New Co-op membership starts today

Our new membership begins today. Our members will earn 5% back on all own brand purchases and 1% for their community. 

Picture of our new Co-op Membership card.

From today we’re posting 250,000 cards daily to members.  Every member will receive theirs by mid October.

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that we started with a trial for 750 colleagues in our support centre, followed by a beta for our 68,000 colleagues and council members which began in July.

58,000 cards have been used over the summer, generating over 550 pieces of feedback which fed directly into improvements to the service. This membership activity by Co-op colleagues earned them £323,278 (the 5%) and £79,222 (the 1%) for their communities.

Ten things we’ve learned 

  1. One of our biggest challenges was getting users to set up their new online account set up with username and password. The challenge is matching member’s data so they can identify their account. Colleagues found this hard so we’ve made the journey more intuitive.
  2. We want to hold open and honest consent and be a trusted data handler of our members’ data. We’ve been testing the best way to explain this to give members confidence and have made some improvements to the journey.
  3. We’ve added 4,050 local causes across over 1,400 communities in the UK. We’ve found that what matters most is different in each community and there are some great things our colleagues are doing already. We learned how best to allow members to select causes. There’s a lot more to do here though, including how we allow members to search for different causes – this is coming soon.
  4. A lot can change in the 3 month period during which we manufactured our new membership cards. A member might leave the Co-op or have passed away in that time. We’ve done everything we could to be sensitive to our members’ circumstances, and to try do the right thing.
  5. Through the beta we found that we’d configured the service alerting too heavily on certain aspects. We’ve now focused more more on the end-to-end service monitoring so we can clearly see the journey our members go on, and respond quickly when things aren’t as they should be.
  6. We’ve made massive changes in our incident and release management process. Implementing ChatOps as well as making release management self service so our teams can act and make improvements autonomously and frequently.
  7. Working closely with our colleagues in our contact centre has helped us to understand and respond to issues rapidly. 
  8. We’ve made some significant improvements in the resilience and performance of the platform. This has significantly reduced our transaction time: for example registering a new member at colleague launch took 3.5 seconds, but it’s now down to 1.1 seconds for today’s launch. 
  9. We’re removed our programme management layer that helped us to get to colleague launch and are now operating with teams led by product managers. We’re set up for our delivery teams to deliver iteratively and often. We’re continuing to develop our product roadmap for the months ahead, and have already set up a new delivery team for new services we’ll launch to our members in 2017.
  10. Colleagues are very keen to start explaining the new rewards to our members.

The whole organisation has been involved, working like a true co-op, in making our new membership a reality, right from store to support centre to development teams to service management. 

Thank you to everyone.

Nathan Warner – Senior Programme Manager – Membership
Dave Johnson – Director of Engineering



The Co-op’s response to the Government consultation on Land Registry – a follow up

At the Co-op, we’re passionate about how we use data for the good of our members, and believe that, more broadly, the UK economy stands to benefit from new services that are built on data.

That’s why in May we published our concerns about the Government’s proposals to move Land Registry operations to the private sector. We weren’t alone, with 65 MPs from all sides of the House of Commons joining David Lammy in urging the government to reconsider its plans.

So it’s a good signal that there was no mention of plans in the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill that went before the Commons at the end of last week.

Let’s hope that the government has listened to all those who share our view that a commitment to open data has the potential to stimulate growth, ingenuity and innovation which are vital to the Co-op’s Rebuild and the future success of the 21st century British economy.

It’s important to us that our members voices are heard in policy debates, and that’s why we’re working on a way to make that easier in the future.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Hack Manchester

We’re delighted to be sponsoring Hack Manchester the 24 hour coding competition this year. Organisations get to set a challenge and then teams of 4 people enter, choose a challenge and after the 24 hours is up present a working product. It’s being held as part of Manchester Science Festival on 29th and 30th October 2016.

It’s a fantastic way to get people to look at a problem from a different perspective and learn to code and to work in teams.

A picture of Hack Manchester

Here’s our challenge

Let’s tackle Loneliness


We’d like teams to make something that can help people who may be experiencing loneliness connect with each other/someone. It could be something physical that can go in the front of a Co-op Food Store using something like Raspberry Pi’s, Arduino’s, or something purely internet based.


The Co-op has a history of campaigning for a better society, tackling issues of concern to our members across the UK, whether that’s climate change, votes for women or fair trade. Last year, once again, we asked our members and colleagues to tell us what issues where facing their communities, and as a result we are tackling social isolation and loneliness.

One of the ways we are responding to this issue is through a Charity Partnership with the British Red Cross. We’re not just raising money but also undertaking our own research into loneliness. Already we know it affects many people (one in 7 of our own members and customers). It’s not just something that affects people in later life, it’s something that can affect anyone at any time for many different reasons .

The research will inform how we respond through volunteering, expanding British Red Cross services, through campaigning and through what we do ourselves as a business and employer.


Mike Bracken our chief digital officer and Danielle Haugedal-Wilson who is our business architect will be judging the entrants.


PS4 plus game OR Beats Headphones & Sony Wireless Speaker OR iPad Mini
plus a bag of Co-op goodies.

We’re really looking forward to seeing what’s produced on the day. Best of luck to all of those entering.

Gail Lyon
Digital Engagement

We’re currently looking to recruit talented digital engineers/developers to support the growth of our unique business. We need people at all levels, with all kinds of skills and experience. If you’d like to be part of our digital revolution, find out more here.

Introducing Co-op Paperfree

Hello, I’m Tom, and I’m the Chief Product Engineer at CoopDigital. That means I do a bit of writing code, a bit of design and a bit of pointing at whiteboards. I’ve been here since January, and it’s been an incredible first six months. There’s a brilliant, excited team here, and I’m proud to be part of it.

You might have seen Mike’s speech from our AGM, where he set out our ambition to be, amongst other things, trusted with your data. That’s a big topic and no small feat, but we’ve been working on an experiment to help us understand what it might take.

If you’re anything like me there’s a lot of paper in your life. It just keeps turning up: envelopes full of bills, bank statements, notifications about pensions, and so on.

Often they go straight in the recycling, but sometimes I keep things around because I *might* need to refer to them again in the future. So they get thrown into heaps and piles that move slowly from the kitchen to the stairs to the attic.

Many of the people we’ve spoken to in our research feel overwhelmed by their documents: information is never to hand when they need it, things get lost, and they take up loads of room.

We think we can help, with a simple, secure app to help you go paperless. Our working title is Co-op Paperfree.


You get your documents into Paperfree by scanning them with your phone’s camera. We make the contents of the scanned photos searchable using character recognition, so you can always find what you’re looking for without needing to organise too neatly ahead of time.

But Paperfree isn’t just for storage. We’re exploring ways of to make your life easier with automatic reminders for expiry dates, and ways of safely sharing with housemates, for example.

And of course, these important documents are increasingly digital, so we’ll be supporting those equally.

For most people this is some of the most sensitive data they hold, and we’re very aware of the security and privacy risks, both technical and social. We’re working alongside Sarah Gold and her team at IF, to ensure we put our users in control of their data. We’ll talk more about this in a later post.


So that’s a quick introduction to Co-op Paperfree. It’s the first prototype we’re developing in this area, and we’re excited to have a handful of our colleagues testing it right now. (Gulp!)

If you’re interested in working on this, or products like it, we’re hiring engineers, designers and user researchers.

If you are a colleague or a council member and want to find out more you can join us at our regular show and tell which is every other Tuesday 9.30 on the 10th Floor of 1 Angel Square. The next one is the 19th July, hope to see lots of people there.

Tom Taylor

Why we’ve moved to

We recently announced that we were changing our web address to become We wanted to let you know why.

Image with

Why Coop?

In the digital space it makes sense as it mirrors the new brand identity. It’s how the majority of our users find us when searching on the web. It’s also more user friendly when using mobile and touchscreen devices. Additionally, some social platforms do not support punctuation in a hashtag, so the “-” becomes problematic. For consistency we felt that it was better to remove it.


We’ve found that .coop is relatively unknown to typical customers. Most are more familiar with and .com.

Currently, we have many different web addresses and this presents a confusing picture. We felt the need to adopt a better strategy. That is consistent, sustainable, supports the brand and is easy for customers to understand. Moving to gives us this opportunity. We will transition current and new sites into this url format in the coming months. It will allow us to better function as a group online. It will join up our businesses in a more logical manner and provide a better experience.

If you have any questions about this approach then please get in touch. Also for any council members or colleagues there is an open invitation to join us at our show and tell, every Wednesday at 10.15 – 10.45, on the 10th floor of 1 Angel Square in Manchester.

Nick Gallon

Testing Co-op Membership

To continue in the spirit of the changes being made to membership and with our renewed focus on better meeting our users needs, it’s been another exciting week for us. We’ve just given 800 colleagues in our support centre at 1 Angel Square , Manchester access to the new Co-op Membership service.

Richard Pennycook (Group Chief Executive) announced the changes at the 2016 Co-op AGM (Annual General Meeting). I’m part of the team ensuring membership is focussed on the needs of its users and we’re testing our updated service with colleagues first to make sure it’s right for when we release to all of our members.

Picture of the new Co-op Membership landing page.
The new Co-op Membership site

The service aims to make it easy for members to:

  • Choose a local charity to support
  • Make the most of their rewards
  • Manage their details
  • Register transactions
  • Order a replacement card
  • Get involved with the Co-op

By only asking for the necessary information to create a membership share account, we’ve also reduced the amount of data a user has to enter to become a Co-op member. This is one step towards Mike Bracken’s (Chief Digital Officer) goal of making Co-op trusted with data.

We found during our research that users are becoming more reluctant to share their data with companies and question how their data is being used. We aim to be completely transparent at Co-op and by listening to and acting on our users feedback this demonstrates that commitment.

User research drives continuous improvement

We’ve been designing the new service with our members, customers and colleagues, holding regular research sessions to gain feedback and insight on early prototypes and ideas. This combined with data from our existing websites enables us to better understand our users, helping to prioritise the next round of development and continue to improve the service.

Picture of Co-op team members carry out user research in Ewloe’s Co-op
Team members carry out user research in Ewloe’s Co-op

We test our designs as early as possible, sometimes we use interactive prototypes, other times we’re simply testing a sketch on a post-it note.

Sometimes, the medium you use to test a design doesn’t matter; the key thing is that you’re testing with real users, to understand what works.

In the lab or In-store

Most of our user research has taken place in controlled environments with pre-screened participants (lab user testing), which has been great for gaining qualitative insight and we continue to research in this way.

Sometimes though, we need instant insight into our designs, so we use guerrilla user testing methods as well. Guerrilla testing is a lean, low cost way of carrying out user research, almost anywhere, any time. We’ve tested our designs in-store, in coffee shops and even in the street, gaining new insight each time.

We’ll continue to test and learn with our colleagues over the next few months with the aim of releasing to all members in the autumn.

In the meantime you might just catch us in your local Co-op testing out some new designs. Or if you are a colleague or a council member and want to find out more you can join us at our regular show and tell which is every Thursday 9.30 – 10.00 on the 13th Floor of 1 Angel Square.
Jack Fletcher

What we mean when we say “digital”

At the AGM one of the things I talked about was how digital 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.

Here at the Co-op, when we say ‘digital’ we mean:

“Applying the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations.”

Graphic with the text - Applying the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet era to respond to people's raised expectations

Becoming a digital organisation means redesigning your services and your organisation, embracing ways of working that have long been second-nature to the best internet-era businesses.

It’s that simple – and that hard.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Design Manchester Partnership

This year we’re partnering with Design Manchester and are proud to be the headline sponsor of DM16. This will be the fourth annual design festival in our city, celebrating design in all its forms and like the Co-op has collaboration and inclusivity at its heart. That’s why we’ve both agreed to sign up to Owen Barder’s pledge to make clear our shared commitment not to organise any panel discussions of two or more people at the festival without having at least one woman contributor.

Image showing Design Manchester and Co-op Partnership

This partnership couldn’t come at a more exciting time for us as we return to our pioneering roots and look to build a world class design capability here in Manchester. It’s important that we work with the flourishing design community here on our doorstep. The design festival takes place in venues across our city and we’re looking forward to working alongside the fantastic team at Design Manchester, hosting a a range of digital, design and public outreach events here at Co-op from 12th to 22nd October.

“We are particularly excited to announce the Co-op as our partner for the DM16 festival, coinciding as it does with the rejuvenation of this iconic Manchester brand. There is a wonderful synergy between the aims and objectives of the Co-op, bringing a design- and customer-driven focus to the fore, and the aspirations of DM16 as an open platform that celebrates design in all its forms and for the good of all people, with Manchester as its home”.
Malcolm Garrett RDI, Co-Director of Design Manchester

“Manchester is a known leader in the creative and media sector, with a vibrant eco-system of design and technology companies. It’s vital the Co-op plays an active part in that community. Our partnership with Design Manchester signals our intention to create a world class design capability inside the Co-op, building on the talent we already have. This comes at a pivotal moment for us as we work to re-create Co-op for a digital era, and demonstrate a different way of doing business for an increasingly connected community, making all our products and services user focused”
Ben Terrett, Group Design Director, Co-op

We’ll be sure to blog with more details as they are confirmed, but you can also  follow Design Manchester on Twitter or visit them on Facebook.

Gemma Kidd
Senior Brand Manager

Giving Co-op Members a Voice

You may remember that Mike talked at the AGM about how one 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. We’ve been working with our members and Thoughtworks since January developing a new digital service that will improve how they can work together with their Co-op in the future.

A wide range of members and colleagues have been involved so far in our weekly user testing. At group game workshops we’ve asked members to buy features they value the most. Online catch-ups have explored what our new tool looks like in prototype and face to face discussions in our stores have helped us understand more about how we present our content.

So far we’ve worked with members from all across the UK – from Plymouth in the South to Stornaway in the North.

User feedback session
User Testing in 1 Angel Square

This feedback is proving to be incredibly valuable. Positive, negative and brutally honest, it helps us understand our users as we build, bringing their voice into the team and influencing everything we do.

After each session we review what we’ve heard and that’s then driven directly into evolving the project and the tool itself. The following week we check in again to see if our changes have hit the mark or need more work.

Listening to the aspirations and passions of our members and finding ways to meet their needs has always been at the heart of the Co-op. So perhaps that’s why this project feels like a natural way for us to work. Being Co-op is all about working co-operatively as a better way of doing business.

This new service will be a great example of that better way – created and evolved co-operatively with our members.

We always need more people to help give us their views – if you fancy giving it a go why not let us know. Just drop us a line or message me on Twitter @Coopmarkrf. Or just keep an eye on the blog as we’ll be posting regularly to tell you what we’ve done.

Mark Robinson-Field

Wills Alpha

A small multi-disciplinary team at the Co-op have been working to rethink Wills. Mike promised at the AGM that we would talk openly about what we’ve done. This is a post about our 10 weeks working on an ‘Alpha’ prototype and what we’ve learned.

Wills are interesting

I never thought I’d be writing those words but Wills are interesting.

Over half the population die without a Will and these people don’t get a say over what happens to their property, possessions and children when they die. No Will means a mess for family and friends to clear up at a time of stress. At best this leads to confusion and at worse family breakdown.

And even though people know a Will is worth doing and most people say they’ll get round to it, procrastination is normal. In other words, what people say they’ll do and what people actually do are completely different.

Why do people do that?

Part of the reason behind this apathy is that people don’t like to think about their own death – which is understandable, but there are other factors too.

Most people do not understand the language and concepts used in a Will.  Even those people that sit down and think “I’m going to do this” end up baffled by, and lost in legalese. They start the process, then stop when they come up against a barrier.

Then there’s the practicalities. Overwhelmingly people want to speak to someone to get advice and the reassurance that they’ve done it right. Usually that means trips to the local solicitor’s office, maybe some time off work, form filling, and a couple of hundred pounds for a document that gathers dust in the filing cabinet upstairs. That doesn’t feel like a good use of people’s time.

These make for some really interesting service design challenges and there’s a lot that can be improved about Wills. By applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet-era we hope to do just that.

Wills Blog Image

10 people, 10 weeks to build an Alpha

For the last 10 weeks a small team of developers, designers, lawyers and user researchers were given space to explore Wills. We used agile ways of working to build an early prototype version (an Alpha) and test it with real people.

Mobile screen shot of Wills alpha

Mobile screen shot of Wills alpha

Mobile screen shot of Wills alpha

Mobile screen shot of Wills alpha


The purpose of creating an Alpha is to learn about the problem space, learn how to work together as a team, test our assumptions and to build confidence in delivery.

Designing for humans

Every two weeks we delivered working software and put it in front of six or seven people (in the market for a Will and not connected to the Co-op) to observe what they did with it. We asked them questions like “what do you think happens next?” and where we reached the edges of what we’d built we used paper prototypes or mocked-up service.

This helped us better understand people’s actual needs, fears and motivations – even when they were only using a partially developed service. Our user research taught us things that we would have missed had we specified a solution up-front. For example, we learned:

  • People want advice when they need it. They want a Will that is right for them, not just any Will. This may seem obvious, but it is visceral and trumps convenience. People want to talk it through and in this respect, conversations are reassuring and remove some of the fear of Wills.
  • Some people want a Will immediately, others want to go away and think about something or ask some questions. In other words the service needs to be designed to go at people’s own pace.
  • People’s expectations have changed. People no longer understand why they can’t update a Will when they want to, or why it is such a long winded process described in arcane terminology. People want the process to be robust but also more modern and accessible and for it to change as their lives change.

Onwards to Beta

Agile ways of working allow teams and businesses to experiment with new service ideas quickly and cheaply without needing to specify the problem and the solution up front (you can’t and you shouldn’t) or needing to commit to plans based on big, up-front assumptions. Our sponsors gave a small multi-disciplinary team a problem to solve and allowed us the space to work it out.  They empowered a team to learn and experiment. This means happier team and we think, better product.

We’ve now been given permission to develop a public Beta of the Co-op Wills service so you’ll hear more about this in the next few months.  We’ll share more about that as we go along.

Jamie Arnold