The online art market is expanding, although traditional collectors have been slow to adapt to online sales. However, a younger generation of art buyers is changing the attitudes and behaviors of collectors. These young buyers consider art collecting both a financial investment and a lifestyle activity. Social media plays a crucial role for these younger collectors, as they use it to purchase art and conduct research on artists and art trends. In essence, the shift towards online art buying could lead to a more inclusive art market. Artists who lack access to prestigious art institutions, critics, and galleries in major art cities like New York, London, and Berlin can now reach a broader audience of fans, critics, and collectors by selling their artwork online.
Artists are motivated to sell art online because it allows them to directly engage with buyers. Ashley Longshore, an artist from New Orleans with almost 108k Instagram followers, has managed to maintain her local base and retain all profits from her artwork thanks to her association with famous collectors including Blake Lively and Penelope Cruz.
While Longshore has successfully made online art sales through social media surpassing $30,000 in value, it should be noted that such achievements are rare and not the norm. The majority of artwork purchased on the internet tends to sell below the $5,000 mark. Certain artists may hesitate to engage in online art sales out of concern that setting low price points early in their career could hinder their chances of securing gallery representation in the future. This apprehension is based on the fact that prestigious collectors typically purchase artwork at higher price points to gain prestige, rather than solely based on personal preference. Nonetheless, many artists, particularly those residing outside major cities, are less likely to tap into the high-end market and therefore are more inclined to take the risk of selling their art online.
What steps should be taken to achieve success in online art sales? How can artists optimize the opportunity to sell their art through digital platforms for online art sales?
WHERE TO SELL WORK ONLINE
Artsyshark has a website listing more than 250 platforms for selling art online, but it can be time-consuming to go through each platform individually. However, Cory Huff, an artist business coach, has compiled a list on his website, The Abundant Artist, which compares over 170 sites for selling art online. This list evaluates various features such as MozRank, which indicates the popularity of each platform in search engine rankings, as well as details about processing and commission fees, smartphone optimization, page customization options, and other features.
If you want to quickly get online, one option is to post your work on an online gallery or portfolio platform. Saatchi Art is one of the oldest and most recognized online galleries for selling unique art objects, with over 1.6 Million monthly visits. Posting images of works on Saatchi Art is free, but they take 35% of every sale for their services in processing sales and brokering shipping. Other online galleries like absolutearts.com offer various membership levels that affect a portfolio’s placement, exposure, number of images allowed, visitor statistics, and coverage in reports and newsletters. There are also online galleries that require an application and only promote a curated selection of works. Another option is DeviantArt, which is not a gallery but a platform for discovering new work and contacting artists. DeviantArt claims to be the world’s largest online art community, with over 285 million pieces of art. Other boutique online art sales sites vary in visitor reach and the services they provide.
One disadvantage of utilizing platforms such as SaatchiArt, DeviantArt, or absolutearts.com is the restriction to a fixed format. While having your own website grants total control over presentation and sales, a poorly developed site can pose difficulties in navigation and limit search engine rankings. If hiring a designer is not within your budget, opting for website creation tools like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or WordPress could serve as a suitable middle ground alternative.
How to Effectively Market Your Art Online
Leverage the power of social media.
Depending on your target audience, social media can prove to be highly beneficial. I suggest narrowing down your scope to Facebook and Instagram.
a. Utilize Facebook to Share and Promote Your Art
Facebook is a massive platform with numerous users, groups, and subgroups. Many artists have found success on Facebook by becoming members of various groups. To illustrate, suppose you are an artist specializing in spiritual art. On Facebook, you can find several mindfulness and meditation groups to join. Engage with these communities and interact with individuals who may have an interest in your art. Additionally, you have the option to establish your own Facebook page. Share images of your artwork at different stages, within your studio, and on display in buyers’ homes.
Cory Huff suggests that by following a logical sequence, one can rephrase the statement “Facebook can lead you to bigger sales in the future” while preserving its original meaning.
It is advisable to have a budget for advertising. If you have sufficient knowledge, you can achieve good results by spending $5 per day for a few weeks. Facebook typically employs a loss leader strategy. If you intend to sell items worth $10,000, it is unlikely that you will be successful on Facebook. However, artists can sell pieces online for $1,000 and $2,000, often making multiple sales under $1,000. Once these buyers become familiar with you and your artwork, you can upsell them in the future. Facebook can lead to bigger sales down the line. You can target individuals based on their interests and activities. For example, I collaborated with a Hawaiian artist who specializes in traditional Hawaiian art. We focused our ads solely on Hawaii residents aged between 25-60, who speak English and possess college degrees. By specifically targeting this audience, the artist spent $30 on Facebook ads and generated sales worth $3,000. Although this may not always be the case, it is possible.
b. Instagram attracts dealers and collectors.
Instagram is a social network that focuses solely on sharing images and can only be accessed through mobile devices. Users are able to browse through various images on their phones, making it convenient to discover and appreciate artwork. This platform is particularly beneficial for artists who aim to attract art dealers and agents. Therefore, if you are seeking such opportunities, using Instagram is essential. Additionally, Instagram can also be utilized as a marketing tool to directly target art collectors. Given the abundance of art collectors on this platform, it serves as an ideal platform to showcase one’s talent and gain recognition from potential buyers.
Make the most of email marketing by considering each step carefully.
Email marketing is often overlooked as a method of promoting art, which can be detrimental for artists. Instead of utilizing it, artists tend to focus solely on social media platforms. However, marketing solely on social media poses a challenge as users are primarily there for socializing, meaning that your artwork is competing with numerous other distractions. In contrast, email provides a direct pathway to someone’s inbox.
a. Establish Connections via Email
Your emails should focus on establishing a connection with your contacts. If you sell a small piece to a collector and acquire their email address, it is advisable to send a thank you email. Additionally, include a link to your website/portfolio, stating, “If you’re interested, here’s a link to my website/portfolio.” A week later, send another email explaining to the collector the reason behind your artistic creations. Providing insights into the process of creating your work can be done through a video or by sharing a link to a blog post. People are particularly interested in behind-the-scenes content and previews of upcoming pieces. Every few weeks, offer your contacts a teaser, showcasing upcoming works and highlighting past successes, such as your art displayed in other people’s homes. Demonstrating that your work is part of someone else’s collection provides social proof to your potential buyers.
b. Send emails at the maximum possible frequency, provided that they remain interesting.
Many artists inquire about the frequency of email communication, but the crucial aspect to consider is how frequently one can remain captivating. A few daily painters, such as Jolie Guillebeau who creates a fresh 100 piece series biannually, often send emails to fellow artists three to five times per week, showcasing a new artwork from their series. Notably, each email results in a purchase of a new artwork.
ONLINE ART MARKETING STRATEGIES
To successfully sell art online, the next challenge is to gain attention. The internet is not a magical place where simply creating a website will automatically attract visitors. Websites do not operate on their own, but instead, function as part of a wider network of digital and analog channels that can generate connectivity and website traffic. If you intend to drive online art sales, either through your website or on an online art platform, it is important to develop an art marketing strategy in order to reach a loyal customer base.
If you are a writer, hosting a blog can be beneficial. It allows potential buyers to gain insight into your influences, artistic style, and technique, fostering an emotional connection to your work. Furthermore, regularly writing blog posts can improve your ranking on search engines like Google. To optimize this, it’s important to understand how SEO keywords function. By familiarizing yourself with the search terms potential collectors use when looking for art online, you can incorporate these keywords into your blog posts to enhance visibility in search results.
To expand your network and enhance your art marketing, you can connect with other influencers in your field such as collectors, gallerists, curators, or fellow artists. If you are not inclined towards writing, you could explore the option of creating a podcast or online video series. If you have a specific art-related topic that excites you, hosting a digital conference or a series of pre-recorded interviews can be a viable choice.
Email is still highly recommended by digital marketers as the primary marketing tool due to people’s selectiveness in providing their email addresses. By focusing on email, you are targeting individuals who have already shown interest in your work, such as art collectors who not only appreciate the aesthetic appeal of your art, but also the artistic process behind it, which inspires them. With the ability to effectively convey your creative process through engaging words and images, email can serve as an excellent platform to establish connections and guide individuals to exhibitions where they can experience your work in person and have the opportunity to meet you.
One strategy artists can use to drive traffic is purchasing ads on Facebook and Google Adwords. To succeed with Adwords, it is important to choose the right keywords or phrases that will attract interested visitors to your site. For example, using the keyword “oil painting” can be expensive and ineffective due to the large number of competing sites. However, if you create blog posts related to your work, you can use specific terms or phrases from those posts to optimize your Adwords. On Facebook, you can create ads that target people with specific interests or who like certain pages, such as fans of well-known artists who create similar work. Both strategies require upfront investment and trial and error to determine what works best for you. An additional benefit of online ads is the access to detailed analytics, which can help you better understand and engage with potential customers or clients.