Strategic Plan for Waterstones

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Executive Summary

The following report aims to critically review the current strategic opportunities available to the Waterstones book chain when it comes to digital transformation. These opportunities arise as a result of various political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal factors present within the United Kingdom’s business environment.

With the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus Pandemic, firms are trying to shift to online operations readily.And the firms already having most of their operations online, are looking to capitalize on the opportunities that are present on the digital front. This report not only just reviews these factors, but it will also try to provide strategies on how to make use of these opportunities.

The incorporation of technology, or digitalization, of all business processes, is known as Digital Transformation. It is a structural change that completely changes how a business operates and delivers values to its customers.

Furthermore, some internal and external factors are at play. This report aims to analyze those factors thoroughly and looks to provide strategic solutions on how to counter or make use of such factors.

Lastly, one of the main focus of this report is to identify a new strategic aspect that the Waterstone book chain is yet to discover and capitalize on that before any competitor firm cashes in on that.

Digital Transformation

The digitalization of a business is known as Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation changes how a business conducts its operations and creates value for its customers. Apart from an operational change, a business that introduces digital transformation has to go through a complete cultural reboot. In recent times, the emphasis on e-commerce and the digitalization of businesses has grown a lot. Businesses have started to introduce digital transformation in different areas.

Every firm has a different sort of digital transformation based on its particular business conditions and demographics. However, there are a few common elements that all digitally transformed firms have. Firms having incorporated digital transformation are more customer-centric than other firms. Their idea is to enhance and enrich the customer experience at each touchpoint. A digitally transformed firm is very smooth and agile when it comes to operations. One of the main benefits and motivations for digital transformation is the fact that it enhances operational efficiency.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, digital transformation means a change of culture. Digital Transformation is not about introducing the latest technologies. Instead, it is more about embracing change and leaving the old practices behind.

With developments made over the last decade, digital transformation is the way to go forward. It will be crucial to any business’s success.

Current Factors

Over the last decade, the world has increasingly been shifting to online businesses. The customers are satisfied with placing their orders online and paying through online channels. Items that can only be used physically are delivered at doorsteps. In contrast, the items that can be used in softcopies are simply being stored in the customers’ computers—for example, books and journals. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 in recent months, social distancing has become mandatory. Going out of the house is considered hazardous and dangerous. With all these circumstances, digital transformation has become even more critical. When it comes to Waterstones, it has been open to digitalization. And hence it seems to be in a pole position to capitalize on the current market conditions.

Politically, the UK government’s policies regarding the use of the internet for conducting online businesses have been somewhat flexible. Through various studies, the government has discovered the growing influence of digital services on multiple age groups across the country, which allows Waterstones, a healthy space online.

The UK has had a rather stable economy over the last decade, and this crucial factor allows Waterstones to introduce digitalization throughout its supply chain. And with the support of government policies, Waterstone can easily benefit through such measures.

Socially, the general direction of the whole world, and now especially with the Coronavirus, the preference has shifted mainly to online purchasing. Since Waterstones mainly sells books, it is a massive opportunity for it to go online.(Pînzaru, Zbuchea and Viţelar, 2019)

The concept of E-Books has become dominant because all the books can now be stored on a computer. This concept saves a lot of time that a consumer takes to make a physical purchase; it saves the space that hardcopies occupy. And for students, it saves the burden of physically carrying multiple books. (Pînzaru, Zbuchea and Viţelar, 2019)

And adhering to the guidelines laid out by the governments around to combat the Coronavirus, E-Books and softcopies comply with social distancing as well.

Although Waterstones is technically well equipped, with the current situation in light of the COVID-19, there will mostly be a sharp increase in the demand for E-Books and softcopies. Hence, Waterstones could benefit from more investment in Cloud or Artificial Intelligence. Technologically, it is an excellent time for Waterstones to expand digitally and adapt to digital transformation.

Through selling books and other related items online, Waterstones can significantly reduce its environmental footprint. For books, the first and foremost thing is paper, through hardcopies the manufacturers of books is directly linked to deforestation and hence leaves a critical environmental footprint. Furthermore, the transportation of raw materials and the deliveries of hard copies of books leads to large amounts of fuel emissions resulting in severe air pollution. Indulging in such practices can seriously taint Waterstones’ brand image. Environment preservation has continued to become quite essential in recent years, and customers prefer to opt for brands who are contributing to the environment. By emphasizing more on online operations, Waterstones can make a crucial contribution to the environment and reduce its environmental footprint to a great extent.(Shaughnessy, 2018)

On the legal front, the UK government, as discussed earlier, has been somewhat flexible and supportive with online businesses. And since most of the regulations and legal issues are related to the environment, conducting business online is considerably safer in that regard.

Implementation of Strategies

The recent shift towards technology and consumer preference of buying online, combined with the business atmosphere in the UK have presented Waterstones with a bunch of opportunities that it can use. (Berman, 2012)

Waterstones can look to increase investment on its online platforms. Since the government is supportive of such ventures, there is minimal risk of any political invention in Waterstones’ online operations. Having supportive government policies can also help Waterstones in expanding abroad. Since the business is online, Waterstones doesn’t have to have a physical outlet in overseas countries. The buyers from abroad can simply connect with Waterstones on its online platform and purchase E-Books and softcopies. (Matt, Hess and Benlian, 2015)

Apart from that, the UK’s stable economy means that the general business conditions are right, and firms are having a good time conducting business. Waterstones can use this opportunity to invest in digital transformation throughout its supply chain. With each touchpoint of the supply chain introduced to digital transformation, Waterstones can drastically increase its operational efficiency. The firm policy, inflation, and unemployment rates also mean that it will be more comfortable for Waterstones to expand through obtaining cheaper loans. Moreover, such stable conditions indicate that the customers will also have enough buying power to shop online in an instant without thinking twice.

Socially, with the COVID-19 situation, the growing awareness of the general population about using digital services makes it an excellent opportunity to go digital. Waterstones can develop its smartphone app that is accessible for almost everyone. This concept makes for a unique consumer experience since each user is carrying their virtual library in their pockets. The app is a quite convenient option since everyone has a smartphone in this day and age. Waterstones can earn a lot of revenue through its app downloads and then the in-app purchases.

Furthermore, through digital transformation, Waterstones has a massive opportunity to collaborate with online giants like eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba. With its books being displayed on their platforms, Waterstones can dramatically increase its market size. Moving on, Waterstones can partner with Universities and research centres and provide special discounts to the university’s students and the members of the research centre on their E-Books. This strategy will increase Waterstones’ customers base and help it to make a long-lasting mark. Lastly, one of the best strategies the Waterstones can implement is to partner with Schools, Colleges, Universities, and NGOs. Waterstones can provide digital library services to Universities and research centres. And with the increasing shift towards technologies, students prefer carrying their course materials on their computers rather than

coursebooks to the students through their digital application. This strategy will solve the students’ burden of physically carrying books while also providing the schools with a one-stop solution for coursebook provision across all levels of the school. All of this will do wonders for Waterstones’ brand positioning and market share.

By digital transformation and automation, Waterstones automatically becomes environment friendly. And with the increasing shift towards environmental sustainability, a brand that is contributing to environmental preservation outshines others. By merely conducting its operations online, Waterstones can attract a cumbersome amount of customers, which will increase its sales, brand reputation, and successful performance.

Challenges associated with Digital Transformation

One of the main challenges faced while shifting online and using digital transformation is that it is particularly hard to gauge consumer sentiment. In the business atmosphere today, customer experience matters the most. For an online business, it is harder to gauge customer experience. An unsatisfied customer may simply stop purchasing from your online store. (Schwertner, 2017)

The results of resistance to change, show themselves in a plethora of ways. Advanced ventures crucial to an organization’s going-concern can experience difficulty in getting subsidies, resources, or advertisements. These ventures might be changed so as not to compromise retail or accomplice brands. They are kept down by worries about tearing apart other income sources. They are approached to legitimize ROI to an unusual degree of conviction. They are sent through interminable lawful audits.

Kodak envisioned the automated camera, yet it was the inside assurance from a change that drove the association to cover it since it subverted the association’s legacy film business. Did mobile phones beat the landline business? The truth is out. Regardless, Bell Atlantic “guaranteed” itself by enduring that change was not very far away, and changed by choosing the irksome decisions required to conform to that change.

Another challenge that a company faces when adapting to digital transformation is the risk of employee pushbacks. The introduction of technology across the whole business might severely demotivate the existing workforce. With technology comes a massive threat of layoffs for the current employees. This threat brings the morale and productivity of the employees down drastically. There is a massive skill gap between those employees who know how to operate technology and those who don’t. The gap means that the skilled workforce already has hands full and hence, don’t have the time to train the old employees. (Digital Transformation- The Internet of Things- Opportunities and Challenges, 2020)

One of the most crucial challenges faced by companies operating online is the problem of substandard analytics. Whenever a customer visits an online store, they like personalization. They like to be shown what they’ve been buying or products of a similar nature. Substandard analytics ruin the customer experience, having the potential to convert profits into losses. (Digital Transformation- The Internet of Things- Opportunities and Challenges, 2020)

Associations that adequately “cross the void” to modernized reasonability consistently discover they need to oblige free what they used to charge for, sell as participation what used to be “independently.” Adapt through publicizing things that used to be paid for in various habits, and reconsider how they get pay from the value that they make. Those that do so deftly can every now and again find that the gathering of an electronic procedure offers more scale, pay, and advantage than the legacy approach. However, it takes experimentation, a notion of danger, and – to be uncaring – some mistake on the way. In spite of the fact that this approach is comprehensively recognized among new organizations, it is one that the organization and money related masters being developed associations, generally, fear. Notwithstanding, this is the gauntlet they should race to gain electronic ground.

Overcoming Challenges

Challenges are there to be faced and overcome. Hence is why the challenges that are present with shifting majorly to digital transformation can be faced. Its a fact that with online businesses, it is nearly impossible to gauge customer sentiment. If the customer has a bad experience, they might silently go away without any conversation at all. To overcome this crucial challenge, Waterstones can make sure that it is not just trying to achieve a higher sales target. The focus should primarily be on customer experience. By improving and enhancing all the touchpoints throughout the customer experience, Waterstones can firmly place itself in the minds of the customers. It will also help in automatically boosting sales, and retaining customers, providing stability in future growth.

To counter the employee pushback issues, Waterstones needs to think out of the box. It can tackle this challenge by incorporating a customer-centric culture. The focus needs to be on the customer more than anything. When a company strives to provide the best experience to its customers, there is a cultural reboot from top to bottom, which ultimately leads to employee training and development. Such actions help in massively boosting the morale of the employees, and they try to produce the best results as a result. (Borate and Borate, 2014)

Waterstones might not be able to delete uncertainty and vulnerability from employees’ brains. However, you can positively reduce them. Being steady and straightforward is vital. Keep your workers connected through the entire procedure. Engage them and paint them a future they would all be able to move in a specific direction. By helping its workers comprehend what’s in question, you can positively motivate them.

The issue of substandard analytics can be resolved through investment in better AI systems. Through introducing high-quality Artificial Intelligence systems, Waterstones can dramatically increase its database and gather more data efficiently. Through a comprehensive database, personalization becomes very simple and easy. When the customers are provided with interface personalization, they are displayed content of their interest, which enhances the customer experience and satisfaction significantly. (Pichan, Lazarescu and Soh, 2015)



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Borate, N. and Borate, S., 2014. A Case Study Approach for Evaluation of Employee Training Effectiveness and Development Program. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Journal of Xidian University, 2020. Digital Transformation- The Internet of Things- Opportunities and Challenges. 14(4).

Journal of Xidian University, 2020. Digital Transformation- The Internet of Things- Opportunities and Challenges. 14(4).

Matt, C., Hess, T. and Benlian, A., 2015. Digital Transformation Strategies. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 57(5), pp.339-343.

Pichon, A., Lazarescu, M. and Soh, S., 2015. Cloud forensics: Technical challenges, solutions and comparative analysis. Digital Investigation, 13, pp.38-57.

Pînzaru, F., Zbuchea, A. and Viţelar, A., 2019. Digital transformation trends reshaping companies—proceedings of the International Conference on Business Excellence, 13(1), pp.635-646.

Pînzaru, F., Zbuchea, A. and Viţelar, A., 2019. Digital transformation trends reshaping companies—proceedings of the International Conference on Business Excellence, 13(1), pp.635-646.


Schwertner, K., 2017. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF BUSINESS. Trakia Journal of Sciences, 17(Vol. 15, Suppl. 1), pp.388-393.

Shaughnessy, H., 2018. Creating digital transformation: strategies and steps. Strategy & Leadership, 46(2), pp.19-25.


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