Mobile score 9/25

First Impressions (3/5)

Entertainment specialist HMV made front-page news when it collapsed into administration in early 2013. The retailer had debts of £170m, despite accounting for 22% of UK and Republic of Ireland music and video sales the previous year.

The HMV of old struggled to be agile when faced with growing competition from digital downloads and supermarkets, teamed with a gloomy high street. However, shortly after its collapse industry pundits predicted the company would regroup and return with a more viable model.

UK Music chairman, Andy Heath, told the BBC at the time: “Fundamentally there’s a very decent business there.”

Three months after HMV went into administration, restructuring company Hilco bought 144 of the shops. The entertainment brand went on to record £16.7m in operating profit between January 29 and December 28, 2013. More recently, HMV regained its crown as the UK’s top music retailer from Amazon.

Hilco founder and HMV chairman Paul McGowan told The Telegraph that the chain’s turnaround was the result of “renewed focus on going back to its roots and getting the basics right.”

From a digital perspective, since its restructuring the entertainment retailer has:

  • Overhauled the editorial-led HMV.com responsive website, including loyalty scheme purehmv.

  • Launched music download service HMVDigital.com and accompanying app HMV Music in a bid to go toe-to-toe with iTunes.

  • Relaunched its ecommerce site Store.HMV.com following a two-year hiatus.

Today there’s integration between HMV’s various digital offerings – though a ropey user experience makes it feel like a work in progress. Given the retailer’s other achievements over the last three years, perhaps that’s unsurprising.

Discovery, Search & Navigation (2/5)

Thanks to its industry-leader status, HMV has no problem driving organic traffic to primary site HMV.com via both desktop and mobile; monthly searches for ‘HMV’ in the UK alone total a cool 450,000. By comparison, the retailer currently makes minimal investment in paid search.

In the months since its relaunch, ecommerce offering Store.HMV.com has derived the bulk of its traffic from HMV.com referrals. HMVDigital.com, meanwhile, relies on both organic search and referrals from HMV.com and Store.HMV.com. It, in turn, refers traffic on to purehmv.com and HMVDigital.ie. We get the feeling that you could lose whole days down the rabbit hole that is HMV’s online ecosystem.

The free HMV Music Android app has achieved between 10,000-50,000 installs, earning a respectable 3.8-star rating. According to SimilarWeb.com, the majority of users discover the app from the web via search.

Over on the App Store, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for HMV Music. Within days of its 2013 launch, the app was suspended after Apple had a change of heart about a previously-approved feature allowing users to download music, deeming it in breach of guideline 11.13: “Apps using IAP (in-app purchasing mechanisms) to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected.” Today, the app derives the bulk of its downloads from web referrals, while the current version is rated 3.3 stars.

HMV.com’s responsive mobile homepage features an attractive, oversized carousel hogging the limelight. However, scroll down and there are immediate resizing issues. We prefer the layout over at Store.HMV.com, with larger images and buttons giving it a more app-like feel.

Four different online offerings feel ‘bitty’, and a drop-down menu in the upper left allows users to navigate between them. In the upper right corner of HMV.com, Find a Store, Search, and another drop-down menu featuring main content categories, Music, Film & TV, and hmvlive, are prominently placed.

The HMV Music Android app is an altogether pinker affair than the retailer’s stable of mobile websites. We had assumed that, given they’re both part of the music downloads offering, it would mirror the layout of HMVDigital.com. Shows what we know. We also have reservations about the app’s horizontal scrolling menu with its partially-displayed categories – we can guess ‘TOP ALB’, but what’s ‘WSE’? Web Service Enhancements? Anyone?

Products & Categories (2/5)

HMV puts all those music and film images to good use online and in-app without sacrificing load times. For us, the layout of editorial-led HMV.com is the weakest link, so praise be for the prominently-placed search tool. By comparison, Store.HMV.com feels relatively straightforward, with the main categories easy to navigate, as well as ‘Sign In’ and ‘Contact Us’ options well positioned.

Still on Store.HMV.com, Music and Film & TV products either available now or to pre-order are clearly marked, and adding products to basket before returning to shopping is painless. Delivery costs, estimated dispatch times, and a link to more information on redeeming pure points are listed directly below the Add to Basket button.

Browsing products and adding them to basket over at HMVDigital.com is no problem, although if you’re expecting much in the way of design continuity, again you’ll be disappointed. The site structure bears little resemblance to Store.HMV.com – there’s no pop-up acknowledging when a product has been added to basket, for example – which is jarring. Meanwhile, HMV Music app users are immediately prompted to sign in or register before they can complete a purchase.

To snap up HMV’s latest bargains, users need to head back over to Store.HMV.com. Scroll down the homepage for a bit and you’ll stumble upon music offers from £5.99, buy one get one free DVDs and Blu-ray, and two CDs for £15. We didn’t spy any mention of these deals on HMV.com, adding to the overall digital disjointedness.

Payment process & Checkout (1/5)

Navigating the purchase process on HMV.com via Android, we struggled to get beyond the product page – unfortunately both the Buy Download and Buy CD buttons refused to play ball.

We enjoyed more success with Store.HMV.com; navigating through to checkout was simple. Delivery offers, including free UK postage for orders over £10 and costs relating to orders under £10 are clearly marked, as are pure points allocated to each order.

Options to sign in, register, or checkout as guest are straightforward, while secure payment information features on the order summary page for added assurance. The name autofill and postcode look up also helps to streamline the process.

Unfortunately, Store.HMV.com fell at the final hurdle, and we weren’t able to complete our purchase on our first attempt. Was it something we said?

Post purchase (1/5)

No sign yet of follow-up emails from HMV prompting us to complete our abandoned purchase, despite entering our contact details before things went south. It’s also been quiet on remarketing via social media and display.

HMV has done an admirable job in turning its fortunes around since its early-2013 troubles, but the chain’s various mobile offerings have a way to go before troubling the digital big boys. Just for starters, our priority list would include additional integration, a UX rethink, design continuity, and some ecommerce TLC.

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