The Co-operative Group is changing its web address from co-operative.coop to coop.co.uk. The Group showcased a return to its ‘Co-op’ identity at its AGM in May, and is now looking to mirror this in the digital arena.
Writing on the Group’s digital blogs, Nick Gallon, product manager at the Group, said the move “will join up our businesses in a more logical manner and provide a better experience”.
“Currently, we have many different web addresses and this presents a confusing picture,” he wrote. “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 coop.co.uk gives us this opportunity.”
He added that the Group will be transitioning current and new sites into this URL format in the coming months, and the Group confirmed that email address formats will be following the same format after successful testing.
The new domain will be more user friendly when using mobile and touchscreen devices, said Mr Gallon. “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.”
A spokesperson from the Group said that “Co-op” is the name that most people use when they talk about the organisation, and they want to make it easier for members and customers to find its services online.
“Now that we are back to being Co-op, we’re using coop.co.uk because it is recognisable as a web address and coop.coop isn’t available. After looking at all options, this is the only way to meet our members’ needs of a single domain,” said the spokesperson.
“We will continue to have co-operative.coop and this will still be our registered URL. People who are more familiar with the movement will be able to use this address to find us.
“We are interested in feedback and are gathering this on the blog digital.blogs.coop.”
The .coop domain proposed by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) in 2000, as a response to the announcement by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of a phased release of seven new generic top-level domains. The proposal was backed by many co-operatives and trade groups, including the the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). The technical infrastructure was developed by a worker co-operative Poptel in the United Kingdom and became operational in January 2002. The registry services has been provided by the Midcounties Co-operative since 2004.
The .coop domain is now used by almost 5,000 co-operatives from 105 countries, in sectors including business services, retail, agriculture/forestry, banking/credit unions, housing, health and more.
Without the Group, of the top 20 largest UK co-operatives by turnover, 25% use the .coop domain.
“The main objective of the Domains.coop business is to give co-operatives from all over the world access to an exclusive namespace on the internet, the .coop domain,” said Violetta Nafpaktiti, chief operating officer at Domains.coop.
“The Global Co-operative Marque and .coop are two inexpensive marketing tools available to co-ops who wish to differentiate themselves in the marketplace – who wish to lead with their co-operative identity. We’re excited that so many co-operatives have secured their space in the .coop domain, as an effective way of raising awareness for the co-operative model and gaining a competitive advantage.”
But Ms Nafpaktiti said that choosing the right domain name for a brand is not an easy task for any business, especially for large retail organisations such as the Co-op Group.
“It is also common practice for very large organisations to own large portfolios of domains in many different namespaces to protect their brand as well as increase their online discoverability,” she said.
“The decision on which domain to choose is a key component of an organisation’s marketing strategy.
“As much as we’d hope that more and more co-ops will use the .coop namespace for their online presence, ultimately the domain name choice has to suit the needs and plans of each individual organisation at any particular time.”
The move from the Group has been met with mixed reactions from Co-op Group members. “It’s true that .coop ‘is relatively unknown to typical customers’. But the whole point of using it was to help them to understand what makes us different as part of a worldwide movement with different values – something we have now lost through this change,” wrote Martin Meteyard, a co-operative consultant, in response to the blog.
Why weren’t the National Members’ Council consulted?
Another reader found it difficult to believe that most users had difficulty going to a .coop domain because of lack of familiarity, pointing out that “these days almost everyone goes via a search engine for whatever they are looking for, especially now that every popular browser has a search function built-in to their address line”.
Jane Davies, a Co-operative Group member pioneer, questioned whether the Group’s digital team understood the significance of the domain. “Why weren’t the National Members’ Council (NMC) consulted?” she asked.
“We are not just a brand. I feel we are not supporting the movement as we should. Front line staff (who are hopefully members themselves) should be positively encouraging all customers to become members and to use their cards and engage with the democracy even if only in more economic participation. Co.uk is for companies not co-ops.
However others took a more practical approach. “If customers can’t find us on .coop how can we help them to understand why we are different?” asked Mary McGuigan, who sits on the NMC. “We need to go to where our customers and potential customers are and bring them on the journey.”
The use of ‘.coop’ is recognised by co-operators close to the movement, it is one that people in our wider membership have struggled to understand
Nick Crofts, president of the Members’ Council, said that the Council has an open dialogue with the business. “As part of the work that is being done to revitalise the brand, a Council Digital Working Group has been set up to engage on this piece of work,” he said.
“Whilst the use of ‘.coop’ is recognised by co-operators close to the movement, it is one that people in our wider membership have struggled to understand and have fed this frustration back through our businesses. As a consumer co-op we are here to make it easy for members to use our products and services, and we do this by using language and terms that are familiar to them. This is right and is the co-op way of doing things.
“It is of course very important to the Council that our Co-op plays its part in the wider national and international movement and our society’s web address, ‘co-operative.coop’ reflects this. It is still in use and can be used by co-operators who are familiar with it.”
“I am certain that this positive engagement with our chief digital officer, Mike Bracken, and his team will continue and the Council will play an increasingly important role.”
In this article
- CO-OPERATIVE Group
- Digital Working Group
- International Co-operative Alliance
- Martin Meteyard
- Mary McGuigan
- Midcounties Co-operative
- Mike Bracken
- national members council
- Nick Crofts
- Nick Gallon
- The Co-operative brand
- The Co-operative Group
- The Spotlight
- Violetta Nafpaktiti
- web addresses
- North America
- United Kingdom
- Top Stories