In October 2018, we formed the Operational Innovation Store (OIS) team. Our mission is to support store colleagues and empower them to spend more of their time and energy on customers and members rather than on admin and paperwork.
We’re doing this by simplifying tasks and removing time-consuming processes wherever possible with 3 digital services:
- Pay in aisle.
We’ve been monitoring store data, as well as speaking to and observing store colleagues to understand how the services are helping them.
A year on, we’re reflecting on how far we’ve come with a look at each of the 3 services.
Visit: live across the majority of Food stores
We recently rolled Visit out nationally, after writing about Visit’s alpha and beta earlier in the year. It aims to simplify the process of welcoming a visitor into a store. Visit is on every customer-facing till screen so visitors can efficiently and independently check in, check out and acknowledge the safety information they need to be aware of.
Thanks to the new service, colleagues no longer need to break off from what they’re doing to look for the visitor book and a pen, or accompany a contractor to the back office to see the asbestos information. All the while, visitor data is stored centrally and securely.
What store data tells us about Visit
- Visit is live in 2,079 Co-op Food stores
- 123,721 visitors have signed in so far (as of 1 October 2019)
- On average, Food stores welcome 2.4 visitors per store per day. If we assume each visitor took a colleague away from customers for 5 minutes, that’s 91 hours per store, per year
- Across all Co-op Food stores, 5 minutes of colleague time per visitor adds up to 9,858 days
- Contractors doing repairs or maintenance work are our most frequent type of visitor and they can now view the asbestos information they need through Visit too, saving even more time for colleagues
Giving colleagues more time for customers
We visited some of our beta stores and interviewed store colleagues. One told us: “Visit’s really good, it’s taken away all that worry and getting people to traipse through to the back office. We’re saving time with every visitor.”
Ben, a store manager in Hull, said on Yammer (our private messaging service): “First visit to a store signing in using the Visit app on till screens – really easy process. This will be a game changer for stores, making the process so much easier.”
We’re rolling Visit out to another 600 stores by the end of the year as their tills get upgraded. We also have a dashboard where centre colleagues will be able to access visitor data if necessary – for example, contract managers can see if service level agreements are being fulfilled.
Pay in aisle: pay quickly, queue less
Back in July we posted that we’re testing our ‘Pay in aisle’ app in 30 Co-op Food stores. The app, available on Android and iOS, allows customers to bypass the checkouts and queues by scanning items as they go and paying for them on their phone.
What store data tells us about Pay in aisle
- We tested the Pay in aisle app in 30 stores across England, Scotland and Wales for 2 months.
- 7,364 transactions have been made through the app (as of 30 September 2019)
- In the last week of September, that was 125 transactions per day on average
- If we rolled the app out so it could be used in all Co-op Food stores, we estimate there would be around 10,484 transactions per day and 3.8 million each year (of course, adoption rate will vary across store types)
- Unsurprisingly, the number of transactions peak at lunchtime in stores with offices nearby when queues tend to build up
Keeping colleague’s time for those who need it most
Each transaction made through Pay in aisle equates to time colleagues can now spend serving other customers – for example, someone having trouble finding a product, or someone who is less able to pack their shopping bags themselves.
We’re at the beginning of the adoption curve, but some users are already finding the app really valuable. During a research interview, a customer using the app in Edinburgh told us: “I didn’t fancy queueing because it gets busy in here, so I downloaded it to give it a go.”
And a colleague in a university campus store said: “It will be helpful in term time when all tills are in use and there’s a queue”.
We’re continuing to learn from this trial, and monitoring adoption while iterating the app. If you’re using Pay in Aisle, remember to tell us what you think using the Feedback button in the app.
SmartGap: saving time, paper and trees
In July we posted about how we’ve been redesigning the replenishing process for our Food stores. What was then called ‘Replen’ is now called ‘SmartGap’ and we’ve recently tested it in 84 stores, following a successful alpha earlier in the year. It allows our stores to manage inventory more quickly and easily than the old paper method, which we believe will also make stock levels more accurate.
What store data tells us about SmartGap
- Across all stores using it, an average of 15 minutes are saved per store, per day, which equates to around 27 years across all stores per year
- Because colleagues don’t print out gap reports as often, 23.7 million pieces of paper, 5,000 trees and 120 kilograms of carbon are saved per year
- Stock accuracy increased from 69% to 72% in 8 weeks during the alpha
Making an arduous process quicker
In a survey of store colleagues, one said: “I think SmartGap is an invaluable tool. It’s easier to use than the paper system we had, it has everything in one place and allows more accurate reporting and replenishing. I’ll be very sad to lose it after the 5 week trial.”
And during a research interview another colleague said: “Doing it the paper way takes a lot longer than 15 minutes, every day. Don’t take it off me! It’s just simple, it’s so much easier to do.”
Kirsty, area manager of several stores on the trial in Scotland, said on Yammer: “I’m literally being begged on every store visit for stores to keep this. Do we have any update on when / if the trial stores will go on this permanently? They are loving it!”
We are working to launch SmartGap nationwide after the Christmas period.
What’s next: bring on year 2
In its second year, the OIS team promises to be just as productive. We have discoveries and alphas lined up that may turn into things we test in stores, and our team may also expand.
The past year has been a superb example of how the Digital team, Food colleagues, store colleagues, field managers and support centre stakeholders have worked together to design and build the right things for our store colleagues.