With foot traffic decreasing for many brick and mortar art galleries and the constant challenge of finding new art collectors, the experience one has in your gallery space is paramount. Here we will look at five simple ways your art gallery might improve the experience prospects have when they walk through your door.
If your gallery location has lots of foot traffic walking past or a place visible to passing cars, you might find it becoming more difficult to get those people to stop in and just look around. Attracting prospective collectors via social media and advertising is only part of the strategy. Many art gallery businesses, large and small, have voiced concerns about weather it even makes sense to have a physical location partly because of the lack of foot traffic.
Today the broader public has the perception that art galleries are elitist and expensive. But we know this is not necessarily true. This perception needs to be changed. One way your gallery business might accomplish that is by ensuring a positive experience with new art collectors that are visiting your gallery for the first time.
The ideas listed below are based on research done for the retail industry, but with a twist to be more applicable to a fine art gallery business.
1. Install Informational Gallery Exhibition Signs.
Taking cues from how museums organize their exhibition education, create signs around the gallery that tell the story about the art on the walls. So many galleries seem to make it very difficult for a curious art lover to learn about the art in an exhibition or artists displayed. If they want to more information, they must find a gallery employee and ask. Someone just coming in to look, may not even know what to ask because they don’t really understand the context of the show.
One-on-one contact with a gallery associate may not be desired immediately. They just want to look. Informative signs about what they are looking at encourages people to spend more time in the gallery and act as silent sales associates. They also encourage interested viewers to engage with gallery staff once they feel they have a basic understanding of what they are looking at. Signs should be large, include an attention-grabbing headline and be easy to read quickly. This tactic has improved the experience of museum goers and can do the same for your gallery visitors.
2. Create a Great First Impression in 10 Seconds
When someone new enters your gallery for the first time, you basically have 10 seconds to make a good first impression. Consider what impression you are making every day, by looking at your gallery space through the eyes of new gallery visitors. This applies to the outside of your gallery as well. Is someone always near the entrance to welcome visitors? Are there ladders or boxes laying around during a show hanging? Does your space look friendly and inviting or stark and intimidating? Can people driving by easily read your gallery name? Is it so full of objects that it’s visually overwhelming?
These factors can be a big deal to get someone walking by to even come in the door. Making a strong first impression is the first step in having a good gallery experience.
3. Don’t Hide the Humans
Many fine art galleries are set up with staff offices in the back. It is not uncommon for art lover popping in a gallery to feel they are interrupting gallery staff from their work. Or worse, they cannot find anyone to ask a simple question. This is such a big mistake. One of the advantages of buying art in a gallery is the human connection – both for you the gallerist and the collector. If your gallery is set up like this, bring in a small desk and few chairs into the exhibition space to ensure someone is available for engagement at all times. These can easily be moved out of the way for events.
Nothing makes a gallery visitor feel like they are not welcome than being in the exhibit space all alone. Gallery staff should not be hidden behind a wall. This can have an effect on the overall gallery experience. It can also lead to missed opportunities to convert a curious art lover into an art collector.
4. Offer Optimal Gallery Hours
Make sure that your art gallery is open when collectors want to shop. Many galleries keep fairly regular business hours, closed Sunday and Monday and around 6:00p.m. on the days they are open. Do you know for certain that some of your art buyer prospects would not stop by later in the evening after work or on a Sunday? Some prospects will not bother to make an appointment for your off hours if they are not fairly certain they are ready to for an art purchase.
It’s all about convenience these days. That is one reason buying art online has seen such growth. Whether or not a prospect is ready to buy or not, being open when it is most convenient for shoppers increase your gallery’s opportunity to engage and sell and improves the experience they will have with your gallery vs your competitors.
5. Provide Unique Experiences
Lastly, create more reasons for art collectors to come into the gallery. Opening and closing exhibit nights are great. Art walks participation is also a wonderful way to get more foot traffic into the gallery. The more reasons you can give a broader audience to visit the gallery through diverse events the better for everyone.
Try hosting one featured gallery event, such as a show opening or artist talk, and two smaller, more unexpected events in the gallery each month. Minor events can be creative. For example, try a Tasting Tuesday of either wine, craft beer, chocolate or cheese. Invite someone local to come in and discuss their recent projects, such as writer, historian or musician. Choose events that are easy for you to set up and give your gallery an opportunity to cross promote the occasion. You don’t need to keep this up all year, but it might be a smart strategy during your slow seasons.
You may attract a new audience who can experience your gallery in a unique way. Your gallery events may also help word of mouth about how incredible your is and how much fun your events are to attend.
A great read for creating meaningful events that engage attendees is The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. This book is may inspire how you structure gallery events.
In our online world, it is more challenging to get people in the door. And once you do, if their experience is not great, you will never see them again. The online art market will continue to grow as collectors like the both the convenience and experience. Thankfully, art buyers still want human contact with artists and gallerist.
The strategies listed above are just some of the most common mistakes galleries make. Not all will apply to your gallery. Consistency is key. Results may not be immediately obvious, so allow enough time to make an accurate evaluation and tweak if needed.
If your art gallery is outside of a major art market, such as New York and London, you may have to focus on the experience to change the general population’s perception of what art galleries are like. That will take time. Be creative and continually put yourself in a position to see your gallery business from their eyes.