The online world has opened the art market up to a universal audience. So, how will traditional art auctioneers win the war against a rising band of young and trendy start-ups to a gain a piece of the art industry pie estimated to be worth $9.58 billon by 2020? There will be many factors that influence the race, not least the crucial aspect of online customer experience. This is equally important to both traditional art buyers braving the online world and the new millennial audience keen to start their collections. So how can these art institutions target both audiences and deliver a premium experience that convinces each group to purchase art online? Simply put, art buying online can be intimidating for first time buyers and seasoned art collectors alike. A smooth, simple customer experience can allay those fears and reduce the perceived risk for all buyer audiences. What are the concerns of buying art online and how can the experience be optimised? 1. Lack of physical inspection. For both new and traditional buyers alike, the want to justify purchases by ensuring their artwork is authentic and in the condition they expect is hindered by the lack of a physical inspection. According to the Hiscox Art Trade Report 2017, this is the single biggest barrier facing the industry’s move online, with 80% of art buyers concerned that artwork may not look the same as the digital image. The ability to zoom right in to the artwork to see the piece’s condition needs to be available, alongside a range of photos and angles. Potential buyers will want to see as much detail as possible, and request further condition reports easily. A powerful presentation layer can help the prospective buyer to decide whether to buy online, or make the journey to see the item prior. Either way, the online experience is key in supporting those decisions. Art2arts.co.uk does this well, with many different images available of the artwork and a zoom function so potential buyers can inspect further. 2. Relevant and accessible information. Much like the need to closely inspect items, art buyers want context and further information around the piece and its artist, especially if collecting art as an investment. 79% of the respondents in the Hiscox Art Survey suggested they want further background information on the art. Sites like Artfinder.com use the description written by the artist and have extensive artist profiles, allowing buyers to fully engage and learn about the art they are interested in. Buyers also look for an educational experience according to the Hiscox report, with 52% attributing value to the educational aspect of buying art online. Riseart.co.uk take this a step further by offering guides on how to start collecting art online. 3. Price transparency 88% of art buyers told the Hiscox report that they want to see clear pricing when looking at art online – a point that has additional relevance when you consider that 79% of all online art sales are for less than $5000. Price segmentation and grouping will be important for online sellers and can be seen at riseart.com who have a collection for less than £500. This is designed to further derisk the sale proposition and provide their online store with some competitive differential. 4. Returns 80% of hesitant art buyers want the option to review their purchase and if it’s not the right piece for them, to be able to return it. Art selling sites should follow best practice and display their return policies clearly, clients like to feel that they can trust the dealer and this goes a long way in the online marketplace. The more robust and longer the policy, the more trust it will invoke. 5. Human interaction Buyers are still looking to interact with experts before finalising their art buying decisions. According to the Hiscox art report, 73% of respondents still wanted the opportunity to talk decisions through. Saatchiart.com build this element into their offering from the homepage, offering visitors the opportunity to find art with the free help of a dedicated curator. Online condition report requests and chat features can also go a long way to assist users in this direction as well. 6. Customer Reviews 65% of those asked by the Hiscox survey said they would consider buying art from reading customer reviews of the selling website. artgallery.co.uk use customer reviews well, with a dedicated page on the website listing reviews and prominently displaying their reviews across the site. Asking a customer to leave an online review forms part of your feedback marketing, allowing you to engage with the customer post purchase. 7. Visual experience Art buyers are looking for a website to be visually compelling, logical and easy to navigate. Art galleries are arranged in such a way as to lead the eye on a journey and the online world needs to follow suit to entice buyers. Art.com have even tried to bring an art gallery look online with their top categories section. Art sellers need to walk a metaphorical tight rope when getting their online experiences right in order to maximise sales from traditional buyers who are used to visually attractive, physical experiences, and young inexperienced buyers who want to learn more and be reassured they are making the right decision. The Dealer Co initiative from Star Digital has been designed from the ground up to offer fine art dealers and galleries a robust, modern and inexpensive solution to display their products online, process condition report requests, take orders and curate sales without the need for any technical knowledge. Our digital commerce experts are on hand to provide further information or run an online demo. Call us on 01604 696385 for a quick overview or email email@example.com to find out more.