4 ways Co-op online and in-store is growing in a different direction

4-minute read

With over a third of consumers planning to invest in at-home experiences to engage with brands, businesses are increasingly choosing to engage with their customers virtually. Barclaycard Business customer Co-op shares why  and how they’re making this trend a permanent feature. To talk to somebody about your payment needs call 08000294864*.


Just as many company cultures have shifted towards home-working and virtual interaction, so too has consumption and brand engagement.

Barclaycard Business’ research found that a third of UK retailers launched new ‘in-home’ products or services since UK lockdown began. The so-called ‘Insperience Economy’ is predicted to be worth £168 million in the next 12 months*

There’s never been a more important time to ensure a business continually meets the needs of its customers, adapting quickly if needed whilst maintaining a strong strategic long- term vision

Mark Pettigrew, Director of Retail Support, Co-op


From grow to pivot to grow

With ‘adapt and pivot’ replacing ‘growth and expansion’ for many businesses, it’s interesting to note that over a third of consumers plan to invest in at-home experiences to engage with brands*.

The question for businesses who have chosen to engage with consumers virtually is, does it make long-term brand and financial sense to convert response projects such as these into permanent initiatives? For Barclaycard Business customer, Co-op, a clicks and bricks retailer, the answer is a resounding yes, on four counts:

  1. Collaborate
  2. Focus online
  3. Nurture supply chain
  4. Invest in fraud protection

When needs must, it’s possible to achieve amazing things. COVID-19 threw us a steep learning curve, but ultimately one which has delivered real benefits and strengthened our organisation

Mark Pettigrew, Director of Retail Support, Co-op

What’s clear from talking to Co-op – which operates more than 2,600 stores across the UK, and a fast-expanding online retail presence – is that now there’s a chance for large organisations to be agile and entrepreneurial. At the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, Co-op recruited 5,000 new colleagues in just two weeks. That speed and agility is astounding for a company that’s part of a group which turned over £10.2bn in 2019, more than £6bn of which was card turnover. It was a critical step to business success and community health in lockdown.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck between a focus on resilience, stability and efficiency, and on supporting the local communities and green shoots opportunities. But there are opportunities nonetheless. 

Collaboration helps us to continue to reach our audiences and often engage with new ones. Our work in the music festivals world has shown how partnerships can be successful

Georgina Bough, Partnerships Manager, Co-op

1. Collaborate to leverage the reach of fellow brands and engage people 365 days a year

In recent years, consumers have found Co-op at festivals and online. When the festival season was effectively cancelled, it could’ve been a big blow for growth plans. But many brands across many industries were in the same position and successful collaborations have been born.

Barclaycard’s Share the Stage at-home festival series is helping Co-op to get across the message that consumers can come to them for everything. Recipe collaborations with BOSH! – chefs cooking exclusive recipes using Co-op ingredients - alongside hamper giveaways and more, are all ways to shout about new ranges, and harness the organic reach of social collaboration. These at-home, direct-to-consumer experiences are new to Co-op, but are initiatives that make sense short-term and that will form part of long-term consumer-engagement plans.

According to Barclaycard Business research*, over a third of consumers will continue investing in ‘insperiences’, such as virtual wine tasting, home workouts and remote styling sessions, even as retailers reopen.

We would be normally be engaging with consumers at festivals. We didn’t want to turn everything off.

Georgina Brough, Partnerships Manager, Co-op

2. Focus online, if that’s where your customers want or need to be

Co-op launched their online store in 2019, following a clear trend for online convenience. Industry-wide, the figures spoke of the falling value of online customer baskets, and a trend towards shopping for top ups or for a meal same day, and less of a ‘big shop’.

This continued to ring true throughout the coronavirus lockdown period, with shoppers getting food and essentials wherever they could, whenever they could. By using their stores as local, micro-distribution hubs to roll out same-day home delivery via robots, e-Cargo bikes and delivery partners, Co-op was in a strong position to attract and retain new customers.

In Q1 2020, Co-op saw demand for online shopping grow overnight. Basket sizes grew and many shoppers were those who had not shopped online with Co-op before. The Click & Collect function became very popular, with customers wanting an easy and safe shopping experience, with minimal contact and time in store.

With Co-op’s online shop in its infancy we’ve been concentrating on expanding to serve new communities and we believe ours to be the most accelerated roll-out of online grocery the market has seen in recent times

Chris Conway, Head of E-commerce, Co-op

In the six weeks following UK lockdown, Co-op increased online shopping capacity more than five-fold, invested in delivery partnerships to increase reach, and increased the number of stores using autonomous robots from two to eight.

Barclaycard Business Strategic Account Manager, Fiona Lomasney, worked closely with Co-op to help accelerate the roll-out of online using Barclaycard payment systems when COVID-19 lockdown measures hit:

“It was exciting to work with Co-op to help them from an acquiring perspective by opening the new merchant numbers and logging on the relevant terminal IDs. In just a few weeks, we’d helped increase the number of stores operating as outlets for online from 50 to 160. We’ll continue to support the Co-op with their aim of having 700 live eComm sites by the end of 2020.”


3. Protect your own business health by nurturing supply chain health

Business health is not a solely about looking after the business itself, it’s about finding and nurturing the right suppliers and developing long term, strategic partnerships. This has always been the case. But it’s amplified in times of turmoil. Co-op has been acutely aware of the need to have fair payment terms, support local growers, and be flexible if needed.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Co-op stretched the specification on certain ranges, to help support their local growers to sell what they had most of.

4. Actively protect yourself from fraud

For Co-op, fraud solutions are often physical - SmartWater Fog Cannons, the latest remote monitored iCCTV, and body cameras and communication headsets for frontline colleagues. For other businesses, where the threat is from so-called ‘friendly fraud’, sophisticated card fraud, and more, the investment is more likely to be made in digital fraud protection technology, such as Barclaycard Transact.

*Figures taken from a survey conducted 27 May – 2 June 2020 by Opinium on behalf of Barclaycard Payments, of over 400 senior decision makers (director level and above) in retail business.

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