Art galleries need to strategically develop their online sales strategies to integrate with the face-to-face experience art collectors would have in the brick and mortar gallery.
Since the entire global art world now knows what it is like to operate without a physical location to meet face-to-face, getting your gallery’s digital sales strategy properly in place is vital. COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on how you do business has further highlighted what was already an underlying problem with today’s typical art gallery business model.
Offering an integrated online and in-gallery buying experience will be the way art galleries do business in the future. This is because art buyer’s needs, and expectations, are rapidly changing thanks to technology. You have certainly seen this for yourself with your collector base.
Collector confidence for purchasing artworks online is on an accelerated rise. So now is the perfect time to up your game for online sales. There is a lot more you can do then simply signing up with an online art sales platform. (Although you should be doing that too if you haven’t already.)
Preparing to integrate your gallery’s sales strategy
To integrate your online and offline sales strategy, begin by reviewing the experience leads and clients already typically have with your gallery. Start with all the various places one might first discover your gallery and walk in their shoes as best you can from discovery to purchase. As you review, note crossovers from online to offline and vice versa. That is where opportunities will be found.
Doing this will enable you to see integration points that will strengthen your sales position and potentially shorten the sales cycle. Get those red dots ready!
In this preparation phase, take the opportunity to review all your current online e-commerce channels to determine if any should be added or removed into your gallery’s strategy. Analyze performance and ensure your gallery’s profile and inventory are complete and deliver a persuasive message.
Create a more engaging user experience on your art gallery website
A lot of brilliant digital functionality can be added to your gallery’s website to increase engagement of prospective buyers, provide them with a fabulous experience and ultimately sell more art.
Audit your gallery website from a collector’s perspective. A key question to ask yourself is if there enough information available to make a buying decision?
Here are few ideas that will help you integrate online and offline buyer experiences on your website.
- Provide an immersive viewing experience. The benefit of being in the gallery is physically being able to see a work of art in person. View it from afar or up close or walk around it. You can provide a similar experience by simply posting more images of a single piece or shooting a short video walking around a sculpture. Include photos of a piece with detail shots of brushwork and a piece of furniture or person to give a sense of scale.
- Build-in social influences by posting testimonials in different places across your website and social media. You can also share tons of photos of crowded gallery events of people having a great time. Send these out to your mailing list so those attending might find themselves and those who didn’t will not want to miss the next event. Think of it as a FOMA exploitation strategy.
- Answer buying questions that you are commonly asked face-to-face. These might include:
- Conditions under which they can return a piece. Create and post an attractive return policy. Consumers are most familiar with a two week to 30 days return window.
- Payment plan options. Now there are services such as Art Money that galleries can use to make offering plans painless.
- Create visual decompression zones for visitors to get their bearings when first visiting your site. Physical retail stores intentionally design their space to allow people to acclimatize when first walking through the door. This encourages browsing. While harder to replicate online, using decompression zones in the form of bold imagery above the fold has a similar effect. See the beautiful way Arnika Dawkins Gallery creates a decompression zone when a visitor first lands on the home page.
- Make online calls to actions lead to offline interactions, such as clicking to schedule an appointment or RSVP for a gallery event. Offline to online works too. An example might be to signup in the gallery for a virtual studio visit with an artist
- Create niche social spaces online. Shopping is more fun with friends. You might create a group and host an online forum just for members. For example,
- Young collectors could enjoy in-person events in the gallery just for them and keep the conversation going in an online chat-room on the gallery site.
- Or say you have a group of collectors who have built a substantial collection of art over their life. Their group could focus on sharing ideas for managing the collection and estate planning.
- Give people a place to make comments. This is very cool on artist portfolio pages and exhibitions. Try to frame this feature with how you want it to be used so it can encourage a dialog among viewers rather than a place for people to ask the price.
Tech Tools an Art Gallery can Incorporate into a Sales Strategy
There is an impressive number of online tools that could help improve the integrated experience for your gallery’s online prospects, clients, and artists. Every week it seems something new is released. I try to keep an eye out for these kinds of opportunities for you. Some are art world specific, but others are tools that other industries are using with great success, but rarely seen utilized in the gallery sector. Why?
Here are a few of my favorites that I think an art gallery could use to their advantage.
This is pretty new and so cool. It allows you to ask questions via video. I see your gallery business using this as your mailing list signup form, screening artist submissions, scheduling consultations, getting feedback on a sales experience and many other creative ways.
I love it because it allows a web visitor to see and hear you as they provide information. It takes the coldness out of a plain form or survey. Check it out and be creative. It’s also pretty affordable.
I’m betting after your experience doing business, while practicing social distancing, you know all about Zoom or Skype. The virtual meetings and experiences using video conferencing should and probably will remain as part of doing business in the gallery sector.
Video conferencing is a fabulous tool to be personal with out-of-town clients or extend the exhibition experience with anyone who cannot make it to an opening. They provide clients more intimate 1:1 access to artists who have studios in another city as well.
Speaking of video. Live chats on Facebook and Instagram are also proven to be good way of engaging people online. Social media live chats help encourage art buyers to continue their customer journey and reach out to the gallery for a one-to-one conversation.
Build a strategy for how your gallery can use these to integrate online and offline. I recommend for both Zoom and social media live videos to develop a standardized format for exactly how these tools will be used and how they fit into your overall marketing goals. Doing so will help create continuity among your fans and set expectations, which helps create momentum for both brand equity and sales.
To encourage people to make more appointments to come to the gallery during those “By Appointment Only” hours, put an appointment booking plugin on your site. You could even enable a prospect to choose in the gallery or video conference to provide better convenience.
Calendly is the one I use, but there are several out there to choose from that will best meet your needs.
Virtual exhibit software
Virtual exhibitions can be an amazing addition to your digital toolbox and there are many options to choose from on the market. This is particularly true when works of art are more meaningful when positioned together and you want to see both at the same time for the greatest conceptual impact.
You have to be willing to learn the software, which can sometimes be difficult to configure for a positive viewing experience. If you don’t have the tech-savvy bandwidth, you may have similar success by creating a more visually powerful and informative slideshow of artworks.
Chatbots are used in many creative ways. They are those little icons in the lower right corner of a website that enable 1:1 chats or deliver a particular message at a specific time. Most businesses use them as customer support. Intercom is a popular one.
I would be careful not to get overzealous and have them disrupt the browsing experience of those visiting your gallery website. So how might a gallery use this tech.
- Initial welcome greeting when someone lands on your website
- Showing customized messages as viewers land on different pages of the website
- Offering convenience by chatting online in the moment directly from the website
- Chatbots can also be used as an email list building strategy and for after-hours support
To the Point
Your art collectors are likely to continue to buy online if their experience is positive and expectations for doing business are met or exceeded. In the long-run, art galleries will need to take measures to adapt their digital strategies and online user experience beyond just a short-term pivot to selling online to a fully integrated online-offline sales experience.
A successful strategy must have clear and realistic goals. Those goals are almost meaningless if you don’t also put in place a method and timetable for tracking progress throughout the year, including getting feedback from your clients.