The Scoop About Online Art Stores: A Quick Guide to Selling Art Online

You’ve probably thought about joining an online art store to sell your art. With hundreds of options out there how do you know which online art store is right for you?

In this post I’m going save you a ton of time doing research, by giving you a quick guide to selling your art online using online art stores. Learn what images to submit, how much it will cost and what you should expect from an online art store provider.

Let’s get started!  But first I want to clarify that there is a dramatic difference between an online art store and an online art (artist) listing. An online store sells art,  an online listing is a directory or portfolio sitefor artists (usually with no shopping or e-commerce assets).

In this post I am referring to online art stores.

Although not all my comments are positive about online art stores, overall I like the idea of selling art online. The advantages of building online presence is a marketing must for all artists and an online art store is good way to build your brand and hopefully sell some art.

Mostly, I like that an online art store is open for business 24/7/365 so that art buyers can buy art (sometimes impulsively) when it is convenient for them.

If done right, an online art store will drive visitors to your personal website where you have the potential to build a quality mailing list of potential collectors of your art and sell your premium artworks without commissions.

A recent report at emarketing.com reports that US households with an income of over $50K account for 78% of e-commerce sales, noting that online shoppers are more affluent than consumers in general.

Online Art Store: Overview

Several online art stores have popped up over the last few years. Most of them offer art shoppers a searchable, fully secured e-commerce storefront with individual artist pages and links.

For the artist, they offer the ability to upload images and will complete the sales process on your behalf for a monthly/annual membership fee. Some also charge commissions and handling fees.

Be Prepared: Opening an online art store requires time, patience and effort. Store set-up is time consuming and marketing your store requires you to “work” your social network. Don’t be fooled into thinking the art store provider is going to sell your art for you—that’s a promise they can’t possibly keep.

False promises: Why some online art stores don’t sell your work?

Although most online art stores are automated to process the sale of your art, they rely heavily on artists to help market the site and drive buyers to the art store hub. Startup art stores do invest in paid ads to boost their visitors, however, this is expensive and I’ve noticed that this usually stops after the first year.

Because large online art stores have nothing at stake in selling your work, the responsibility of driving buyers to the art store goes to the artistyou need to manage your online art store.

I explored artist forums this week to hear what artists are saying about selling their art through online stores, here’s what I learned:

• There are hundreds of websites that provide e-commerce for selling art—with no clear favourite.

• Most online art stores charge a membership fee. (Ranging from $30 to $500 a year).

• Most commented that the uploading of photograph/images was time consuming, but they eventually got the hang of it.

• Most artists report to have not sold any artwork inside a one-year period.

• Most artists weren’t aware that they needed to drive buyers to the online store.

In order to sell your art you must expand your market and use EVERY available sales tool out there. As affluent buyers turn their attention to shopping online, artists need to add online art stores to their marketing and sales arsenal.

Annual online sales are expected to reach $162.4 Billion for the full-year of 2010. That’s 12.7% increase over 2009. Full report emarketer.com

“Must-have” Features in an Online Art Store

Your online store should offer at least 80% of these features inside their basic package. In no priority order.

• Yearly fees under $100

• Easy to use interface for both the artist and the buyer

• Secure and easy to use e-commerce

• Unlimited uploads of images

• Ability to upload small files, as well as handle larger file sizes

• Ability to have your own unique URL (usually a subdomain)

• Complete fulfillment services: printing, framing, shipping, handling and/or e-commerce

• Ability to sell artwork at your asking price.

• Reasonable commissions

• Strong history for fulfillment and few buyer complains

• International shipping

• Art marketing resources, regular tips, how-to’s and FAQ’s about selling art

• Community and technical resources

• Integration for cross-promotion through social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

• Feature for including an art blog (including Aweber or Feedburner integration)

• Ability to track your visitors

• Ability to capture email addresses for future marketing campaigns

• Links to your outside website or dealer of your original works (in the case of painters)

Less Important Features, But Nice Options

• Ability to participate in groups and forums

• Daily, weekly or monthly newsletters with poems, humorous or inspirational stories

• “Favoriting” or “becoming fans” of other artists work

• Inter-community contests

• Watermarking of images (this really doesn’t protect your work—that’s another post all together)

• Licensing your art for TV or other products (mugs, napkins, calendars, etc.)

Website Stats You Should Care About

How the site ranks on Yahoo and Google is very important. If you can’t find it on page one when you search a variety of keywords and phrases, neither can anyone else.

Tip: In Google, test-search various keywords and phrases, such as “art store, art reproductions, contemporary art, wall art, landscape art, art for sale, limited editions, photographic art galleries, artist galleries, canvas prints, etc.” See what position the online gallery/store appears on page one in the organic listings. *If they have a paid spot in Google Adwords, that counts as long as the store/gallery maintains their paid position. The stores listed on page one will get the most visitors (art shoppers).

Number of unique visitors and page views per month. This important information. You want to be able to track where they came from (referred URLs), how much time they spent on your site, and when your buyers (or art shoppers) are actually visiting.

Total number of hits from paid advertising by the gallery. Does this gallery pay for traffic (which is sometimes a good thing) or rely on artists to send traffic to the site. Where and how are they advertising, because having quality visitors is more important than the quantity.

Best Online Art Stores

These two sites get big points from me because they rank high in Google organic listings and they have built quality email lists of art shoppers. I should say that I am not endorsing these sites. I am encouraging you to explore several online art stores and choose a site that suits your artwork, budget and time allowance for managing.

Note: These two sites are geared at selling, printing and framing, open edition art reproductions. My search did not turn up any online sites specializing in selling limited edition art.

#1 Choice—Great services and good value

www.artistwebsites.com $30/year

This online gallery service begins with a fee to build your own online store/gallery. They offer unlimited uploads, templates, your own subdomain URL, e-commerce, and the fulfillment of printing and framing of your reproductons. Best features are they have a great toolbox for helping artists self-market their store. They have a unique online template system for building sell sheets to help promote your own artwork.  Artist Websites is also affiliated to the popular and well-established, online print gallery www.fineartamerica.com. The biggest downside, their membership is close to 50,000 and www.fineartamerica.com has well over a million images in their system, making for extremely tough competition.

#2 Choice—Easy to use, reasonable fees

Imagekind.com $94.99/year

I spent quite a bit of time here, exploring this online gallery and community. I liked the easy to use interface for uploading images and they have a long track record for quality image fulfillment (a sister company to www.cafepress.com). There was a time, when they ranked higher in the search engines (possibly they were spending more money on Google Adwords), however, it’s been over two years since I first visited their print gallery and I now noticed they have a strong following and opt’d-in email list—this must be where their buyers are coming from. What I like most is their strong sense of community, their maximizing on keywording of your art, and the integration with Facebook and WordPress (for blog users). The biggest downside, they have a massive database of images and you must spend the time keywording your art or no one will find you.

Artist Listing Sites

Although “Listing” sites don’t offer e-commerce, this group of artists listing websites deserve mentioning because they received good reviews. Be prepared to claim your free listing, if they offer one—because you can use this to direct visitors to your online art store or personal website. Before doing so, always read the fine print.

www.fineartstudios.com

www.zenfolio.com

www.painterskeys.com (listings/portfolio)

www.foliotwist.com

www.artspan.com (listings/portfolio)

www.myartclub.com (listings/portfolio)

Use Your Business Smarts

Paying an online art store to sell, print and ship your art is no different than any other relationship. It’s just smart business to:

• Always read the fine print. Look for hidden licensing agreements

• Watch for hidden fees, such as extra commissions for shipping and handling

• Don’t pay upfront or in-advance to have your artwork scanned at high-res. The need for a high-res scan exists only when an order has been placed, a sale has been made, or if you the original artwork gets sold.

• Watch for the option to “try for free”, then an automated payment without warning if you don’t cancel.

• Review the commission structure and make sure you aren’t underselling your artwork.

• Make a list of everywhere you have your art for sale–include passwords, fees and payments for yearly dues.

• If you are paying top dollar, hold your online gallery accountable to their promises.

• Look at how you get paid and how often.

• Review and make sure you are comfortable with their return policies.

• If there is no human to talk to, steer clear.

• Make sure you have a way to get out, review the small print again for long-term contracts

• Don’t believe everything you read or what is promised, ask other artists for referrals

• Get everything in writing.

Choosing Which Art to Sell Online

For the purpose of selling to large, unlimited audiences, most online store/galleries insist that your artwork be “open edition”—making this a volume sales approach. Making the jump to selling your work as open editions can be great for your art business (and pocket book). Before committing, evaluate your long-term business plan and be sure this is a good match.

Open edition artworks tend to be more mainstream in content and style. Look through the galleries at major art publishers (Bentley, CASA and Canadian Art Prints) to see what the general public is trending on. If your art is edgy, dark, political or mixed media, open editions may not be the best choice for your marketing.

Tip: It’s a good idea to decide if a particular image will be “going to reproduction” before it is sold to a collector. This is good practice, as the reproduction of a canvas painting may appear be an exact match to an original—which could make the original less valuable in the eyes of a collector.

At Fidelis Art Prints, we have several artists who intentionally create their reproductions smaller in size and slightly different than the original that inspired it. This prevents any future confusion between the original and the reproduction, and preserves the value of  the original.

In summary,

Learn everything you can about selling your art online, because online art stores serve a unique purpose in your art business.

1. They provide a place for your collectors to find you online

2. Offer a secure place to buy your art (from anywhere in the world, 24/7/365).

3. They can help drive visitors to your personal website (where you can make top dollar selling original art and limited editions.)

Tip: If your goal is to sell art online, you should invest in one or two art store/galleries and remember to cross-market all of your galleries to your social media for maximum publicity.

Over the span of your art career you will have the opportunity to explore hundreds of ways to market and sell your art—perhaps opening an online store is something you should give a try?

I hope you found this post helpful. Please let us know where you list your art and why?

If you are doing more research about selling your art online, printing limited editions or open reproductions of your art you may enjoy these related posts.

Related Posts About Selling Art

Why You Should Invest in High Quality Scans of Your Original Art

Limited Edition Art: What Every Artist Needs to Know

Learn How Top Artists Are Making Money Selling Canvas Editions

Top 4 Reasons Why You Should Produce Limited Editions