Selling Art Online

This blog has been written as a response to an Academy of Digital Business Leadership (ADBL) assignment – “Find a subject relevant to your own organisation that you are passionate about. Create a piece of engaging and informative content about it. Consider making something that could draw your target audience to your organisation; perhaps something you could imagine them exchanging their contact details for. Make sure it is clear and accessible to people relatively new to your subject.

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In addition to the ADBL, my intended audience for this blog are various visual artists with whom I am associated through my interest in art and painting plus in order to open discussion on how collectively we could possibly sell limited edition art prints to an online marketplace.

Selling Original Art

Annual income from original art is dictated by:

  • the price that you can sell at;
  • the volume of art you can viably produce over the course of twelve months; and
  • the actual volume that you can sell, probably through galleries and exhibition spaces that typically demand between 30% and 50% commission.

Meaning that if time allowed you to paint say 50 works a year on which you averaged say £300 margin per painting after commission and framing, your net annual income would amount to £15,000 if you were so lucky to sell all dropping to £7,500 if you were able to sell 50% of your output.

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Approaching Boreray 60cm x 40cm currently priced at £750 before commission.

Selling Limited Edition Giclee Prints

Limited edition giclee art prints can be printed relatively inexpensively using high quality inks and acid free paper by specialist art printing companies such as Glasgow base Deadly Digital who produce limited edition prints  for artists  such as  Jack Vetrianno, John Byrne and Pam Carter.  Resale prices obviously need to be significantly less than for original work, however reduced margins can be compensated by higher volumes not constrained by the time you have to paint.  Sales of 200 to 300 prints per annum could potentially yield an annual income of £15,000 after printing costs if there were no commission.

Selling Online

Traditionally buyers have been reluctant to buy original work online without first physically sighting.  For lower cost limited edition giclee prints this is less of an issue, furthermore when unframed prints can be easily shipped to a global market.

Most artists will have their own website as well as a social media presence, using both to flag currently exhibited work, this being my own site.  Art galleries normally use their own websites to reflect the work that they are currently exhibiting, promoting new exhibitions to the client base that they have built up over time, however not all are geared to both selling and shipping to a global market.   I want to now reference four somewhat different art websites:

  • Scotland Art.com focuses on original art which it ultimately sells from physical galleries, their SpyFu report indicates that they do not advertise their website;  that they are reliant upon organic searching yielding on average 209 clicks per month; and that their search engine optimised keywords fail to yield a first page search result appearance.
  • Leiper Fine Art  sell limited reproductions from their Glasgow Gallery as well as original work. Their SpyFu report indicates that they also do not advertise their website;  that they are reliant upon organic searching yielding on average 398 clicks per month; and that their search engine optimised keywords also fails to yield a first page search result appearance.
  • Pam Carter is a well known Scottish landscape artist whose original work is sold widely by Scottish galleries, she however uses her website to sell giclee prints directly  to an online audience. Her SpyFu report indicates that she also does not advertise being reliant upon organic searching yielding on average of 180 clicks per month; and that her search engine optimised keywords also fails to yield a first page search result appearance.
  • ArtFinder.com  is a virtual gallery operating as an aggregated reseller representing over 7,000 artists.Their SpyFu report indicates that they have an estimated expenditure of $5,400 per month on pay per click (PPC) advertising yielding on average 8,300 clicks per month in addition to 5,100 clicks per month generated  through organic searching, unlike the above sites their search engine optimised keywords  yield a first and second page search result appearances.

Selling to a Global Market

ArtFinder.com was established in 2010 and now references circa 198,000 artworks.  The following pie chart indicates how these 198,000 artworks apportion according to the part of the world from which they would need to be shipped from if purchased.

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Managing Volume

As the volume of artwork available to a gallery increases, site navigation becomes increasingly reliant upon categorisation according to price, subject matter, painting medium and the names of individual artists.   Prospective purchasers who are unfamiliar with individual artists may well abort on page 8 of 20 unaware that their passion will be raised by a work appearing on page 13.

ArtFinder.com attempts to manage its volume problem by enabling the site visitor to filter the 198,000 referenced works according to any permutation of a range of filter criteria – type of artwork, style of artwork, subject, price, preferred colour dominance, size, orientation, whether framed or unframed, where shipped from and to.  It also allows site visitors to tag artworks that they particularly like as well as tagging to the reason why they are currently looking for art (e.g. a room makeover or wedding present).  An ArtFinder blog proclaims that they are now disrupting the traditional art market selling ten times more art in one month than 90% of galleries sell in a whole year.  However I wonder if there could be scope for further disruption…?

Buying art is more an act of passion

With the possible exception of collectors who acquire artwork as an investment, most art purchases are motivated by a passion for the artwork in question tempered only by its affordability in the eyes of the purchaser. That passion is ultimately very subjective and individual  for reasons which at first may not be readily explainable but ultimately distil down to the permutations of mediums, styles and techniques that distinguish one artist from another in much the some way that handwriting varies from person to person.  If a prospective purchaser were to tag artworks that they felt particularly passionate about then could content based image retrieval be employed to identify other similar works without recourse to the conventional meta data matching?

Research papers such as this one relating to the augmentation of the concept known as ‘bag of features‘ suggest that the jury is perhaps still out on this one.  The artist’s forum Wet Canvas suggests that the increasing volumes of artwork referenced by ArtFinder.com could be its undoing if large volume of lacklustre work were to eclipse smaller higher quality volumes.  Unless that is visitors to ArtFinder.com and other similar content ‘hub’ sites can be drawn to these sites from content ‘spokes’ that are able to stir initial passion and awareness.

Understanding Channels & Touchpoints

The attached matrix below illustrates the array of different channels that can be used to engage customers at different ‘touch points’ leading up to and the following a sale.  This matrix serves to illustrate the importance of utilising a range of channels to drive traffic to your main point of sale, whether that be your own website, an aggregator site such as Artfinder.com or a combination of sites.  It also indicates, particularly for original art the need to incorporate the physical galleries and exhibition spaces that you use within your overall marketing plan – John Rowland Module 4 Project Touchpoint Analysis

Using ‘Spoke Channels’ to Generate Traffic

Using my own art work here are two examples of potential feeder channels:

  • Using a combination of Twitter and an online quiz application to Win an Awesome Art Print (password “Degas”) to drive traffic to a point of sale.
  • Using a short blog with embedded graphic content to drive traffic to my point of sale, again Twitter could be used to drive traffic in the first instance to the blog.

Keywords: Selling art online   Limited edition art prints   Global market for art

 

 

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