What we learnt from talking to our members about data

On the Friday before our AGM, we held an event at Federation House so we could continue the conversation about how the Co-op uses and shares members’ data. We wanted to invite our members to help us shape our data policy in person. It was an open invitation and 63 people took the time to chat to us.

We ran 3 workshops to find out:

  1. How the Co-op compares to other businesses when it comes to being trusted with data.
  2. What data are people willing to share for social benefit and commercial benefit.
  3. What types of usage of data people are happy with.

Being trusted with data

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In this workshop, we asked people about the organisations they trusted (or didn’t) to use their data, with examples from banks, telecoms, member organisations, broadcasters to bring the subject alive. Depending on their personal experiences with those organisations, people have very different views around who they trust to hold their data securely and use that data sensibly.

An important thing we learnt was that the organisations people trust with their data have very clear reasons for why they hold different data and how they use it. Some people thought that, as the Co-op, we might end up with large amounts of data from across our different businesses (insurance, food, electrical and legal services). They wanted us to be clear about how we use those different types of data. So, as we build new data stores, we need to make sure that we’re careful and transparent when sharing members’ data across the Co-op.

Willingness to share

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Our second workshop asked if members were OK with sharing different types of data with the Co-op – information like their age, gender, salary, religious beliefs. We split the group into 2. One half was thinking about sharing data for commercial reasons, to improve our products and services. The other half was thinking about sharing data for social reasons, like community research.

We gave the groups a scale of how comfortable they were with sharing, from “Not at all” to “Yes please”.  People have many different opinions and different worries, concerns or reasons for sharing. Most people made up their minds with a firm “no” or “yes”, but the reasons for their answer varied widely, and some people changed their mind as the group debated the issues.

What does this tell us? Well, if we’re going to be trusted with holding more data, we’re going to have to give people choices around how their data might be used, both within the Co-op and externally.

Play your consent right

The third workshop was a game where people voted about whether they would give consent to companies to use their data for specific purposes. For example, if people would consent to the Co-op using their habits of purchasing pet food from Co-op stores to let them know about special offers in pet insurance.

Feelings were pretty much summarised by 2 responses:

  1. “I’m an individual – don’t assume what I’m interested in by age, postcode, gender.”
  2. “Maybe I shouldn’t provide more data about myself in case I miss out on special offers that the Co-op targets at particular people.”

We’ll need to think about how to use data to help people find the things we think they are most interested in, whilst not precluding people from other offers.

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Hearing from data experts

We live-streamed the opening discussions and you can watch the keynote and panel discussions on our Youtube channel.

A massive thank you to our experts who gave up their time to travel to Manchester, speak, answer questions and mingle throughout the event. So thank you:

What’s next

It’s not too late to join the conversation because we’ll keep talking to our members about data. Last week we published a post called Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used. We’re going to look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes and add what we found out at this event

In the coming weeks, we’ll join Data Leaders to plan improving how we use data across the Co-op. We will also be working with our colleagues in Data Protection. And of course, we’ll discuss all of this with our Members’ Council and advisory boards.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

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

Catherine Brien: great speakers at our data trust and transparency event

(Transcript) Catherine: Hello and welcome to this week’s Digital blog.

You may have noticed that I am not Mike Bracken, my name is Catherine Brien and I’m Data Science Director here at Co-op which means I’m on a mission to make data a valuable asset that we’re using every day in the business to deliver more for our members and our customers.

The big event this week that you’ll have heard of is our AGM which takes place on Saturday and I want to take this opportunity to share with you an event we’re holding, a fringe event in Federation House, 5.15pm to 7.30pm. The purpose is for us to speak to our members about how their personal data is used to help us shape the most appropriate and best policy we possibly can to build trust with our with our members.

I’m delighted that Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute will be joining us to give a keynote speech and we’re joined by 3 fabulous panelists Jessi Baker from Provenance, Sarah Gold from Projects by If and Richard Potter who’s CEO of Peak, a start up from here in Manchester.

You can still register on our Eventbrite page and if you’re not able to make it in person we will be streaming parts of the event live online so please do look out for the links on our Twitter feed.

Separately, we always use the opportunity weekly to welcome new joiners to Digital and this week we’ve got two new joiners I’m delighted to welcome. First is Nathan Langley second is Katherine Wastell both designers joining us working for Andy Travers. Welcome to the team.

That’s it for now, thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

The data trust and transparency event will be at Federation House from 5.15pm on Friday 19 May.
Sign up for the event.

Mike Bracken: 850k new members, Agile Manchester and Mental Health Awareness Week

(Transcript) Mike: Hello. Thanks to Dave for doing this video last week. I’m back this week and again another big number 850,000 new members joined the Co-op since September 21st last year. That’s a terrific achievement by the team and membership continues to grow.

On that note, our members will be voting next week in our AGM, in Manchester at the end of next week. If you’re eligible to vote, please do. The cut-off date is a 15th of May.

Four big shoutouts this week. The first goes to Rufus, Paul Gerrard and the team have published our Modern Slavery report. It’s vitally important that the Co-op backs this initiative and we’re taking real action to put people back into society, back into the workplace. Do check out the report on the website.

Another shout out to Tom Walker, one of our user researchers has been leading on Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s great to see the Co-op support him and him engage with all the colleagues in Manchester and in the wider community to support mental health issues.

Also shout out to Anna Dick, James Boardwell, Ian Drysdale and the team for speaking at Agile Manchester a big event that we sponsored here and that we’ll continue to back, as we back that agile way of working.

And finally I got a little time this week in Federation. You see that on our website and great work with Victoria and the team who have fitted out nearly 5 floors now and with local designers and local artists, the place looks amazing.

We’ll be having a launch event later in the year and I look forward to seeing you there.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Dave Johnson: an update on Co-op engineering and our AGM

(Transcript) Dave: Hello I’m Dave Johnson, I’m the Director of Digital Engineering here at the Co-op. This is our weekly digital blog and I’d like to share with you some of the progress we’ve made in the last week.

The Digital Engineering team, which I am responsible for, builds the foundations on which we build all our services and new digital products. We focus on architecture, cloud platforms, some new ways of working such as DevOps and we do that at scale so you’ll see our services across the whole of the Co-op.

This week is a really big week for the Co-op and for all our members. Our voting packs went out this week and if you’re an eligible member you’ll have received a pack to vote on the motions for our AGM which is on Saturday the 20th of May. We’d love
for you to join us and you’re welcome. But please remember to tick the box within those voting packs letting us know that you’re coming, so we can be ready, and we look forward to meeting you here in Manchester.

And we have some colleagues to celebrate this week too. Firstly, Sam Johnson. Sam is a new general manager of The Federation, our new tech hub that we built here in Manchester. Wendy Coello has also joined us. Wendy will be leading our member and colleague communications here at the Co-op. We’re also celebrating a big promotion: James Boardwell has been promoted to Head of User Research here at Co-op Digital. Well done James.

Finally, if you’d like to join Co-op Digital we continue to hire. The blog’s up to date and we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you.

Dave Johnson
Director of Engineering

Co-op AGM 2016

Today I had the pleasure of attending my first Co-op AGM along with nearly 1,000 members at Manchester Central.

It was inspiring to see and hear from so many co-operators – people who clearly feel very passionately about the success and future of Co-op. Here’s the full text of my speech.

Tomorrow I will be discussing our digital strategy with Nick Crofts and our Council, and from Monday we will be sharing more details here.

Co-op Logo
Hello. First a personal note. I’m new here. This is my first Co-op AGM and I wanted to say how proud and excited I am to be here. I’ve been motivated through my whole career by helping align the open and innovative values of the internet with those of pioneering organisations. I can’t think of a better place to continue that work than here. And, I should also say how warm the welcome has been to me and my team. Thank you for that. It feels like we’ve come home.

Now, we’ve heard about how we want to return to our pioneering roots, how we disrupted markets by doing the right things things that mattered to society. Today the some of the biggest disruptions to traditional businesses and organisations have come from the digital world.

But there’s an important thing to remember about digital. It doesn’t just mean changing the logo on the website and making some apps. ‘Digital’ when done well, means fundamentally redesigning the services we deliver, it means changing the way we work, very often this means we make things cheaper and more efficient – but that’s not the main point – the main point is that we create different, better, stronger relationships between our colleagues, you – our members, our partners and our customers.

We’re doing three things to deliver on that digital promise

1. Helping our businesses get digital

We’re working with each of our businesses  to build new services and improve the ones we’ve got. We’re starting small, working iteratively and making sure our services are focused relentlessly on the needs of their users and our members.

You’ll start to see the fruits of our work soon – we will be sharing our progress on these projects on our blog at digital.blogs.coop/

This will be a feature of our work from now on – radical transparency. One of the things the internet is great at is sharing – allowing people to see inside your work, at their own convenience. We won’t be bombarding you with email, but we will invite you to follow our progress in as much detail as you’d like. That feels like a Co-op thing to do – right?

Behind me are some of the prototypes we’re working on right now, for funeral care and for wills. We’ll be sharing those with your council tomorrow and then we’ll be sharing them on the blog for everyone to see what we’re up to. Our plan is to extend the openness and transparency of our pioneers into the new worlds of digital.

So keep an eye on the blog, there will be exciting things happening there.

2. Making the Co-op trusted with data

Right now businesses like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon control our access to  huge amounts of information, the news we read, the products we buy, the ways we communicate.

This has delivered tremendous convenience, but it’s not come without questions. People are beginning to wonder what companies have access to what data. They’re asking how it’s being used. They’re starting to question whether maybe they’ve shared too much.

If our members and customers trust us with their data then we can build enormously convenient and compelling services for them, we can use that data for good. But it’s increasingly clear that we have to win that trust, that we can’t take it for granted.

So we’re committing to a data relationship that’s unambiguously clear and transparent. We will always be clear and precise with you, our members about what we are going to do with your data. Frankly we shouldn’t have much choice – you’re our owners. You will be in control of the data we hold on you.

3. Pioneering digital membership

And Digital will also play a crucial role in making membership stronger and more vibrant.

We’ve talked about the 5% for you and the 1% for your community. But the other element of being a member is having a Co-op voice. Having a say, as co-owner, in the way the business is run and the decisions it makes.

And if we’re really serious about democratic participation we need to find far more ways to make this happen. Elections and Motions are important. But there’s so much else we can do using digital.

We want members to give us real time feedback on our products and services. We want members to help shape our ethical strategy not once a year but all through the year. We want to make it easier for members to connect with each other and share the stories coming from their own communities.

This is just the beginning. Make no mistake, the future of the Co-op is digital because the future of society is digital. It’s our job to make sure that there’s a digital world out there with Co-op values, not just the values of Silicon Valley and venture capital.

Come back next year and you’ll see how we’re making that promise a reality.

And keep an eye on our blog.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer