July 2018
Orient Magazine Issue 67

BUYING & SELLING ART ONLINE - THE CHALLENGES AND THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY

In 2015, BAM!, a ground-breaking App enabling Artists to simply and cost effectively showcase their work to a global audience was just an idea.

Today, BAM! has attracted over 500 artists and hosts almost 3000 pieces of art. Using nothing more than the ubiquitous platform of the smart phone, BAM! connects Artists and Buyers in just a few simple steps. Critically BAM! eliminates the prejudicial commission structures associated with regular galleries that often prevent Artists from getting a fair price for their work.

In this article, we will look at the challenges this developing retail market faces and how advancing technology is helping to address these.

Online shopping has become a part of our everyday lives, with people becoming increasingly happy to buy more – and spend more – at the click of a button. The online Art market is predicted to grow by 8.4% in 2018 to approximately US$4.9B.

More and more people are visiting Art-buying platforms and are spending more time browsing these sites, but some buyers remain hesitant to buy Art over the Internet. As a visual medium, buyers are concerned that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get and the possibility that the Art you buy may not meet your expectations when you come to see it up close, remains a barrier.

Augmented Reality (AR) technology is expected to become more sophisticated in 2018 and is set to transform the Art market going a long way to overcoming this particular hurdle. Thinking ahead, the developers of BAM! integrated (AR) within the App and BAM! is one of the first online e-commerce platforms to have made this particular customer experience really simple to use.  At the touch of an icon, buyers can see what artwork will look like on any wall in real time, with exact sizes and dimensions – a ‘try before you buy’ effect. This is set to reduce buyer remorse, and as technology advances it is expected that buyer’s expectations will not only be met, but even exceeded.

Further challenges present themselves to the online Art market when it comes to the fear of buying a fake. This fear factor remains a big hurdle because, with most online Art purchases tending to cost between £1,000 and £5,000 there’s a real financial consequence if you make a mistake.

However, with advancing technology, issues of provenance and authentication may soon become a thing of the past, if a potentially revolutionary solution is adopted as quickly by the Art world as it has been by the financial sector. BAM! is actively looking to find real-world applications for Blockchain, the technology behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and Blockchain is fast emerging as the technology expected to have the most significant impact on online sales.

Blockchain could help keep track of a work of Art’s movements without relying on a paper-based system of recording provenance. With a networked digital ledger, all purchases will be logged with the information becoming decentralized and therefore not open to contest.  No matter how many times a piece of Artwork is bought and sold, all purchases are documented and unalterable, creating a trusted provenance. For buyers, this means the entire history of a piece of Art would be accessible to view in a secure environment, similar to what we see in the UK with house purchases, i.e. UK’s land registry.

In 2018, the eldest millenials will turn 37 and their purchasing powers are just beginning to peak. However, these modern consumers also place great value on the ease of the online shopping experience so retailers will have to keep adapting fast to keep up with millennial preferences.

Delivery options, transparency of final price, the point at which a login must be created, faceted navigation and filtering are all functions which can have a detrimental effect on online sales if they do not meet customer expectations.

Great customer experiences are created by removing purchasing barriers; anything that may lead to ‘cart abandonment’. One of the biggest frustrations for shoppers is the inability to carry out cross device sales, i.e. beginning a purchase on a laptop and being able to finish it later, on another device. The development of retail Apps such as BAM! eliminates this frustration, as in most circumstances, a smart phone is a constant.

The phenomenon that is social media means that advertising costs have never been lower and, because of its power, independents retailers can develop a following at a relatively low cost if they have a product or service that people are passionate about. When it comes to Art, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and other messenger Apps have radically changed how Artists can interact with consumers and these platforms have facilitated a means by which the two sides can interact in real time. This ethos is very much evident on BAM!’s social platforms, as we believe that the best way to attract Buyers and Artists to our site is by cultivating a fun and exciting community.

Whilst creating a community, in today’s world, more than ever, data will drive retail decisions. Data’s role in retail decision-making will grow and forward-thinking retailers will have to keep exploring ways to collect and leverage data in their operations. By monitoring retail analytics, online platforms can connect with their customers in a meaningful way. By becoming aware of the tastes and preferences of their shoppers using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Retailers can use this information to make recommendations for future purchases. This is particularly important for Art sales where the demographic is made up of people from many different backgrounds, with many different Art preferences and with a varying range of buying power.

Buying and selling Art online is fun; it makes the world of Art available to everyone and overcomes the fear many of us have of visiting what we perceive to be as elite galleries. And whist there are still further challenges ahead, with the advancement of technology and the willingness of retailers to adopt it, smart operators should be set to see their share of this lucrative market grow at a rapid pace. For start-ups though, keeping pace with all the features and functionalities that are developing brings its own challenges when a sharp eye has to be maintained on keeping return on investment (ROI) under control.

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