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Why You Need Prices on Your Art Website
Make your collectors more comfortable and sell more art with price transparency
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Why You Need Prices on Your Art Website
Display your prices on your art website.
My position has always been, since 1999, that, to sell art online, you need to publish your prices alongside each work of art. Occasionally people write to me to disagree with me on that point. I've captured the gist of what they told me by combining their objections into the paraphrased "quote" below:
I disagree with your position on posting prices. As a gallery owner for many years, I have found that the price will sometimes put the customer off from the start. You want the viewer engaged and to fall in love with the work first, before they even look at a price. Since prices are always negotiable, it seems unprofessional to state them clearly on a website. If a work is not moving quickly in the gallery, I can offer it at a lower price. Once that price is listed on a site, it is difficult to adjust. Correspondence with the customer, after they inquire about a price, also enables me to make the statement that if a work is out of their price range, allows me to offer a lay-away plan, or I can suggest they consider a limited edition print. This can only be done if the client is interested and talking to me, and not deterred to communicate with me because something appears too pricey.
Here's my edited reply:
Thank you for expressing your thoughts. Reasonable people can, of course, disagree and debate these points.
I was a successful gallery owner for 16 years, and, in my opinion, the pros of displaying prices far outweigh the cons. In my gallery, we always displayed them on our website. And we often sold paintings, directly off our site, starting in 1999.
My belief is that prices should not be negotiable, but that's a different debate, and, if you want to allow that, I don't understand why it would be unprofessional to simply add a button next to the purchase button that reads "offers considered." Have it open a form where they can make an offer. By displaying the price clearly, you give the person an idea of the magnitude of offer that would be reasonable and potentially accepted. Also, people lower prices on websites all the time. If the work doesn't sell, there's no shame in lowering the price, or offering free shipping or whatever other alternatives work for you. Websites do that all the time and I've never once heard anybody claim it was unprofessional.
One key tenant of selling art is making your potential collector feel comfortable. And hiding your prices makes people feel uncomfortable, putting you immediately at a disadvantage at step one. Imagine walking into a super high-end luxury store. You look around, and find an item you love. But suddenly you notice, there’s no price. And all the salespeople are busy (or can’t be found). Now you are in an uncomfortable position. Is it worth the hassle to track down, and possibly interrupt, a salesperson only to find out you might not be able to afford the piece? Or, even if you can, it might be worth more than you want to spend? It doesn’t matter if you can afford it or not at this point - it’s a hassle and it is uncomfortable. And you’ve already jeopardized the sale by hiding the price.
More important, however, is this fact: Demographics are changing.
Maybe your longer term clients, or those who grew up pre-internet will still pick up a phone and call you for pricing. But, increasingly, newer buyers who grew up online aren't likely to call you.
In the Sovereign Artist Era, people expect to be able to do everything from their phones, and the art world, which so far has mostly dragged its feet, had better start adjusting to this reality. Most gallery websites don't work properly on smartphones, and don't even list prices. I'm amazed and appalled that most gallery websites in 2022 still aren't as advanced as what my former gallery was doing in 1999. That was 23 years ago.
A gallery website today should allow a customer to begin...and complete the entire transaction with a smartphone, without ever having to call someone at the gallery.
It's not just me who thinks this, by the way. The annual art industry survey by Hiscox Insurance Company agrees.
Here's the relevant paragraph from their Hiscox online art trade report 2018, which surveyed 831 art buyers from ArtTactic's list:
Price transparency is key for new buyers
Although existing collectors are used to secrecy and a lack of transparency when it comes to pricing, this is an aspect which clearly doesn’t sit well with new buyers. In this year’s survey, 90% of new buyers said that price transparency was a key attribute and criteria when buying art online.
With 90% of new buyers saying "price transparency" is a key attribute when buying online, I think it's becoming clear that traditional galleries better start upping their game online....or someone else is going to up the game for them and start disinter-mediating the art market. It's happened in so many other markets and, frankly, I'm amazed it hasn't happened in art yet.
There are cases where buyers will put up with a hassle, even if it's a poor experience. And I think an exclusive is one such scenario: if a gallery has an exclusive with a hot artist, well, then buyers will put up with some hassle in that case, because they will have no other choice if they wish to purchase work by that particular artist. This is a pretty poor excuse to provide a poor experience though. Not only that, it relies on the buyer already having an extreme desire for a particular artist. You still have to cultivate that demand and, with newer buyers that is likely going to have to be cultivated online.
My other point would be, referring back to my original article and the recommendation to post prices, that I was speaking of artist websites , not gallery websites.
You are, of course, free to run your art website or gallery website however you see fit and in a way that works best for you. But the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of artists with websites don't even show in a brick and mortar art gallery, or at least not a big one. And many of these artists are usually not going to be as comfortable selling, or will not have the time or availability if a collector calls them. An artist with a day job, or who is teaching a workshop, can't be sitting by the phone hoping a collector will call because they didn't post their prices on their website. So they darn well better have the price clearly displayed, and have their site eCommerce enabled if they want to sell their artwork online.
One notable exception: an artist who sells only through their galleries may want to forego displaying prices next to their paintings and instead provide a link to the gallery that is selling the painting. This tends to work best for those artists who sell nearly everything they paint and have established a name for themselves. This is increasingly uncommon in The Sovereign Artist Era.
So, if you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself, make your clients more comfortable and sell more art, please, we are all asking you to please post your prices on your art website.
PS - Would love to connect with you on Twitter. Follow me at https://twitter.com/clintavo to discuss art marketing and ideas in “real time.”
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