As many of you know, one way I keep track of the online art market is by watching the traffic stats of these ten art-selling websites: Imagekind, RedBubble, ArtByUs, Yessy, Artflock, Boundless Gallery, Artist Rising, PicassoMio, GoZabo and OriginalArtOnline.
Each month I update this traffic graph so all of you can keep track as well—the images below are from January 2008 and show how many visitors each website received each month for the past year. (Visitor data is supplied by Compete.com.)
What’s great about looking at traffic this way is that you can really see which websites are doing well and which ones are failing.
Obviously one of the main indications of a good website is consistent growth, with more visitors each month. The top two art sites I’m tracking are currently Imagekind and RedBubble—Imagekind has the clear lead at 110,000 visitors per month, and RedBubble is in second place with about half of that.
Now, both sites were designed to be artist communities as well as places to sell art and that obviously helps to increase their traffic numbers every month (communities bring in lots of member traffic in addition to outside visitors looking to buy art).
While this isn’t great (since artists would rather have more buyers than members) keep in mind that this DOES guarantee stability.
What do I mean by stability? Just that there’s an actual reason for Imagekind and RedBubble to exist, even if they barely sold any prints at all.
Artists should feel comfortable investing time and effort into these sites because the community ensures that they’ll be around tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.
What I find really interesting, however, is that both of these traffic patterns are similar. Take a look at the following graph with just Imagekind and RedBubble—see how the dips and spikes appear at approximately the same times?
I’m not sure about Imagekind’s September spike (college students buying prints to decorate their dorm rooms perhaps?) but my guess is that we’ll see Imagekind come down a bit next month because they got such a boost from holiday shoppers buying art as gifts in December.
RedBubble has slightly earlier spikes, but with lots of traffic in both November and December that’s got to be the holidays kicking in as well.
In my mind, those spikes are a good sign. As retail sites, they SHOULD get more traffic during the holidays.
With Yessy and Boundless Gallery, however, there’s a different pattern in common—sort of a downward scoop followed by a small spike.
I think Boundless Gallery got a little bit of holiday shopping in November, but not as much as Imagekind or RedBubble. Boundless tends to have more original artwork for sale so the last minute gift shoppers probably headed elsewhere.
The early spike in June, however, shows the effectiveness of one of their promotional campaigns they ran last summer. I think it underscores the fact that Boundless does a good job of constantly having promotions, sales, and contests to bring in traffic.
(Update: Unfortunately, BoundlessGallery struggled during the recession, and has since closed down. Read the full story here.)
Yessy on the other hand may be feeling the pinch of all these other sites surging upward—it has the same pattern, but its overall trend is more downward than upward.
Right now it’s hard to say where Yessy will end up at, but I don’t anticipate it’ll get back to where it was during April, May and June. It didn’t even have a holiday spike like the others did.
Of the bottom six websites, Artist Rising is the only one that looks like it might be able to break away from the pack within the next few months. We’ll have to wait and see if its December jump was a Christmas gift from big brother, Art.com, or an extension of its current traffic pattern.
PicassoMio has slumped a bit over the past year (it used to be neck and neck with Boundless) and I’ve actually heard some rumblings that they’re not doing very well financially either. Just rumors at this point, but looking at their downward stats I’m inclined to think there might be something to it. If you’ve heard anything like that yourself, please let me know.
ArtByUs is holding steady, averaging about 7,000 visitors a month—not much fluctuation over the long run, and yet that’s not entirely a good thing when you’re nearer to the bottom of the pack than you are the top.
Of the three at the very bottom, both GoZabo and Artflock are relatively new so it’s hard to say where they’ll be in the next few months. Artflock is also based in the UK, so Compete.com’s “US only” data may be under-representing their traffic. The same could be said of PicassoMio as well, since they’re based in Europe.
As for OriginalArtOnline, it’s been scraping by at the bottom for a long time now—it’s not new, so there’s no excuse. I don’t expect their traffic to increase at all.
To wrap it up, if these websites were stocks, here are my suggestions:
BoundlessGallery has been heading steadily upwards over the past few years (although at a much slower pace than Imagekind or RedBubble) so I’ll call them a “Buy” stock as well. They’re a solid company.
Yessy is a “Hold” stock because despite their recent downturn they still have the best traffic numbers for a place that sells original artwork. I suppose I’d call Artist Rising and ArtByUs “Hold” stocks too—they aren’t necessarily going down and if you’re happy with how they’re working, then by all means, stick with them.
Remember, if you ever want to check up on these stats yourself, just bookmark EmptyEasel’s Art Market Traffic Graph and drop in each month to see what’s new.