If you live in the UK you will have definitely heard about the demise of HMV and those outside of the UK will no doubt be aware of it as well. Whilst they have so far only slipped into administration and not vanished forever it is shocking for some to see such a large long established name in such trouble, even though they aren’t the first big name to go under in the UK in recent years.
I’ve read a lot about the situation and the whole history of it* and a lot of blame, not unjustly, is sitting at the door of internet shopping – most notably Amazon. A lot of people accuse the HMV management of resting on their laurels and being too dismissive of the emergence of online shopping in the late 90s. But one comment that stood out to me amongst everything I read was the rather flippant assertion that this wasn’t the case because in 1997 HMV launched their own website selling online. It was presented as if that was enough – HMV had a website so online shopping can’t be the problem.
Simply having a website isn’t enough, pretty much anyone can do it now and back in the late 90s it wasn’t that hard to get up and running with something. However taking your website seriously takes work, work which HMV clearly didn’t put in. They should have been able to leverage the trust in their high street brand to draw people to their online operations, especially in an era when people were new to internet shopping and were probably more cautious about shopping online than they are in the modern day and age.
The founders of Play.com have been quoted in a few places as being surprised by HMV, that they were constantly waiting in fear of HMV turning their guns on them and making a concerted effort to take them on, but this push never emerged.
Yes HMV had a website but were they really doing what it takes to make it successful? Even in recent years I’ve used the download service at 7Digital that HMV run and by god it’s awful. It worked but it was ugly and clunky and the search was horrendous and confusing. (They’ve updated it recently so hopefully they’ve ironed out some problems) This was during 2012 – in 2012 HMV appeared to still not be taking their music download site seriously so how can they possibly have been doing so with their retail site in 1997.
Obviously it’s not straight forward here, simply saying HMV should have put more effort into online sales is easy to do but I fear they aren’t the only company to be caught out by developments online. But many people will mistakenly think that having a website is enough and that isn’t the case. If you want it to work you need to put effort in, you need to do more than launch it and leave it. I think this is highlighted to me by the fact that I’ve worked with numerous clients over the years who have probably watched “Field of Dreams” a few too many times and believe that “if you build it, they will come”. That isn’t the case, there aren’t a queue of people waiting to access your new site as soon as you put it live, you have to work getting people there, you have to work making the site work for them once they’re there – If recent years haven’t shown you should be taking your position on the web seriously then I don’t know what will show people.
*I’ve read so much that I can’t remember or find where I read some of the things I quote here which is a bit annoying.