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

Tech savvy or not, parents’ support is important to girls in tech

A few weeks ago, the latest cohort of girls graduated from the Liverpool Girl Geeks Academy. The girls, aged 13 to 17, had spent 8 weeks at after-school or after-college workshops that aim to encourage and inspire them to consider a career in tech. Co-op Digital sponsor Liverpool Girl Geeks and I was invited along as a representative to speak at the graduation ceremony.

Parents don’t have to be experts to show support  

As I was giving my congratulations speech, it struck me that the room was packed out with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Seeing such strong family support in the audience made me think about the important role parents and the wider family have in helping girls to explore technology and coding.

I doubt everyone who was celebrating at the graduation was tech savvy. Chances are they might not have a clue what coding is, let alone how to do it. But that’s fine, they don’t need to. The important thing is that they’d recognised the importance of nurturing girls’ interest in this area, just like they might for children who show an interest or aptitude for playing sport or music.  

Carry on fighting the good fight

Liverpool Girl Geeks wants to decrease the gender imbalance in tech by teaching and inspiring women to consider a career in the sector. Co-op Digital partners with them as we feel strongly about increasing diversity too. Unfortunately, in February 2017, Manchester Digital released new research that showed the gender skills gap in the north west had increased since the previous year, particularly in technology roles. The report said that only 12% of technical roles belong to women.

So yes, programmes like Girl Geeks are invaluable when it comes to actually teaching skills and building confidence in young women. However, getting into workshops or onto courses in the first place is much more difficult without someone at home recognising an interest, supporting it, encouraging an application and, in the case of younger teens, physically getting them to a venue to learn.

Class of June 2017

Photograph of the latest graduates from the Girl Geek Academy smiling at the camera next to a poster that says 'The Future is Female'.

Each 8-week Academy course has a theme. The girls who graduated recently did workshops around code and music and learnt that knowing how to code can lead to a wide range of careers from engineering to fashion. On this course they learnt how to use code to make their own music using publishing platform Bandcamp.

Applications for the next Girl Geek Academy are open

The next Academy workshops are themed around wearable tech and are lined up to start in September 2017. If you know a girl between 13 and 17 with a creative and curious mind and an interest in technology, digital and design, encourage her to apply now.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Digital Business Architect

To find out more, watch a report about Liverpool Girl Geeks

Steve Foreshew-Cain: a Member Council event, an award win and Food colleagues come to Federation

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update. It’s been a really big week this week.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of joining our National Members Council to share with them the work that we’ve been doing in Co-op Digital over the last year. Catherine Brien was with me and she talked about our thoughts on data and the work that we’re doing to become trusted with our members’ data.

And a big thank you to Mary McGuigan who presented with us as well. She’s a council member who was presenting on her experiences working with our teams as a member of the Digital Working Group.

Catherine’s had a busy week as she was also representing the Co-op at the Manchester Digital Summit. Now this was a summit that was arranged by the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, and was a really great opportunity for us to get the chance to share our thoughts and our experiences about how to connect people and businesses and their communities.

On Wednesday we welcomed some of the food store managers to Federation House. They shared some brilliant ideas with the team who were working on the Leading the Way project so thanks to them. And a big thanks to Steve who took some time out of his busy diary to sit with Kim Morley as she demonstrated some of the exciting work that the Leading the Way team have been working on.

A massive well done to the team working together with our colleagues in Funeralcare to transform their business. I’m not sure if you’re aware but they won an award last week. The Digital Leaders award for the best large enterprise project. That’s a brilliant achievement for Robert, Andy, Carl and the whole team and very well deserved.

And finally a hello to some of our new starters. We welcome Sophie Benger to the Digital Engagement Team where she’ll be helping our data science team explain some of their work. We also welcome Adam Westbrook who’s joined the Engineering team this week as a platform engineer.

Well that’s about it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.

See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Digital Chief Operating Officer

Making the move to user research

User research helps make products and services that work for the people who use them. It takes loads of different forms including lab sessions and interviews, onsite visits and analysing data but, regardless of its form, it must be present throughout the design process. And even after the thing is live.  

Moving into a user research role

I’ve worked at the Co-op for just under 2 years. I originally joined the Analytics and Optimisation team, but for the last 10 months I’ve been a user researcher at Co-op Digital.

User research really appealed to me because it’s about listening to users as well as looking at data. My old role was heavy on the quantitative side of things: I evaluated data collected from user journeys and improved the experience for users. Good user researchers consider both quantitative and qualitative research so I’ve been working on my qualitative research skills. Now I feel even better equipped to help teams design the right thing.

User research at Co-op Digital

I applied for a user research role after seeing the work that our now Head of User Research James Boardwell and the team were doing with wills. The multidisciplinary team was working in an agile way to build a digital service to make it simpler and quicker for Co-op customers to get a will.

I saw how both data and qualitative research fed into the design process. User research formed the basis for discussions and the team could test ideas, put them in front of people and iterate them quickly. The whole team came to user research sessions so that everyone saw first-hand how users behaved when we put prototypes in front of them and asked questions. The team analysed the themes that came out of the sessions together which meant that everyone had a similar idea about where the design was heading.

Everything moved so quickly and decisions were based on things that the team had seen or heard. At each show and tell the team knew so much more than the week before – they’d added another piece to the jigsaw. They’d started small and built the right thing, quickly. I loved watching their progress.

My first taste of user research

Supporting James was my first experience as a user researcher. I joined the Wills team during a sprint focused on increasing the number of people making it to the confirmation page. I already had good experience in this from my previous role but here I also got to see James talking to people, showing them the prototype and doing qualitative research in lab sessions.

The data I’d collected told us what was happening with real people using the website, and James’ conversations with people told us why it was happening. The data showed that the exit rate from the ‘Your details’ page was disproportionately high. Qualitative research told us that people felt uncomfortable giving their personal details before knowing exactly what the service offered. Changing the order of the pages, so, giving the user more upfront information, resulted in more people completing the form.

The 2 kinds of insight complemented each other. You can read more about this in James’ post, User research and sample sizes.

Learning how user research works in a product team

I spent 6 months working with the Membership team too. User research gives us the chance to test things to make sure we’re doing the right thing for users. This way, any decisions we make are better informed.

Working on Membership opened my eyes to other ways of doing research too. It’s not just about interviews. We:

  • used qualitative website feedback and quantitative analytics to compare what users told us with what they actually do
  • visited stores to find out what our members and customers talk to colleagues about
  • spoke directly to members

It’s about analysing all available resources.

Leading my first project

Photograph of a user research session. Shows 10 members of the Electrical discovery team talking about and analysing what they've seen in the user research lab.

For the last 2 months I’ve been leading the user research on a discovery in our Electrical business. This project has helped me learn a lot about how user research informs service design through techniques like customer journey mapping and service blueprints. Service design is a fairly new way of thinking at Co-op Digital so leading this project was sometimes challenging, but we’ve got a strong user research community at Co-op Digital and support and advice was always available if I needed it.

Hard work, but worth it

I think the biggest challenge for a user researcher is using all of their observations and data to find the need, and working with the team to translate these into things we can work on.

User research encourages teams to take a more balanced approach to design. It changes the way teams work and brings the business and digital sides of things together. It’s a way to stop people jumping to conclusions about what’s ‘right’ because we’re using evidence to make decisions. And ultimately, that’s going to work better.

If learning about how people behave and why sounds interesting and you want to help teams build the right thing, quickly and cost-effectively, get in touch with James Boardwell or leave a comment on the blog.

Vicki Riley
User researcher

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

Helping member pioneers and local causes get to grips with social

The Social team has been running online tutorials to help colleagues, new member pioneers and people from local causes use social media to create a community.

You can join our tutorial about Facebook communities on Thursday 6 July from 5pm.

Working together

Part of a member pioneer’s role is to get people talking about what matters most in their local community through meetings and events, and to encourage people to volunteer and co-operate on worthwhile causes.

My role as part of the Social Media team has some similarities. Our team’s purpose is to spread the word and encourage people to engage with their Co-op, but we do it online rather than down the local community centre. It made sense that our team shared some of our online community management skills with the new member pioneers. We wanted to help them promote their work and talk about what being a co-operative means in a wider sense.

Figuring out how we could help

The Social Media team met our member pioneers at their induction day to get a feel for how we could help them. We wanted to speak to them to find out their level of knowledge around social media before we spent time and money on designing training materials we thought they might need.

Photograph of a table with post it notes with notes from member pioneers written on them. Notes include: 'when to use @ handles' 'can we use co-op in the account name' and 'what can we use asset wise on social?'

The things they wanted to know more about were:

  • which social channel is the right one for them or their cause
  • how to set up a new Twitter account
  • how to find people in their community on Twitter and who to follow
  • what ‘trending’ means
  • what type of thing they should tweet
  • what a hashtag is and how to use one
  • how to get started with local PR

Live broadcast tutorials

When we knew where member pioneers needed support, we could put together tutorials to help. We’ve been hosting them on YouTube Live then making them available on YouTube for anyone who missed out.

We broadcast our first tutorial ‘Getting started on Twitter’ a few weeks ago and welcomed around 30 live viewers including colleagues, member pioneers and people from local causes. People could ask us questions in the live chat as we were going along and we’ve had over 400 views of the recording too.

Our second stream was about ‘Creating content to share with your community’. In it, our social media content planning manager, Cat Storey, talked about what makes good content and how to present it.

You can watch these videos on our YouTube playlist and give us feedback to help us improve.

Join our social community of practice

We’d like to keep the conversation about effective ways to engage with people going. We listened to member pioneers and set up a Facebook group where we can chat and share advice and ideas. If you’re a member pioneer or work closely with one of our local causes, join our social community on Facebook. Hear from you soon.

Scott Bennett
Social media community manager

Join our tutorial about Facebook communities on Thursday 6 July from 5pm.