What we’ve learnt since coop.co.uk went live

Users come to coop.co.uk to find whatever Co-op thing they’re looking for. The site’s been live for almost 3 weeks now.

To help us design the new site, we looked at how customers and members were using the old one. For example, we ordered the content so the most popular things appear first. We’ve been looking carefully at the data to monitor traffic and see if any user journeys are broken and so far, everything’s looking good.

Thorough prep paid off

We changed the old site for a few reasons: the content management system was difficult for us to develop and improve; the performance was slow and some sections of the site weren’t responsive.

The old site had been up and running for 8 years and the team that was working on it wasn’t the same as the one that set it up. Over the years, documenting different parts of the site had got messy and complicated but we knew that and planned for the problems we thought we’d face.

Positive results from our biggest change

The biggest change we’ve made is improving the search function. We stopped it searching old content so that it didn’t return results that were out of date and for the first time searches can find food stores.

Since then, we’ve seen the number of searches increase by 28% (admittedly, this could be seen as a positive or negative thing) but the number of search refinements has dropped by 13%. That’s when a user’s first search didn’t return a result they were looking for so they search again using different terms. This means people are finding the results they want, quicker.

We’re still learning though

Five days after we launched we added a feedback box on the search results page. A recurring piece of feedback that we’ve had through it is that users are struggling to add points to their Membership card.

“I went shopping and forgot my Membership card. I’m just trying to add my points. ”

“I forgot to take my Membership card. I have my receipts, can I add my points.”

We’ve now created a ‘Forgotten card. Add your Co-op rewards’ page in response to those comments.

Making things better and quicker

To help make the site quicker and potentially save on server costs we’ve been making improvements to our codebase. We’re halfway through refactoring the backend which should more than double the server response time and add improved resilience under load.

Looking at the analytics

As part of the piece work, we also looked at our old urls. I blogged back in January 2016 about why we got rid of 20 websites to improve the quality of our content. We’ve got rid of lots more since then. We took down 400 pages of information on Co-op estates and we’ve put in lots of redirects from searches. The most notable one is when people search for our funeral homes we direct them to the new Funeralcare branch finder.

Despite the cull, there hasn’t been a massive drop in the number of page views. The blue line is the new site and the orange is the old site.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 15.40.45

All this is just the latest chunk of work we’ve been doing – we know there’s still a long way to go. As always, we want to improve the site so if you have feedback, we’re keen to hear it.

Peter Brumby
Digital Channels Manager

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

Our Co-op Architecture Principles

Before Christmas we started working on our architecture principles; a set of principles to empower and guide all colleagues who design, build or buy technology for the Co-op. We put together a team from across the Co-op Group to create the principles in line with Co-op values.

Since then, our architects who put them together have improved them, shortened them and have tested them with some of the people who’ll be using them.

It’s important to show and to share

We knew that the best way to get meaningful feedback would be to test the principles with real users. We asked our colleagues across different projects and business units to test them so we could get a better idea of how well they might work in the wider Co-op. Colleagues told us they wanted the principles to have more clarity, direction and include pointers on how to use them. So we’ve made changes based on their feedback.

Here’s a shorter version of the latest version of our 10 Architecture Principles. Note: this is just that: a latest version, and we anticipate this will change (probably shorten) in the future.

  1. Understand what people need

We find out who all the real users are and how to meet their needs in order to define what a service should do and who else is it impacts. Technical and design decisions should come from what people need and not from organisational structures or silos.

  1. Act based on context

Context includes our environment, the wider Co-op, the value chain, the changing market, and the problem we’re trying to solve. Technology quickly becomes uncompetitive as the industry moves on. We need to look beyond the industries we know well for examples of ways we could do things better.

  1. It’s not just about the technology

Coming up with a technology ‘solution’ before we’ve understood the problem could mean we waste significant time and money on a project that goes wrong. We understand problems well when we test how a technology fits with users needs, processes, people and data.

  1. Working together makes things better

When we work in silos we usually only see things from one perspective. That means we’re less likely to spot problems that will come up later on in a project so having conversations early on will lead to a better outcome.

  1. Trusted, reliable and secure

We need to consider how well a technology needs to work (as opposed to what it does) so that it’s trusted, reliable, easy to support and secure. If we don’t do this, the technology won’t meet user needs and will cost a lot of time and money to fix. We need to take time to ensure the technology is secure, reliable, supportable and that it handles data responsibly.

  1. Prove it works

Just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work here. If we haven’t proven that something actually meets real user needs before committing, we might find ourselves making compromises later on.

  1. Balance cost, value and risk

We should make decisions based on a good understanding of cost, value and risk and how they impact each other. For example, choosing a solution because it’s the cheapest to deliver doesn’t mean it’s going to be the cheapest to run, manage or provide the same amount of value.

  1. Scope and ownership will change

We can’t assume everything will stay the same. Things will change but we don’t always know what when we’re designing something. Smaller things are easier to change so we need to look for opportunities to break down problems and choose the right technology for each component.  

  1. Make things so that they work with other things

If our technology limits our access to data, is difficult to use with other things, or doesn’t work with other technologies, we’re going to have very little flexibility in the future. We can create value we didn’t expect through appropriate sharing and reusing of services and information while respecting data protection, privacy and security requirements.

  1. Do the hard work to keep it simple

Thinking ahead is important. If we’re replacing something, we should make sure we completely remove the old thing first. We need to leave things in a better condition than how we found them.

Next up: governance

We’re going to start work on a new governance model that will sit alongside and complement the principles. We’ll talk about our progress on that soon.

The Co-op architecture community

 

We’re always looking for talented people to come and work with us. At the moment we’re recruiting platform and software engineers to join our growing engineering community. You can find out more about working for Co-op Digital.

Members, have you chosen a local cause?

This Saturday, 8 April, is the deadline for Co-op members to choose which local cause their 1% will go to. If you haven’t chosen already, sign in online and you’ll be prompted to choose one. You’ll see this: 

screen shot of what the page looks like in a member's account who hasn't chosen a local cause yet.

From this date we’ll have a new set of projects in your community for you to choose from.

How it all works

Each time members buy a Co-op branded product and swipe their membership card, they earn 5% for themselves to spend at the Co-op and 1% for their community. They can choose which local cause their 1% goes towards.

And things are going well. At the time of posting, Co-op members have raised over £4 million for local causes. Co-op supports up to 3 local causes in over 1,500 communities across the UK. You can learn more about how we’re getting on on our local community fund page.

We talk about the 5% and 1% stuff regularly on the blog but we haven’t spoken in much detail about how everything works behind the scenes. So here’s what happens next.

Paying out after 6 months

We let the funds from the 1% build up for 6 months, so in this case it’s from September when we launched the new Membership, to now.  

At the end of each day a member’s 1% balance is checked and one of 2 things happen. If a member has selected a cause, the 1% earned goes into that pot. If they haven’t, the funds stay put in an unallocated pot.

At the end of the 6-month cycle we’ll do the number crunching. Then we’ll split the 1% balances for anyone who didn’t choose a cause equally between the causes in their community. We’ll then send the sums over to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and they’ll process the payment so each local cause gets what they’re due.

See where your money’s going

Very soon we’ll have a new page on the Membership website where you can see your giving history. The page will show a list of the causes that you’ve supported. From here you’ll be able to see how much you’ve contributed as well as revisit the profile pages of the local causes to see how much they raised.

A new set of projects from local causes

If you’re a member you’ll carry on supporting the cause you chose until 8 April or until you choose a different one. On 9 April however, we’ll have a new set of projects from local causes for you to choose to give your 1% to. Between November and January, local causes applied to be part of the new round of funding. Since then we’ve checked the applications are eligible and have given our colleagues a say in which local causes they want to be part of the Local Community Fund.

You can become a Co-op member online or pick up a temporary card in store.

You can see the latest data on the 5% and 1% rewards on our Membership data page.

Liam Cross
Agile business analyst

Mike Bracken: our progress with platforms and a reminder to choose a local cause


Mike: Hello. Week 12 update from Co-op Digital.

Quick update this week. We’ve passed 700,000 new members and another big date coming from Membership. 8th of April is the date that we have got to get all our members to select their cause. If you haven’t done so already the 1% that’s the amount that goes to you from your transactions is allocated to your selected cause. We’ve got thousands of causes up and down the country, please do pick your community cause and allocate your funds to them by the 8th of April.

Big win this week for our platforms. One of the first things we’ve done is a location service. We started off in our Food business getting that working for all our stores, that’s now live in Funeralcare and we’re mainstreaming all our services, our platform services, location the first one really well done to that team.

And a big bit of PR of this week. In the week of Brexit, Claire Braithwaite who’s leading our ventures play was on the first plane to leave Manchester to San Francisco. A new direct link it from Manchester here, and she was on part of that trade mission to develop the digital business connections between the 2 cities. It was great to see her go it’ll be great to see her come back and we wish her well.

I’m off next week and this will be brought to you by Rufus who’ll give you an update on Membership.

Have a good Easter.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

If you’re a Co-op member and haven’t chosen your local cause yet, sign in online to choose where your 1% goes by 8 April.

How listening to social media could influence decision making

Social media is an important space for us to learn more about how our online communities feel about us. By listening to, and sometimes joining in with, conversations about the Co-op we can glean valuable insights about what matters most to our members and customers. And that’s really important in a cooperative.

Talking policy

The Social Media team has begun working with our Food Policy team to group online mentions into related topics. The idea behind the collaboration is that we’ll make more informed policy decisions the more we listen.

We’ve started splitting mentions into the different areas of policy. They are:

  • Agriculture – anything to do with farming and how crops and animals are raised and looked after
  • Diet and health – this one’s self-explanatory!
  • Sustainability – mentions about any impact on the environment
  • Ethical trade – things to do with workers’ rights
  • Safety and legislation with Co-op or anyone affiliated with us

Listening in

Using a social media listening tool called Brandwatch, we’re picking up instances when people are talking about Co-op and our grocery competitors. Brandwatch crawls over 80 million sources, including social media and newspaper websites, looking for mentions based on a set of rules we’ve written called a Boolean query.

For example, the query that helps us pick up conversations and content related to ethical trade about Co-op and our competitors, reads like this:

screen grab from Brandwatch. the rules says:

Writing rules similar to this one for each of the policy topics has helped us pick up 56,378 mentions since the new year. That figure includes things about our competitors as well as things about our own grocery business.

We’re listening. Now we can start learning

We’ve begun to analyse the data. During #FairtradeFortnight in March, Co-op announced our commitment to 100% Fairtrade cocoa in all own brand products from May 2017. The announcement was a big deal and we saw it dominate online conversation related to ethical trade during those weeks. In fact, Co-op represented 50% of the conversation while our grocery competitors combined made up the other 50%.

The orange line represents daily conversation about Co-op and ethical trade so far in 2017. The other lines represent conversation about our competitors and ethical trade. This shows that when it comes to mentions related to ethical stuff which is part of our co-op difference, we really dominate.

graph shows Co-op to have generated far more mentions than competitors from around 20 Feb to 13 March.

It’s really useful to know how people are talking about us and when we come up in conversations. It means we can shape our approach to content and even future policy so we can meet our customer and members needs better.

Genuine feels

We’re going to start looking at sentiment on social so we can categorise mentions as being positive, negative or neutral. Sentiment software, including Brandwatch, can struggle to recognise sarcasm or slang and that means a user’s genuine feelings might not be picked up. We’re looking at ways to stop sentiments being categorised incorrectly so we can feel more confident in the results.

Where we’re going with it

We’re also going to be working with the data science team to see if there’s a correlation between membership recruitment or membership card transactions and spikes in conversation across social channels.

The more we listen, the more we’ll learn. The more we learn, the better the decisions we’ll make for our members and customers.

You can follow Co-op Digital on Twitter and add to the conversation. We’re listening!

Sophie Newton
Social media community manager

Immediate changes in Membership reporting lines

As we develop our membership services proposition across the Group, and now we’ve welcomed Roberto Hortal into the Group as Director of Membership Products and Services, Nathan Warner will step into the role of Interim Head of Membership Proposition, reporting to Roberto.

Working closely with the members leaders groups, Nathan and Roberto will be responsible for developing our member proposition and will immediately focus on our operations and financial plan for 2017, concentrating on membership service delivery and implementation.

Rufus has a huge responsibility in the next few months: to represent our Membership proposition externally to our Council and FRTS. Along with owning and delivering our Community strategy including Co-op Campaigns, Partnerships and Ethical Trading positions and internal and external communications.

Roberto, Nathan and Rufus continue to work as part of the central Digital team.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer