Back to the High Street: HMV launches new site with no eCommerce function

Rachel Hearne

HMV have launched a new website with no online store, and no apparent plans to return to eCommerce. Blog-like in style and layout, the site is content focused, and enables users to discover and read reviews of new music, film and TV. Image heavy, with dynamic content and featuring a big slider at the top of the homepage, the site seems tailored towards a young demographic, and distances itself from the more corporate feel of sites such as Amazon.

It is no longer possible to buy any of their products online, and references to their physical stores are fairly unobtrusive – aside from a small section devoted to in-store celebrity signings. A quick visit to the About section of the site brings up a host of information about HMV’s 140 stores, which began with the opening of their London flagship in 1986. Conspicuously absent from their historical timeline though, is any mention of their once massive eCommerce presence, or the overarching vision behind this re-launch since entering into administration at the beginning of 2013. Their plan, it would seem, is to encourage their customers to once more embrace the in-store shopping experience, at a time when the rest of the UK’s leading retailers are ploughing their efforts into online retail. With an increasingly demanding generation of ‘digital natives’ accustomed to the multichannel retail experience and used to shopping around for the best price, this could well be an ill-advised move. But with heavy competition from the likes of Play.com and Amazon they would be hard pressed to compete.

They aren’t completely neglecting the online experience, however – their mobile site is fully responsive, and they also have plans to use personalisation to offer a more tailored customer experience. The site also integrates with HMV’s recently launched digital music store, providing 30-second track previews and allowing users to purchase digital downloads via 7digital, according to a report by MarketingWeek. If they achieve their aim of rivaling iTunes with their digital store, HMV could be set for huge success. At the moment, however, access to HMV Digital is via a separate URL rather than integrated into their main site, which is somewhat confusing. Similarly, their members area purehmv – which allows users access to exclusive offers – is found under yet another web address with a separate brand identity altogether.

Clearly the site is still very much a work in progress – content is a little on the light side, especially outside of their music section, and the homepage proclaims that their games section is ‘coming soon’. But as the site continues to grow and HMV rebuild the brand, it will be interesting to see if they can re-engage their customers online, in order to drive sales offline.