As the bell tolls for one of the UK’s most established high street brands, it occurs to me that small businesses nationwide should now be thinking about their futures and how they can learn something from HMV’s unfortunate demise.

The internet has become much more than just a high fangled source of information. Whereas a few years ago I would have been impressed to shop online, network with my mates and book a meal out, nowadays these things are the norm. Nowadays I can order my weekly shopping on the move, stream movies online instantly, contact any of my friends in about 4 different ways and even pay over the counter – with my phone!

The key to online success in the future (or at least certainly the one we are shaping for ourselves at the present time!) is not just being visible, but being ‘active’ in your own online space. Your website is your shop window, your contact form is your sales assistant and your social networks are your direct lines to your marketplace. The whole thing glows with opportunity and the message from the high street this week has been clear.

“Get online, engage your audience and start building for your future outside of the shop front.”

Consumers have changed as the internet has changed. The ways in which we procure our personal items has changed dramatically and is still changing. I for one do not like change and I’m the first to admit it! Just ask my Mrs! I am as OCD as they come when it comes to routines and the way I like to go about my day to day business. But change is hardly ever a bad thing; and I’ve learned that it’s my own personal attitude to the change that defines my feelings about it, not necessarily the change itself!

You look at an establishment like HMV and you think ‘How on Earth did that fail!?’ Well, if you look at this questionnaire I took myself:

Did you ever go on the HMV website?

Never really? Once at Christmas as I wanted a gift voucher for my sister but decided to go in store personally.

Why didn’t you buy it online?

I wanted a hard copy version of the voucher to give as a gift. This was not an option online.

Did you look around the site?

No not really.

Why not?

There was little content and no opportunity for engagement really. Plus most of the stuff I could buy there I could get on Amazon / Play etc. for half the price.

Why was this allowed to happen?

Because as the world got more and more ‘online-centric’, HMV who were primarily a high street outfit, had no audience with which to engage. So when crunch time came, there was no one to turn to that could pull them out of the slump in the face of some very, VERY powerful opposition. HMV for me was isolated and alone with nowhere to go but down in the end.

So what can we take from this?

Invest in your website, get yourself up the Google rankings and start building an audience. Engage with potential customers, existing customers and most importantly, other businesses!

Check out this article in the Independent, as it covers off some really key points in relation to the internet and what’s coming next. More importantly, it touches on the importance of networking outside of the events and exhibitions. Creating clusters of businesses that although do not work directly together, engage in the social world to create melting pots of ideas and inspiration that everyone benefits from.

Information is not difficult to come by and I for one spend most of my days pouring it out to prospective clients just because they asked! Enquire about what you can do to safeguard your online future and you may just stumble across that little trinket of information that sets off an entire online strategy that you hadn’t considered before.