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The Co-op U.K.: In with the New Does Not Mean Out with the Old

coop pay in aisle launch scan

I had the pleasure on May 19 to discuss The Co-operative Group’s consumer payments strategy with Paul Fletcher, Co-op’s Head of Payments.

The Co-operative Group is a compelling case study within the U.K.’s convenience grocery sector; steeped in history and tradition, with a culture that demonstrates a real heartfelt pride in its mutual ownership origins. A nod to the past now seems to be a trend among big businesses, as they remind customers of their (usually) long-ago establishments and “origin stories.” But in the case of Co-op, it really does mean something, and it influences everything they do — payments included.

When Paul recently joined me for a webinar on transforming customer experience through payments strategy, he spoke about how Co-op’s investment in technology has helped the group deliver hyper-convenience to its members.

Co-op’s food business aims to be the number one convenience retailer – providing ease, convenience, speed and choice – and getting closer to its members and customers. Co-op brought back its clover-leaf brand and relaunched its membership proposition; it went back to its roots, back to being Coop, ensuring local communities were at the heart of an approach that had been such an important part of its co-operative origins more than 175 years ago.

As Head of Payments, Paul played a key part in building a payments architecture within Co-op that could support the rebuild phase. Replacing the existing solution with ACI’s UP omni-commerce payments delivered PCI compliance and cost savings, and put in place the payments infrastructure to better serve customers and provide a platform for innovation and growth.

This new, modern payments architecture supported Co-op’s delivery of its new membership scheme, so that customers would receive rewards for the purchase of Co-op’s own brand products. This rewards customers for their loyalty, creating value for members and enabling them to redeem them against future purchases. In addition to the 5 percent reward for shoppers, the Co-op also donates a further 1 percent to local causes. The success of the membership scheme has enabled Co-op to reconnect with its local community by supporting local causes that their members care about. Permanent stores are now conveniently located in every U.K. postal area, and pop-up stores designed to serve customers affected by local emergencies (like floods or the closure of alternative shopping options) can be opened rapidly. Co-op is not just a store; it’s a pillar of the community and a cause for good.

With the right infrastructure in place, Paul and his Co-op team were able to turn their attention to innovation. Customers can shop and pay more conveniently with custom-designed self-checkouts and its Pay-in-Aisle app. The latter allows customers to download the Co-op app, and scan and pay without visiting a traditional checkout point – a quick and frictionless experience. Co-op’s business has also recently evolved to support online grocery orders. As Paul explained, it’s all about providing customers with options, ease, choice, speed and convenience, so that they can shop and pay in their preferred way. Pay-in-Aisle has proved to be particularly relevant as consumer preferences and habits evolve in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it allows customers to socially distance more easily and avoid contact with payment terminals.

Paul and his Co-op colleagues are the architects of their innovation, creating a great customer service. ACI is proud to have played a part in delivering the payments solution to Co-op that is part of this bigger picture.

True partnership is more than simply a vendor/customer relationship. It’s about being able to mutually influence the plans and strategy of one another, with both businesses developing symbiotically. We’re excited to see what Co-op will achieve next while keeping heritage at the heart of their business.

Watch the on-demand webinar: “How The Co-op Transformed its Shopping Experience