows the 'what's this' drop down box in a closed position.

Image shows a screenshot of the current design that has tested well. It shows the 'what's this' drop down box with content underneath that explains what this is.

We’d seen in research that many people often didn’t know exactly what they got for being a member so adding this was important.

Better results this time

During research we watched people time and again interacting with the drop down, unprompted. Responses were often comments from the user such as ‘ahhh, so that’s how it works’ or ‘I didn’t know that, I thought they’d send me vouchers’.

If there wasn’t that immediate, unprompted reaction we’d then follow it up with questions such as ‘what made you click on that’ and ‘what did it tell you’. This made us confident in what we were seeing had met the need we’d identified and so we released it. We know people are making use of it. Google Analytics tells us those drop down controls have been clicked 250,000 times since we released it on 14 February.

So after failing often and learning from, and iterating on, what users were saying to us, we’ve made good progress on helping people understand what rewards they’ve earned as a Co-op member.

We’re still researching how best to help people get a deeper understanding of what a Co-op is including elements of the Co-op such as the dividend, democracy and engagement. Those are things we haven’t solved yet, but we will. And it’ll probably involve a lot of failing fast.

Simon Hurst
User research

The Membership team is maturing, and so are our ways of working

On the Membership team we’re switching up how we organise ourselves to help us be more effective. Here’s why and how we’re doing it.

Evolving with the product

As teams mature, ie, they get bigger and the scope of work widens, it’s not hard to figure out that they’ll need to reorganise. American investor Ben Horowitz famously wrote about this in the book ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’. He said he believes that every time a team doubles in size, it should review its ways of working.

We’re doing something similar in the Membership team. Back in September, the product management team was just one person, Derek Harvie. Since we relaunched Membership, the scope of work has been getting larger so the team needs to scale up. The product team is now 4 people to reflect the change. One of those newbies is me.

Realising we’d outgrown stuff

When I joined, we had 3 teams: Blue, Orange and Pink. They were named after the colour of the post-it note that corresponded with what they were working on in the backlog. And that all made sense when the team was starting out; being lean and nimble negated the need to be aligned. But as our ambition for Membership grew, the team became more and more thinly spread and it became more difficult to properly focus on one thing, and really do it well.

Clarity around where we’re going (and how to know when we’ve got there)

We’ve introduced OKRs (objectives and key results) to make sure that everybody is moving together, in the same direction and aiming for the same things. Now, each team has a set of objectives and has agreed on a set of results that will show when it’s achieved what it set out to.

We looked for natural ways to split up the work so teams don’t have competing objectives. It means they can be in control of their own scope of work without lots of dependencies.

4 teams, 1 direction

At this point we naturally fell into 4 teams. This time, we’ve named them in a (slightly) more self-explanatory way. There’s:

  • More members (recruiting more members)
  • Member trading (looking at how our members shop with us)
  • Member engagement (engaging with Membership, causes and community)
  • Member services (managing the membership platform, ie, the backend infrastructure)

With clarity comes better prioritisation

Now we’re all on the same page we’ll find it easier to prioritise. Before, it was hard for the team to understand what to work on next because the tasks in the backlog fell into different areas.

Prioritising will be much simpler now we have the 4 teams working on different areas. Tasks are compared against other tasks from within that area so now it feels like we’re comparing apples with apples rather than apples with pears!

Better for us. Better for stakeholders

Working in this way is also really good in terms of how we’re working with stakeholders. The old way of working meant we had 30 plus stakeholders all wanting the tasks that fell under their area to be the priority. Hopefully, things will be calmer now each team has around 10 stakeholders to work with and include in decision making.

In a few more weeks we’ll be able to see if we’re achieving our targets and back it up with data, but at the moment it just feels like the right way to be working.

The team will continue to grow. Keep an eye on our work with us page.

Adam Warburton
Head of Membership Product

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

Getting aligned with a Membership service map

We launched our new Membership in September 2016. It’s a really massive and complex area of work and spans all 5 Co-op businesses from Food to Legal Services; Insurance to Funeralcare and Co-op Electrical. Our role at Co-op Digital is to support those 5 areas by making stuff as simple as possible for potential members to join and existing members to get stuff done and join in.

Anyway, since we launched, the Co-op Digital Membership team has been working hard to improve the online and offline experience for members and potential new members.

A ‘journey map’ for product teams

Six months ago, product manager Derek asked our team, plus Matt Edgar from Stick People, to map out the granular interactions of the membership experience on a wall in Angel Square. The digital team uses this to prioritise and keep track of the work they’re doing. On a weekly basis, they gather around the wall and update it with work in progress, problems, research and data.

It’s working well and gives the digital team a good level of autonomy.

user journey map on the wall in 1 Angel Square

However, because there are lots of people working on Membership who don’t necessarily work in digital, this level of detail isn’t understood by everyone. (Which is ok, digital isn’t everyone’s expertise). The map is also stuck to a wall so it’s not accessible to some of the wider team.

So we figured we needed a separate but related, digital as well as physical, higher level service map. It would include all the work on membership, not just the online part of it, and it’d be accessible to everyone. This way, absolutely everybody who needs to know, can be in the know.

Different user, different service map

So that teams and stakeholders can get an overall view of the activity that’s going on, Lawrence and I started mapping out the framework for a service map, or blueprint, to help everyone see the end-to-end experience, both online and offline.

Using this framework as a foundation we held a workshop with the delivery teams, the marketing team and the data science team to add what we know. And what we don’t know.

delivery teams and supporting functions adding to the map

The Membership service map covers everything from when a customer becomes aware of the membership proposition, through to the sign-up process, earning and then spending rewards, choosing a local cause and voting at the AGM.

photograph of Membership service map.

The purpose of the high-level service map is to:

  • see all the steps within the end-to-end journey
  • highlight what we know about user behaviour and service at each stage (quantitative and qualitative)
  • highlight colleague and touchpoint interactions at each stage
  • highlight metrics and data we track at each stage
  • show all the known work being carried out at each stage

The service map will add value because it will:

  • give us a single source of truth
  • make it easy for stakeholders to understand membership and engage with it
  • make our work visible to the rest of the organisation
  • show pain points, opportunities, recommendations for testing
  • help teams see what other sub-teams are working on and work together effectively
  • be the focus of membership service decision making in the future

Service mapping at the Co-op: it’s early days

Service design is a fairly new way of thinking and working at the Co-op but there are plenty of examples around the business of how useful this role can be.

The Funeralcare digital service uses a service blueprint to map the complex business of arranging a funeral from the colleague, logistical and customer viewpoints. And the Leading the Way team has mapped out the overall colleague, customer and product experience in stores.

What now?

Going forward we’ll use the map to monitor the service and make changes. The team will continue to work with the wider business to improve the service. 

Jack Fletcher
Interaction designer

Giving local causes the £9 million our members have earned

Co-op members earn 5% for themselves and 1% for their local cause when they buy Co-op own-brand products. The local cause funds have been building up since we launched our new membership in September and have reached approximately £9 million.

Six months on, we’re now starting to pay that £9 million to the 4000 local causes over the UK.

To celebrate, we worked with director Shane Meadows to show some of the projects our members have been supporting. Here’s his film.

Thank you to our members for helping us make a difference to your local communities. Like George the Poet says in the opening line of the film, “Great things happen when we work together.”

If you haven’t already, join us and become a Co-op member.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer