This week sees the unveiling of HMV’s completely overhauled responsive website, HMV.com.
This follows the recent desktop and app launch of HMV Digital, a music download service which aims to rival iTunes.
It’s easy to dwell on HMV’s troubled recent past: the economic downturn, the rise of the internet, eventual liquidation. But let’s not do that here, after all HMV is very much looking towards the future.
Let’s take a look at its new responsive website in detail.
If you were to visit HMV.com last week you would have been presented with a simple pop-up letter saying ‘HMV is out of action for the forseeable future, please bear with us’.
You could roam around the site, check out what’s out this week or what’s coming soon. It was kept up-to-date, although without any purchasable products and poorly thought-out page designs.
But that was very much a place-holder. This is what HMV.com looks like now…
A glorious over-large carousel, with bright positive messages trumpeting the reopening of HMV on Oxford Street.
The phrase "we’re back" and the immediate evidence of a major store reopening shows an effective use of social proofing at work.
Scrolling through the carousel shows various examples of incentives to drive customers through the doors.
Here’s proof of HMV’s dedication to in-store events and signings. HMV is clearly committed to regaining lost customers through the offering of incentives that ecommerce just can’t match.
Even though online users are now perhaps less likely to visit the high street, there is still an awful lot that can be done to improve offline sales.
HMV.com is very much geared up to driving customers through its high street doors. Let’s make this clear right now: HMV is not an ecommerce site (yet).
In fact, visiting HMV.com is more like window shopping.
HMV.com offers up a mixture of film and TV news, with well written journalistic content.
This is a review of a film released a couple of months ago, The Kings of Summer, due out on DVD & Blu-ray soon...
This page acts as a great taster of the film, with a nicely written review, large bright images and a trailer. Nothing that you wouldn’t get on a standard film review website, but here it’s presented in gorgeous HTML5 and works as a subtle way to build anticipation for the product.
HMV.com seems to be trying to find the balance between entertainment website and promoting retail. Perhaps its goal is to become an online information centre, or hype generator, in order to drive footfall in the high street.
HMV’s Discover Music is similar to its Film & TV area. These articles are features on various artists who have released new albums in the last month.
You may notice HMV has borrowed heavily from Windows 8 and other flatly designed operating systems, in order to appear relevant and technically advanced.
Also notice the random smattering of coloured boxes that help to separate and clearly signpost HMV’s various social channels and Find a Store service.
Clicking on an article, here we’re reading about ubiquitous Fleetwood Mac knock-offs Haim, reveals a gigantic full screen image of the respective band, followed by a review, further images and music videos.
Below the full-screen image is where we get to the really good stuff.
The album image on the right hand side opens up a music streaming tab at the top of the screen.
This feature plays a 30 second segment of each track on the album, which you can skip through at your own leisure.
Below the album image is a download now button, that takes you directly to HMV Digital where you can purchase the album.
There are floating buttons that follow you as you scroll the page, creating easy access to social channels, an email sign-up and store locator.
The text in the centre reads unlike a press release, more like an authored piece of music journalism, and this is backed-up by seeing the writer’s face next to the piece along with a bio.
This creates trust and integrity, similar to how an online writer can use Google authorship to bolster their credentials, and is a great way to promote a deeper engagement with the potential customer.
With the entertainment industry suffering the most on the high street coupled with the fast rise in use of mobile devices to browse and shop online, it’s imperative that HMV has a strong mobile presence.
Thankfully HMV has a fully responsive mobile site. In fact, you can tell immediately from the desktop site. Check out the app-aping menu button on the top right…
It opens to reveal all of its various navigation options plus links to Downloads and purehmv (HMV’s loyalty scheme), and this menu also works fine on your mobile device.
With clear swipe and 'tappability', the options are revealed in submenus, and they take you through to well laid out music and film homepages.
Swiping down the music page reveals a new and trending section.
Unfortunately, although it may look like you can swipe through the latest album releases, you actually can’t.
The back and forward buttons are hidden below the fold. Although tapping play brings up a similar streaming function as the desktop site, that works effectively and has minimal loading time.
When reading a particular article, floating share buttons appear unobtrusively along the bottom of the screen.
The key feature here though, to encourage that all important footfall, is the store locator button, indicated as a map pin.
This has used geo-location to immediately tell me my nearest HMV location.
It would be remiss not to mention at this point the problems that HMV has experienced with Apple.
Up until a week ago HMV was running its digital download app through the app store, however Apple has unceremoniously booted HMV’s app out, citing violations to its app development guidelines.
The Entertainment Retailers Association has expressed concerns over serious competition issues, so time will tell whether Apple will relent and allow the app back in.
HMV’s app, featuring Shazam style ‘sound search’ and an innovative ‘image search’ using the camera function, is currently still available on Android devices.
Currently, tapping Music Downloads within the iPhone version of HMV’s website takes you to the non-responsive version of the digital download store.
Here, with much pinching and zooming, you can purchase an album, even get to the checkout and pay for it, however you’re then presented with this…
Leading to an app that no longer exists and me with a newly purchased Arcade Fire album but with nowhere to download it to.
It should be stressed that this isn’t necessarily a fault of HMVs, however the sooner they clear things up with Apple, the better for both HMV and the iPhone owning consumer
HMV has built itself a rather glorious and forward looking responsive website, who’s sole aim seems to be encouraging customers through their high street stores.
Is HMV abandoning plans for physical distribution through ecommerce? Perhaps it's decided to stop trying to beat Amazon at its own game, and is now concentrating on the customers who appreciate the in-store experience.
Targeting those who wish to see artists live in store and re-establishing vinyl on their shelves to attract collectors.
HMV.com’s new policy of softly nudging customers towards retail purchase is a refreshing tactic, but perhaps should be more blatant in some areas. The promotion of HMV’s own digital download store should be much more in the forefront of the web experience to help HMV retain a more secure future.
For more information please download our report on How the Internet Can Save the High Street.