How members joined in, drank beer and wrote the tasting notes

We set up the Co-op Member Voice team to, well, give Co-op members a voice. We’ve been engaging with members both online and in their communities in many ways. We’ve asked them to ‘join in’ and talk to us about their favourite pizza toppings, we’ve arranged community dog walks and we’ve done an awful lot of baby talk!

By speaking and listening to our customers and members, we’ve got a better chance of both meeting their needs and giving them what they’d like.

One of our first Member Voice engagements was when we gave 100 active members in Holmfirth 6 bottles of wine so they could host their own wine tasting event. We asked for their thoughts and used their recommendations and tasting notes in point of sale material in the Holmfirth store. All 6 types of wine saw an increase in sales when the member testimonies were seen by customers.

One of our most popular opportunities was when we asked members about their favourite local real ales. Over 900 members waxed lyrical about their favourite local tipples and you can see what we learnt on the main Co-op blog.

Try the beer, write the tasting notes

We had a big response to these opportunities so in January we invited 100 members to taste 3 brand new, not-even-in-the-shops-yet, Co-op own-brand beers: IPA, Triple Hop and Golden Ale. We asked members to taste them and tell us what they thought for the chance to see their tasting notes on the labels.

It’ll be interesting to see if members and customers react to the member comments on the packaging keeping in mind the successes of the Holmfirth wine trial on local wine sales.

Beer sampling on social

As you can imagine it didn’t take long for the 100 cases to get snapped up. Members were thrilled to be asked to taste and give their thoughts on our new beers and ales and took to Twitter to share what they were doing. You can see some of their tweets by searching #coopjoinin.

image shows tweet with twitter image. tweet says: 'cheers COOP can't wait to buy more of these especially GOLDEN ALE, just simply exceptional. twitter image shows man holding bottle and glass of beer.

image of tweet which includes a twitter picture. tweet says: 'really enjoyed trying three new beers for @coopuk. the triple hop was our favourite - highly recommended. Thanks for letting us #coopjoinin'

The 100 tasters then filled in a survey about the beers and the Beers, Wines and Spirits team chose a comment about each beer that would be printed on the corresponding bottle.

The Golden Ale tasting notes were from Michael Gibbons, a Co-op member from Luton. 

image shows the The Golden Ale label with member's tasting notes: ‘A smooth ale with a golden caramel complexion, the perfect beer for a summer garden.’

Sam Dineley, a Co-op member from Bristol wrote the Triple Hop tasting notes.

image shows The Triple Hop label and tasting notes:‘A complex but complementary blend of hops gives this beer a rich and rounded flavour with a subtle and smooth aftertaste’

And the IPA comment was from Tom Packman, a Co-op member from Essex.

image shows IPA label with tasting notes: ‘Good, traditional IPA. Voluminous, good body and fruity hop.’

A meet-up in a brewery

We invited the 3 members whose notes were chosen to Frederick Robinson’s Brewery where we make and bottle the ales. After a full brewery tour, we were taken to the bottling plant to see the Triple Hop bottles coming down the line and being filled and packaged ready to head to our Co-op Food stores. Then we tasted some of Robinson’s customer favourites, along with the fresh off the line Triple Hop.

The Co-op ales go on sale in our Co-op Food stores on 13 March and our members’ voices are shouting loud and proud from the label!

You can join in with a Member Voice opportunity by logging into your Co-op Membership account.

If you’d like to become a member you can sign up for membership. Join us!

Visit drinkaware.co.uk for the facts about alcohol.

Terry McLeod
Member Voice team

The importance of online communities in a co-operative

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day, a day for social media community managers across the world to share our experiences with our community of practice. Today seems like a good day to introduce ourselves and explain what community managers do at the Co-op. Here we are: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton.

Head shots of our five community managers: Catherine Storey, Ian Ferguson, Jordan Mcdowell, Scott Bennett and Sophie Newton

Managing Co-op communities

Let’s start with the ‘community’ part. Community is at the heart of Co-op and we talk about it often. Co-op members choose a cause in their local community and we give that chosen cause 1% of whatever a member spends on our own-brand products. We often think of communities as groups of people doing a similar thing or sharing an interest around where we live, but many of us are part of online communities too. If you use Twitter, Instagram, write blog posts or join a Facebook group, you’re engaged in some way in an online community, formed around common interests.

The ‘manager’ part of the role title comes from how we work with online communities. Our communities are generally made up of 3 types of people: colleagues from across the business, members and customers. We’re responsible for finding, nurturing and listening to the online communities that are speaking about Co-op products, services and the ways we work. By asking the right questions, listening to and collating community feedback we inform business decisions.

Talk to us. We’re listening

Listening to online communities is an important thing for all businesses, but, as a co-operative it’s essential that we give our members a voice and they have a say in how we’re run.

Our hashtag #shapeourcoop has been a really useful way of talking and listening to members and customers before feeding back to decision makers. During the AGM in May we took questions from our Twitter community and Richard Pennycook our Chief Executive; Allan Leighton, Chair of the Group Board and Nick Crofts, President of the Members Council answered them in real time.

It’s noisy out there!

In 2016 over 280,500 tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and other social media posts were sent direct to our social channels. There were over 2 million mentions of our Food business on social media overall. So, there’s a lot of chatter to listen to and engage with.

We’ve created new conversations across social platforms. Our #TwitterTeaParty inspired online communities with ideas for mother’s day celebrations. We trended internationally for 12 hours, had 2010 mentions directed at our channels and made 56 million impressions. We also had a lot of tea and cake.

More recently at Christmas time we were involved in #ReverseAdvent, an existing trend on social media. We provided ‘packs’ (goody bags) to hundreds of people, helping them give back to their local communities. The hashtag was seen on social media over 77 million times during advent.

What we’re working on now

At the moment we’re working out ways we can have meaningful conversations with members and non-members about things that really matter to them. Once we find out, we can figure out if there’s a way that Co-op can help champion them. In the past this has included conversations about Co-op’s Ethical Framework, tackling loneliness and social isolation with British Red Cross and we have lots more coming up.

Don’t just watch this space – get involved!

You can join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and follow The Co-op blogs.

Sophie Newton
Social Media Community Manager

Join In

We’ve been working with our members to understand more about how they’d like to play a more active role in the Co-op they co-own. As Mike said at the AGM, elections and motions are one (very important) thing but digital makes it easier for members to have a say on the products and services that they actually consume too.

We completed a number of experiments throughout July where we learned from members about the sorts of things they want to get involved with. We’ve purposely started small with simple ways to join in so that we can learn really quickly about what works and what we could do better.

A picture of the member voice team

We’ve called this Join In. At the moment it’s a series of opportunities for members to choose and sign up for. We’ve made this available to colleague members who are using the new Co-op Membership, and right now for example they’re able to help design pizza toppings along with Sara Gunn our chilled pizza buyer.

So far, 165 colleague members have signed up and 45%  have gone on to participate in the activity. The response that we’ve had so far has been really valuable to our business owners.

This is only the start of how we improve the ways our members can get involved in our Co-op and this will keep growing over the coming months as we continue to listen and learn what matters most to them.

Charlotte King
Project Manager, Member Voice

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 member.services@co-operative.coop 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