An app for members: our progress so far

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

What we’re doing and why

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

Where we’re up to

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

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

This is how it looks.

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

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

What’s gone well

1. The app’s testing well

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

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

2. We know what we might explore next

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

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

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

Alas, some things haven’t gone to plan

1.We’re missing some data

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

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

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

Responding to change

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

Keeping everyone informed

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

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

 
Jack Sheppard
Interaction designer

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