How Digital is Saving the Art Industry

Despite slowing revenues in the global art market, online sales of art are on the increase – up 15% on 2015 to $3.75 billion. This is highlighting the potential of the online marketplace which has a current market share of 8.4%, according to the recent Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2017. The report highlights that digital marketing channels are becoming vital to the continued success of the art market, with search engine optimisation, paid search advertising and email marketing all playing a significant role in transforming the industry. Yet it is social media that has taken the leading role of delivering art in front of a brand new and willing audience – the millennials. Despite slow adoption of online technology, the traditional art sellers have started shifting their attentions to the online market. The merging of bricks and mortar sale rooms with the online world has helped boost sales at numerous leading auction houses. These early adopters are already reaping the benefits, with Heritage Auctions who hold 41% of their sales online, reporting almost $350 million worth of revenue from online sales. So, who is currently buying art online? Maybe surprisingly, Millennials are leading the charge into the brave new world of art buying and their platform of choice, according to an Invaluable study, is social media
millennial visiting art gallery
The study found that almost a quarter (22.7%) of art buyers discover art via social media channels, with 39% of millennials using the platforms for art discovery. Compare social media to art galleries which are used by 15.9% of buyers to discover art and you can see the increasing potential social media holds for art sellers. Millennials are also increasingly likely to purchase art online, both as a sound long-term investment but as 92% stated in the Invaluable study that “some kind of feeling” was a main driver to purchase art. Social media is allowing sellers to communicate those feelings with Instagram playing a leading role in bridging the gap between experience, reputation and education. 57% of art buyers are now using Instagram over Facebook (49%). It was also suggested in the Hiscox report that 79% of online art sales tend to be for pieces priced at less than $5,000, so although the market has been opened to a brand-new audience, values are in the lower price range, which makes the online market more resilient in a cooling global market. There are challenges ahead for the art industry’s digital transformation. To fully benefit from online sales, art sellers looking to capitalise on this new market will need to overcome certain obstacles such as the lack of physical inspection, the need for price transparency and the want of human interaction in attracting the large hesitant art buyers audience online. 79% of art buyers stated they want detailed background information on both artist and piece. While 52% added significant value to the educational experience attributed to buying art. The high-profile failure of Auctionata also questions the growth potential of new online-only sellers as traditional sellers also push their way into the arena. Christie’s recorded online-only sales growth of 84% in 2016, suggesting the battleground is becoming highly congested. Who’s embracing the digital platform to sell art? As digital helps grow art buying audiences, it is also making it easier, cheaper and faster for the sellers.

From established global brands such as Sothebys, Christies and Bonhams who are leading the adoption of online technologies, to online art galleries such as Artsy, Saatchi Art and UGallery.

The new breed of online art galleries deliver curated experiences that target all obstacles previously mentioned. There’s transparency of price, clear background information and simple return policies that take the risk out of art buying.
Saatchi art website
In viewing artist bios on sites like Art Finder, you instantly feel like you’re on a social media platform, where your peers can like art pieces and artist details and works are listed like an Instagram news feed.
Artfinder artist bios
  So, what are the opportunities for art in an ecommerce world? Quite simply, the opportunities are huge! Hiscox’s suggest the estimated online art market will treble in value to $9.14bn by 2019, so we can expect established players and newer start-ups to get their houses into order to capitalise on this exponential growth potential. Industry experts also believe consolidation will happen at greater levels over the coming years – despite the failed marriage between Auctionata and Paddle8. 71% of those surveyed by Hiscox agreed, they just don’t know when it will happen. It’s not just art… Stamp, coins and memorabilia dealers and sellers are also starting to see the benefits of having an online marketplace – transforming collecting from a pastime of the few to investment for the many. Here at Star Digital, our team of commerce experts can help you start your digital transformation today. Call us on 01604 696385 or email to find out more.

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