Selling art online

Today there are many avenues for selling art online. The easiest part of the process is setting up an online sales channel. The most difficult part is getting someone to actually complete the sale process and make a payment.

There are different online channels. Social media channels including Facebook, Youtube and Instagram offer opportunities for creating online stores within their channel. Of course you don’t need a store; many artists simply list artworks on their social feed and a sales transaction takes place on trust. Other providers offer template based ecommerce stores. The most recognised being Shopify. Others include WordPress, Squarespace and Strikingly. It isn’t necessary either to have a full-blown ecommerce store. Some artists create a simple website to show their art and facilitate payment by invoice through Paypal or direct payment.

You don’t need a degree in website design. Reputable suppliers provide excellent guides and support. Look for a provider that doesn’t start charging you until your store is ready to go live. If you are setting up your online store for the first time then allow yourself a couple of weeks of solid work to get it ready to go.

Outside of your own website or store, there is digital retailers such as Ebay, Etsy and even Amazon. Etsy has the advantage of being for arts and craft sellers only. Ebay and Amazon require you to fight for attention against a plethora of products. These online platforms make it easy for you to display your art; unfortunately, despite their massive marketing muscle, you are just one of many, many artists. Another option may be to list your work with an online gallery such as Bluethumb.

That’s the easy part out of the way. Next you have to drive potential customers to your store or website. There are three options. The first is known as organic marketing. The advantage of organic marketing is that it can be done for a low cost; the disadvantage it can takes years of effort to build a following. This is achieved through word of mouth and social sharing. The second option is offline marketing, some such as email marketing is low cost, others such as print media comes at a higher cost. The third option is to purchase paid online advertising, where you pay a provider such as Google or Facebook each time someone clicks a link to your store. The advantage, in theory is that you are able to access a global market. In reality, to achieve this would require you to have a bottomless bucket of cash. With paid online marketing a small investment only buys you access to a small group of potential customers. The other drawback to paid marketing is that even if someone clicks a link to your store, the majority will not commence or complete a sale. As with offline marketing, this means you have paid for your marketing long before you get paid for your art.

Which brings us to the third set of activities associated with selling online. You have to maintain your store. Regardless of whether you own the digital real estate or you rent digital space, it is you that needs to take photographs of your art, upload images, write a description, set a price, determine conditions of sale and update your store with fresh stock. Believe me when I say this takes much more time than you expect. It is this set of activities that determine if you will make a sale or otherwise.

When you engage in marketing or buy advertising you are paying to get the customer through the door of your store. You make the sale because you create a superb customer experience; you lose the sale because you do the opposite. Its is the same for both an online store or bricks and mortar galleries. The challenge with online customer service is there is no second chance, no opportunity to recover a sale that is slipping away and limited opportunity for engaging your customer in a conversation.

The customer experience commences with how you present your art online, continues with how easy it is for them to make a purchase and completes with your artwork arriving in one piece and meeting their expectations. In between there can be an awful lot of work.

Don’t be put off by the appearance of complexity in this process. At the same time don’t be fooled by the marketing tactics of website suppliers, internet hosting providers and digital marketing companies. Each of them only tells you what they want you to know; none of them tell you the full story. Digital advertising can help you gain sales; so can organic marketing. An online store can help you display your art; so can an ordinary website. If you have to choose where to invest your marketing dollars, spend it on having high quality images made of your work. Good photography will help you sell more than any amount of money spent on a website or digital marketing.

Over many years have created content for website and ecommerce stores, have wide experience in creating marketing messages for both online and offline channels. If you would like advice and guidance in selling art online reach out to John.

I’m John Coxon, founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations remain viable through application of The Cycle a proven model for arts organisations. Reach out,

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