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I'll Know it When I See It
How people look for art and buy art
As a former gallery owner/director/salesperson, I can confidently tell you that when people first walk into an art gallery, typically, they're not looking for anything in particular.
People don't walk into a gallery and say, "I'd like a painting that's larger than 16 x 20 but smaller than 20 x 24. It must be less than $5,000. I need the dominate color to be red. I also require the painting to be a landscape in the impressionist style." I mean, we could shop for art this way, but hardly anybody does. It's just not any fun. And art is, generally, supposed to be fun. It's simply no fun to try to turn finding great art into some sort of scientific formula based on size, price, subject matter, style, etc. Seriously, who does that? (With the possible exception of a professional interior designer looking for a specific artwork for a specific spot in a specific room...which I point out to you is the designer's job).
So how do real people in real galleries look for art? They "stumble" upon it. The usual answer to the art gallery salesperson's question, "Can I help you find something in particular?" is "I'll know it when I see it". That's because "I'll know it when I see it" is fun.
"Serendipitous Stumbling" is the funnest way to find art. Here's what happens: You walk into an art gallery, your eyes scan the room and you're hoping that something "catches your eye" or "takes your breath away."
For example: If your gallery is in a tourist area, your customers are likely on vacation and just spending the day having fun. Perhaps they are thinking of purchasing something to remind them of the trip....perhaps not. In any case, it really doesn't matter what their intentions are. What matters is that if they fall in love with a piece of art, they have "serendipitously stumbled" across something they want to live with....and a piece of artwork is sold. And, if you did your job right, your customers had fun.
The "fun factor" that serendipitous stumbling provides is not limited to art, by the way. Psychologists (and dog-trainers) have long been aware of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, which is the key addictive element of slot machines. The idea is that if you know you have a chance to be rewarded for some action....but that you are not going to be rewarded every single time or on a predictable schedule....then you will keep doing the particular action. It's how dogs are trained. It's why people sit in front of slot machines for hours. It's why you check your email every five minutes. It's why people are addicted to Twitter. It's why people spend hours on TikTok. It's why you check your friend's Facebook status updates all day long. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: it's why some people (including me), and particularly those suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, love to visit art galleries (and art websites) and "pull the lever" looking for that next "treat." (Thanks to Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users Blog for explaining this issue in detail.)
That's how most people buy art.
It also highlights a major problem with most online-only art galleries. What most online art galleries try to do is encourage people to find art in the "artificial" way that I described above: by specifying a limited price range, subject matter, color palette, etc. I understand, technically, why those websites structure things that way. I'm just not sure it works all that well to sell a lot of art. It doesn't sound all that fun to me, and, in my opinion, a major reason online art galleries don't work all that well. Although they have gotten better over time.
Here's some good news: You can employ these principles to sell your art.
Are your providing your Collector Clan with intermittent variable rewards? Are you sending a regular email newsletter with occasional "treats" for your fans? To your fans, just seeing each new unique artwork you create is a "treat." Think about it - your artwork can bring joy into your collectors' lives and help them to have fun. That's immensely valuable.