Do Galleries Need eCommerce?
I read an article recently that touched on the idea that the growth of the online art market has endangered the relationship between artists and traditional dealers. The article mentioned that the online relationships that artists can now maintain with potential collectors might harm the traditional brick & mortar structure of the art world. This is an issue that I’ve explored a few times on the Myartspace Blog. It is an issue that deserves to be explored or at least considered. The influence of the internet on the art world is obvious in that artists are utilizing the internet in order to build professional networks and to sell work online. The questions at hand:
1. Should brick & mortar galleries accept eCommerce as part of marketing efforts?
2. If a brick & mortar gallery fails to acknowledge the growth and importance of eCommerce today will that gallery be more apt to endure financial struggles in the future compared to other brick & mortar galleries that learn to accept eCommerce as a viable addition to the traditional art market?
Questions like this often face a very stubborn crowd. I realize that traditionalists of the art market will often firmly state that buying art online will never replace viewing and buying art in person. However, I think with some scenarios even the staunchest advocate against the art market ‘going online’ would agree that it can be profitable if managed correctly. For example, what if the online buyer is already aware of the artist he or she is considering an online purchase from? In that case eCommerce works without question.
Another example-- What if the online buyer is willing to use a secure form of online payment in order to purchase a work of art from an emerging artist? Again, that can work if done right. It works everyday for artists and buyers throughout the world. It can work for brick & mortar galleries as well. The internet is not going away-- eCommerce will continue to fuel the global market. How can anyone deny that? Should brick & mortar galleries take advantage of that? Should they offer eCommerce or utilize sites that offer eCommerce for that purpose? I think so.
My stance is that brick & mortar art dealers should consider having a stronger online presence in order to expand upon their market efficiently at little cost. This includes eCommerce options for selling art. I believe that most gallery owners would benefit from being involved-- or having staff involved-- with social networking sites and specific online art communities that offer eCommerce capabilities. I have five main reasons for having this opinion:
1st: Displaying art online with eCommerce capabilities will increase the chance of finding a potential buyer for stored artworks at the gallery. Galleries will often have some artworks in storage while other artworks are rotated for public viewing. Thus, by displaying all works-- or at least the stored works-- for sale online the gallery has the potential to unload a piece that would have otherwise remained in storage.
2nd: By utilizing social networking and eCommerce a gallery owner could ‘test the waters’ with a potential new artist to the gallery before investing time and money that could be spent on others who have already proven their marketability and track record. The gallery could technically represent dozens of newcomers online in order to gain feedback and eventually decide who to represent and who to drop. It would also be a good way to have an artist on hold if for some reason an artist represented by the gallery itself abruptly leaves.
3rd: By being involved with social networking sites a gallery owner will increase the flow of traffic to his or her gallery website. Higher online visibility can result in new buyers noticing the gallery. It also translates to more people observing the artists represented at the gallery-- which is never a bad thing.
4th: Utilizing these capabilities could help to strengthen the artist/dealer relationships at the gallery. My assumption is that an artist would feel more secure if his or her artwork had two distinct avenues of being sold at the gallery-- in person or online. If a gallery does not offer eCommerce chances are an artist will discover that option elsewhere independent from the gallery. Thus, I think a gallery owner would be better off exploring the possibility.
5th: The next generation of artists and art collectors will most likely expect a gallery to offer eCommerce and to have a visible online presence. Traditionalists of the art market are still very wary of the internet. However, opinions about how the internet can benefit the art world have changed drastically since the late 1990s. Today you can find online art communities featured at contemporary art fairs alongside traditional brick & mortar galleries. That alone should give you an idea of what is coming-- it is already here. The next generation of artists and art collectors will be born into that. To them the meshing of the internet with the art world will be the norm instead of being viewed as dangerous territory.
Do galleries need eCommerce? I think so. I think it will become a vital aspect of the art market of tomorrow. What say you?
Take care, Stay true,