Regardless of how much time, energy and money you put into reaching new art buyers, a key part of building a sustainable art business is encouraging those individuals to buy from you again.
If the bulk of your sales tend to be one-hit wonders, you may be wondering what you can do about it. Here are four ways to help your current business model encourage repeat purchases:
1. Create art collections with common threads
Consumers buy art because they are drawn to the look and feel of the pieces, the subject matter of the work, technique, media used and, in some cases, the story behind the piece. If they can only find one painting in your collection that showcases the right mix of elements which moves them to buy, they won’t come back for more.
So, instead of approaching every painting like a brand new creation, approach your collection with an eye toward cohesiveness. Look at your top-selling pieces, and make note of the size of the canvas, color scheme, concept and price point. Then, brainstorm ways to create “accessory” pieces that complement larger pieces (and are priced appropriately as “add on” artwork).
You may also be able to create original “feature” work that binds two dissimilar pieces together in some way, or bridges multiple pieces, so that much of your artwork goes better with each other than they do alone.
2. Give buyers a reason to stay in touch
Large retailers use something called “retention marketing” to gain repeat customers, and you should too. Whenever possible, gather customer contact information at the point of sale—including email, social media handles, and physical mailing addresses—thank them for their business, and express the reason behind your desire to stay in touch. (For example, you may offer discounts for repeat or volume purchases, or “exclusive previews” of new work, or works-in-progress.)
Then, make use of low-cost marketing channels like email marketing and social media to create relevant, targeted communications based on each customer’s history. This may include suggesting appropriate pieces based on sales history or loyalty-building efforts like special invitations to shows and other ongoing events that you host.
All of these efforts will help to build a sense of community among you and your customers, and encourage repeat business.
3. Learn when your customers prefer to buy
Instead of marketing to customers when your cash flow slows, or your inventory becomes a little too high, it’s better to identify their buying patterns and contact them at the appropriate times.
For example, many individuals purchase around traditional gift-giving (or “splurging”) times, like holidays or tax refund season. The closer you can time your communications to a customer’s personal buying patterns, the better your shot at converting them into repeat purchasers.
4. Make your art easy to purchase
Give customers the ability to browse your work on a website that loads quickly, is simple and easy to navigate, and allows them to purchase using a secure checkout process with the option to pay using a credit card or debit card. (According to Bloomberg, online art sales are increasing at a rate of 25 percent per year, so this is becoming a very important step.)
If you show pieces in a studio or gallery, evaluate whether your work is accessible for viewing during customer-friendly hours including nights and weekends, and whether or not it’s in a visually pleasing space that is easy to locate and has adequate parking nearby.
Ensure that you are equipped to sell work from those “storefronts” (and accept credit cards) by using a mobile credit card processing system. Most of these plug into the jack of your smartphone or tablet, making it easy to swipe a card and finish the purchase right then and there.
Also take a good look at your current return/exchange policies, the amount of inventory you have on hand, and your shipping fees and money-back guarantees. If any of these things don’t work to the benefit of the customer, it’s possible you’re giving customers a reason NOT to buy, and something needs to change!
Getting reorders may require that you think a little more like a marketer than a painter, but even a little effort in this regard can pay big dividends. By identifying why customers purchased from you once, you can satisfy those needs again and increase the chances of a repeat sale from every single customer you serve.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a firm that helps artists and small businesses alike accept payments. Learn more about her work at BluePay.com.
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