Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Selling original art online - auctions, galleries and stores

Etsy: Number of visitors (monthly) in 2008
(scale = millions)

Here's another post in my short series about selling art online. This one concerns the various websites which provide online art auctions, online art galleries and online art stores for selling your art.

I'm also launching yet another(!) new information site - Online Art Galleries and Stores - Resources for Artists - with a difference - which I'll explain a little later.

Any number of services want to help you to get your art online - but do they actually work and which is the best? If you're trying to find out more about online art galleries and print-on demand services this is the site for you!

The basic business model

The basic thing to remember is that many 'online art' sites exist to make money rather than to sell art. If they make money from taking membership subscriptions from artists who then sell no art, then the company concerned may not be too bothered - so long as there are more people queuing up to hand over their subscriptions. You can read more about this in a post I did last July - Selling art - online art websites, tracking marketing data and a new survey for artists!

A successful business enables people to sell their art - and they then recommend it to all their friends who all turn up, sell their art, recommend it to all their friends etc. That might be a recipe for success. However if the buyers are also very happy with what's being sold you can get exponential growth!

This is the story of Etsy. In 2008, they experienced nearly 200% growth in the number of unique visitors and and they now get over 3.6 MILLION visitors each month visiting Etsy - as you can see from the chart at the top of this post.

This chart shows you that every unique visitor to Etsy stays stayed an average (monthly) of between 11 and 14 minutes during 2008

There is no other website solely devoted to handmade art and craft which gets anywhere near to these numbers.

We have no idea how many people visit the art section of eBay and we do know that artists have been closing down stores and deserting eBay in droves since the changes to the fee structure last year. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Etsy got more art and craft oriented traffic than eBay.

Recommendation: I certainly recommend that any artist wanting to sell their original work online should take a serious look around Etsy. I'll be doing a more in-depth review of the site in the future.

Doing the research

If you're considering using an online art auction, gallery or store then doing a bit of research upfront is very worthwhile and can really reduce the prospect of being disappointed later.

Unfortunately, unlike their offline publishing counterparts (who have to provide customers with independently audited data if they want their business), it can be very difficult to get marketing data about the efficiency and effectiveness of these companies from the companies themselves.

However - using the good services of compete.com it is possible to get an insight into the nature of the traffic. I've looked at two key indicators for the last 12 months (2008) - number of unique visitors each month and average stay. I've then charted these and included the charts with the information about the various sites offering artists a way to sell their art using auctions, galleries or stores.

My new information site only summarises online and publicly available information - all I've done is rounded it up and put it all on one site! On this site you can find links which help you to:
- find out what services a site can offer
- identify where you can sell original artwork
- read reviews about different sites
- compare the costs of different packages
- see how effective a website is at attracting traffic and buyers and compare the traffic trends for the sites you're considering

The site is in development and I've got additional sections to add in - notably for those selling daily paintings!

All suggestions about the inclusion of websites for galleries not currently included below should be made by way of a comment (see Comments and Feedback). All suggestions will be reviewed but will only be published if the website is added. (This is to avoid spam).

You can find all the sites in the selling art online series in my new group Resources for Artists - the Art Business

The Future

I'll also be reviewing different types of sites which sell original art during the course of 2009 and you can suggest priorities by leaving a comment below.

So - what do you think of the charts? Any surprises?



Robyn Sinclair said...

This is such a worthwhile resource you are offering, Katherine. It's enormously appreciated.

I wonder how many art marketing virgins will take the plunge as a result.

Making A Mark said...

Well if they do Robyn, I'm hoping it will be a "happy marriage" as opposed to "rape and pillage"! ;)

My aim is to help people make a better informed decision. There are obviously pros and cons associated with any site - but hopefully this site will give a bit better perspective on what those might be

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Katherine. After having images of my work on several online art sites I learned several things. Most my views came from other artists; secondly the world is chock full of artists and wannabe artists competing in the same online markets; thirdly the art market itself is completely saturated with art pieces waiting to be sold; and lastly unless a buyer has time to sort through all the art online, if your art is not placed in a highly visible position it most likely will not be seen. Though there are exceptions, certainly many artists can and do well via online sells, it is my own experience that my efforts were totally in vain. My art sells have come in all manner of ways, the Internet the least of them. (name withheld)

Making A Mark said...

Although I don't normally allow anonymous comments I am allowing them for this post - so long as they comply in all other respects my my comments policy. I hope people will be able to give an honest assessment of the pros and cons of different ways of selling and different sites without feeling as if they have compromised themselves in the marketplace.

Now - the problem I have with developing both the sites and the blog posts in the way that I am is that I don't yet have all the issues covered! Which means that although I recognise some of the points raised I've not yet addressed them.

So here's the short hand version!

It's certainly true that if you place art on a site and don't do anything else to drive traffic to your art, you're probably not going to have much luck..........
....and this is where the blog and social networking in communities comes into play

In relation to lots of visitors to art for sale sites also being artists - don't forget that lots of artists also like to buy art. A sale is no less of a sale because it's to an artist! Sales are sales! :)

Or - putting it in a more positive light - why not look upon your fellow artists as a potentially captive audience! :)

Tina Mammoser said...

I do agree with Anonymous for the mostpart - and this is where marketing makes the difference (and that holds for *any* product on the marketplace). Marketing, marketing, marketing! That was actually the mantra in my publishing degree, by the way, everything is marketing. ;)

My online sales have historically been lean compared to offline sales but they've still been significant enough. And over the last 12 months I've seen a shift - a few large paintings which typically would only sell offline ("in person" as it were, either with me or a gallery) sold online. This has never happened purely through an online venue in the past. (Large paintings have sold online but only if discounted or if there was an existing relationship of some kind.) So I think we must have an open mind.

Etsy, like any online venue, requires more than just listing. Any online strategy has to include marketing: be it social, adverts, print, whatever. Time and effort is involved: essentially you are bypassing the gallery system but remember that a gallery puts time and effort into a transaction. If you choose an online venue then you must put in that time and effort in this new arrangement. Online sites are generally just hired promotional space - not an agent/salesperson relationship. (there are some exceptions)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Katherine for all this legwork and putting all of this together in one handy dandy site!

Having sold work off-line for years, I just recently made my first on-line sale via my blog. I've been dwelling on how to go about the process to make on-line sales more convenient for all, and Etsy has been my first choice for a while now. This probably seals the deal. I'll let you know how things pan out.

(and thank you for the info about Feedburner/Google. I had seen the little blip they had on the top of the page, but had no idea of the looming deadline. Trnsfer appeared seamless, but we'll see who really gets my next post!)

Papierflieger said...

There is a very well known illustrator on ETSY who has sold 55 items since August 2008. He has a large fan community, a distinct style (:)) a good reputation and a solid body of work. He went on ETSY rather late. I would guess that his sales will come down during this year and that he finally will remove his expensive items. I would bet that he would be also successful on sites like Imagekind.

As to stores for integration into or attached to your website I want to throw in: BIGCARTEL.COM easy to handle free for up to 5 items.(however had no sales yet,is used by a lot of creative people)

Jill Smith said...

I have had a shop on etsy twice and have done a study on it and the end result is if you have something to sell it has to be a low price, there is a few that can charge more but its not many.
A lot of friends have tried for years and are putting things at sale prices to sell.
Its simular to ebay , i was told to put cheap stuff on and people will get to know you as an artist but all they get to know is all of a sudden your prices are sky high when you put the good price art on.
I find a website and a blog does a lot better.

R. Skip Uldriks said...

Your a lot more appreciated than you might think.

I'm a new subscriber to your blog, and an old crusty graphics guy, as well a newbie to the world of iArt.

Like you, 20 years ago I preferred the pencil to the mouse and paper rather than a monitor.

I successfully drifted away from copy, images and ideas into the business world of kitchens, waiters, menus and blue-plate specials. But I can now re-enter your world again.

However, I think these two worlds are not so different! Four things to remember are....
1. Create a purple cow, something remarkable, worth talking about.
2. Go for the edge. Not just cute, but breaks your heart. More than a smile, but a belly laugh. Not just wet, but cold and deeeep blue.
3. Its NOT about you, it's about your customer. Collecting new friends, saying thank you for the least bit of kindness. Building a tribe of friends.
4. Location, location, location, whether on main Street or in the virtual world.

These ideas I've learned from Seth Godin over the years.


Two books get to the point that I'm referencing especially well, Free Prize Inside (Pg. 176) and Tribes (Pg.49). Seth's books are a must read for anyone wanting to start something successfully, anywhere!

Miss Katherine, your the purple cow (that's good) in the virtual pasture of art. My Pocahontas (guide), and count me as a proud new member of your "Tribe".

Thanks so much!!

Anonymous said...

thank you for the post!! I'm not ready to start selling online, but it's one of my 2009 goals, so I'm trying to read everything I can find!
(I've also been enjoying your sketching pdf-sketching is the one thing that so far I've been able to commit to on a daily basis)
thanks again

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