Entertainment retailer HMV recently launched an iPhone app, which allows users to browse and buy from its full product range.
The new app has been developed by MoPowered, which is also behind the Next and Waterstone's apps. I've been trying the new app out...
Homepage and navigation
The homepage has a simple layout, and any product promotion or link navigation has been replaced by the option of flicking between the various sections of the site.
This approach is simple, looks good and works well, and other links at the bottom of the app allow you to head straight for search, access your HMV account, search for a local store, or checkout.
If you choose to browse rather than search, then the lack of filtering options makes it very difficult to find anything other than the new releases and bestsellers. The addition of filters like genre for music would make the process much easier.
So, if you want something specific from the app, you're better off using the site search option.
The results are reasonably accurate, and the fact that you can search within a particular section of the app makes it easier to narrow your product search, though the results pages suffers from the same lack of filtering options.
The product pages are of variable quality, as some I came across lacked any kind of product information at all and, while what appears to be an average review score appears within the search results pages, there is no reference to them on the actual product pages.
Reviews are a proven sales driver, so they should be shown on the page where customers are making a decision about a purchase.
There is also no information about delivery charges and timescales, something shoppers need to see on product pages.
While mobile commerce is growing quickly, it still remains a minority activity, with less than 8% making purchases from their mobiles.
If brands are going to drive significant sales through the mobile channel, and retailers like M&S and Amazon have shown that this can be done, then a smooth purchase process is vital.
The HMV app fails to make the checkout as smooth as it could be here, with compulsory registration being one big reason for this.
Registration adds another step to the process, one which is also unnecessary since customers will need to fill in their address and other details to make the purchase anyway.
It's a bad idea to make registration before checkout compulsory on a desktop e-commerce site, but on a mobile which could have a variable internet connection, any extra steps can kill potential conversions.
If users of the app already have payment and address details saved to their account, then the checkout may be reasonably smooth, but HMV is not doing enough to help new customers, or those that can't remember their login, with this checkout process.
This is a good looking app, but it does contain several flaws, and the average App Store review score of three stars reflects this. It also lacks some of the recent innovations introduced on mobile sites and apps, such as barcode scanners or the ability to reserve and collect items.
While looking for background information on the app, I came across this conceptual brief for a HMV iPhone app from a Lincoln University student. As well as a barcode scanner, it contains a Shazam-style feature which allows users to listen to a song being played before finding it on the app.
These features, if workable in practice, would have given the app more of a wow factor, but better product search, more detail on product pages, and a smoother checkout process would still be a massive improvement.