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Brightec Ltd

App Development, Mobile Design & Development, Mobile

Waterstones Retail App

Waterstones Retail App header image

The Challenge

Waterstones is one of Britain’s largest book retailers. Founded in 1982, there are now over 280 Waterstones bookshops across the UK.

From the start of the design process right up to when we were ready to begin building, Brightec collaborated with design agency Ribot to provide project management support and consultancy from a development perspective.

Brightec thrive on respectful debate and insatiable curiosity so collaborating with three companies was a challenge we gladly took on. We don’t shy away from complex technology and our deep knowledge and understanding meant we could deliver a bespoke product to suit both our client’’s needs as a business, and the needs of their customer.

With physical stores closed during Covid 19, the apps became of higher importance than anyone had anticipated and provided a lifeline for the company. To win this award would be recognition of the innovative and creative apps we delivered, which exceeded expectations and served the client well during commercially challenging times.

Waterstones’s goal was to refresh their commercial Android and iOS apps, adding e-commerce capabilities as well as bringing the branding up to date.

The company had an iOS and Android app that could be used solely for reserving books to collect in store. We were tasked with the relaunch of the apps, and we knew it was essential to maintain a strong connection to the physical Waterstones’ stores.

Even with strong competition from online giants like Amazon, Waterstones have invested heavily in their high street store experience. They know there needs to be a real draw for customers to visit and purchase in-store, something that clicking a button online just can’t replicate. That’s why Waterstones stores focus on what all passionate book-lovers know: that buying and reading books is something to be savoured and enjoyed. With this in mind, it was essential to retain a strong link to the physical stores during the relaunch of the company’s iOS and Android apps.

UX and UI design agency, Ribot took on the scoping and design challenges of this project, targeting existing Waterstones customers, as well as new book loving customers. Brightec were onboarded for the development work, building an e-commerce app to enable Waterstones’ customers to buy books within the app.

Ribot led the upfront design process but Brightec were involved in the initial client workshops to provide guidance and ideas from a development perspective. We collaborated on ideas around the app flow and structure, and created wireframes for each screen.

Designs needed to be signed off by Waterstones before we could start developing... which could well have added more twists to the storyline. In order to make sure we all had the best chance of keeping to the project timeline, we made the decision to design and build the app in a modularised way.

Efficient and effective communication between all three parties was paramount to mitigate any blockers. We had to be stringent in our communication so that each party knew when designs were ready for review, when designs had been signed off and when they were approved for development.

We worked closely with Ribot at every stage of the project, using Google Hangouts for daily standup calls and communicating regularly over Slack. We also had weekly progress meetings with Waterstones to demo and discuss our collective progress.

Long-term projects with medium-large clients on mobile applications with complicated data is where Brightec excels. With the average Waterstones store having around 30,000 individual books on its shelves we felt right at home.

With so much stock to manage, the database for the apps is vast and complex. The extensive product database needed to be handled efficiently through Category Pages – so we developed an intuitive system for a complicated category hierarchy which included search functionality.

We also made sure the app enhanced the in-store experience by integrating Waterstones’ ‘My Plus’ loyalty scheme. Using barcode scanning functionality, a loyalty card barcode can now be scanned on a mobile device at the in-store checkout. What’s more, this delivers environmental benefit by replacing the need for plastic loyalty cards.

Waterstones wanted flexibility to be able to build custom pages and change the content of existing pages through the backend themselves. So Brightec opted for component-based development enabling Waterstones to choose which of the reusable widgets were used on each screen at a later date.

With three companies collaborating to build this significant digital offering, we provided a regimented project management process to keep everything progressing efficiently.

The Results

The new iOS and Android apps have seen revenue significantly increase.

75k monthly active users

UK App Awards Retail App of the Year 2020