Much has changed since HMV’s glory days during the late 1980s. As Oxford Street closed and the world’s largest record store opened, red carpets were rolled out and Bob Geldof performed in front of tens of thousands of onlookers. But times have changed, and that version of HMV is nothing but a memory now.
The entertainment company has been experiencing hard times for over 5 years, with news articles pointing all fingers towards its lack of digital innovation as the reason for its downfall. Problems started to arise during 2011 when profits fell, and 40 stores were consequently closed. Since then the company has gone into administration twice, being bought out the first time by Hilco UK for £50 million and again in 2018 under the ownership of Canadian record store chain Sunrise records.
Looking at the company from the outside, many might blame HMV's downfall entirely on changing shopper preferences as it’s believed that the modern shopper prefers digital entertainment purchases, and brands like Amazon and Apple have jumped on this bandwagon successfully. But HMV is more than just a transactional company. It’s also an educational and content producing company which reports on current entertainment news.
In total honesty you might not be aware of HMV’s content-producing side, as their site doesn’t clearly highlight both sides of the brand, there is a lack of marketing and the site isn’t user-friendly. Bring all those aspects together and you have a site which fails to cater to its audience, resulting in predetermined closure.
Transactional or educational
On HMV’s site, the only indication a user is given that the site includes both content and a transactional service is through this very small, hidden away CTA.
It’s up to the user to hunt around for specific content or products and to put it simply, a user won’t bother trying. Why should they when sites like Amazon clearly highlight each section of their site with catered user journeys? It’s all about ease of use and for a site to be successful in the digital age it needs to give its users what they want on a silver plate.
You don’t need to be as bold as Beauty Bays split-screen content or products web design, but you do need to plan, test and execute multiple web designs which makes user journeys more intuitive, to drive those potential customers to the products they want.
Who’s marketing this?
Marketing can be hugely entertaining for everyone, and with the right content and marketing plan, it can even go viral. HMV’s site is bursting with huge amounts of products and content pieces that, if marketed in the right way, will boost traffic to the site. So, what’s stopping them?
From my own point of view, I cannot think of a HMV ad which left an impression. KFC has their ‘Guys, we are flattered’ ad, Innocent smoothies have their ‘It’s blue’ ad and Pretty Little Thing uses current influencers to model their clothes. The point of these ads is that even if you’re not interested in the product, you will still appreciate the ad because of its novelty. HMV needs to do this.
The site is full of interviews, news releases and entertainment insights which could all be used to boost their brand prestige. From Busted to Metallica and Avengers, it’s a marketer’s dream.
Another little jab which hurts my marketing heart is the lack of consistency on the HMV site in terms of social media. Taking on Instagram and removing the now ‘very dead’ Google+ functionality is another for users to get the full 360 immersive experience, boosting conversions and audience interaction.
There’s no reason for HMV to show up-to-date social media connections on their FILM-TV-PRE-ORDERS landing page
but not on their HMVLIVE page.
From a user-focused web testing point of view, the biggest failure for HMV is its below-average user experience. The site simply isn’t ‘friendly’ nor does it encourage conversions. CTAs such as ‘Read More’ or the even more ominous ‘…’ don’t promote click-through rates or give the user a clear indication about what they are clicking on. And as all web designers know: ambiguity equals reduced conversions.
In the simplest of terms, the site needs to be more clickable. In its current state, there’s a high level of the unknown as the site expects users to understand which customer journey they should be on and what to click.
But not all is lost. Once you get past the ambiguity and start the payment process, the site is easier to use. The layout is clear, offers multiple payment options and consistently shows you what you are purchasing, which is reassuring for the user. One pain point which can be spotted easily is the site’s lack of colour accessibility. For users with a certain type of colour deficiency, the bright pink border highlight appears grey. Meaning if any of the payment information is filled out incorrectly then these users won’t be able to identify where the error lay and will click away.
Round it up
HMV has been around for almost 100 years and seeing it disappear off the UK high street would be a sad sight. But the brand doesn’t have to disappear entirely. Through UX testing and user feedback, HMV can begin to understand exactly what their users want and how to implement these preferences into their digital presence.
The site is currently undergoing redevelopment but only time will tell if HMV has finally learnt from their mistakes and if not it’s only a matter of time until they too join Blockbuster and other companies who failed to take on the digital age.