10 lessons learned from the inaugural Art Innovators Alliance

The Art Innovators Alliance was launched earlier this year in New York at the Postmasters Gallery with a panel discussion on what art businesses can learn from other industries. You can listen to the podcast of the discussion here. Here are our 10 top takeaways from the discussion:

1. Apply B2C tactics to win B2B contracts

Alex Mitow, Director of Superfine! Art Fair took the example of Seamless in the restaurant industry. They created a B2C campaign for a B2B product by attracting a consumer audience first. While he wasn’t a fan of their model, as a restaurant owner, he believes their consumer-first approach is vitally important. “At an art fair, 90% of my revenue is artists and galleries purchasing space from me to exhibit their work and sell it, but I’m selling to a consumer, I’m selling accessible art collecting. The results, the ability to sell work, is what my audience wants, so I’m taking that B2C approach and getting B2B traffic from it.”

art innovators alliance alex mitow2.Integrate where people are hanging out 

Nathan Richardson, Co-founder of Trade-it, challenged the audience to open their phones and look at their battery usage: “I bet the only five apps you’ll see on there are Mail, Facebook, Instagram and maybe Twitter. All the other apps are afterthoughts. You should be thinking about how do you build your technology or your product to go to those places because there’s a ton of time being spent on those places. Instagram announced the ability to “click to buy”, Pinterest is already there, you should have your products distributed on there because these are the platforms driving change and innovation and they’re really easy to integrate.”

Alex Mitow echoed this sentiment by adding: “90% of brands could benefit from a really strong Instagram presence and leveraging the new tools Instagram versus trying to do something complicated and proprietary that might end up being a waste of time and money.”

3. Changing your clients’ habits is the key

Getting people to adopt new habits was agreed to be a big challenge to adopting new technology. Tony Aiazzi, CEO & CO-founder of Chouxbox explained that:  “You might get people to dip in for a second, and they might love it but if you can’t change their habits, you haven’t changed anything. Being around long enough and keeping enough pressure so that you become part of their habit is the key to getting that adoption.”

TONY AIAZZI4. You should be sending out a daily newsletter

The panel also challenged the idea that we shouldn’t be regularly in touch with your mailing list. Alex Mitow suggested that sending an email every day was the best option: “What you’re doing sometimes is keeping people on your list who don’t care to be on it because they’re not bothered enough and you’re not bothering people who’d like to buy your product enough. Hitting people seven days a week is more effective than hitting them one day a week. We tell ourselves a story that we don’t want to bother somebody at 4:00 PM or at 10:00 AM, some people will drop off but more will stay on. Be consistent about it and just constantly hit them.

5. Hard learned lessons about your audience

If he could do it all over again, Tony Aiazzi shared that: “I would concentrate more on what people want versus what I think they need.” You think you know what people want, but that evolves, and so should your business.

art innovators alliance

Left to right: Elisa Mala, Alex Mitow, Superfine!; Annika Erikson, Articheck; Daniel Doubrovkine, Artsy.

6. It’s not about looking good

Alex Mittow shared that: “I wouldn’t start with optics and what looks good to people. I would look at it as numbers on a paper: where is the right city? the right disposable income? the right demographic? I would start there.”

7. You don’t have to build everything from scratch

Annika Erikson, CEO of Articheck, brought up the tendency in the art world of creating everything from scratch: “in the art world, there’s a lot of custom systems that are very expensive and not very well designed and are a big headache for everyone and don’t speak to each other or anyone else in the art world. It creates these silos of data. It’s not very accessible or user-friendly and is a big waste of time and money”.

8. A condition report will help not hinder sales

Annika Erikson explained: “I think transparency is an interesting term when you’re talking about the art market because it’s very opaque and there’s a lot of old school players in it. A lot of investors that are interested in seeing art as an asset class are coming from the finance industry and are used to proper due diligence. The artworld is unregulated and does not have that due diligence and therefore, it doesn’t have the paperwork that goes along with. Very few private collectors know to ask for a condition report. And, you know, if you buy a house, you get a survey done, right. Surely you would do the same thing for artwork, but they don’t, they don’t because they have this kind of trust in the seller, which you don’t have in other industries in another situation.”

“A lot of auction houses still have the old school mentality of ‘oh it might sour the sale if we do a condition report’ when actually the Hiscox Art Tactic Marketing report for the last five years has been saying the collectors interviewed said the biggest barrier to buying online is buying sight unseen and having concerns over conditions. So, they’re shooting themselves in the foot with that mentality.”

ART INNOVATORS ALLIANCE9. The artworld is getting used to technology… slowly

Daniel Doubrovkine, CTO at Artsy, explained that he’s always been both an artist and a technologist so that the lines are blurred, but he’s definitely witnessed the art world being resistant to technology. “For example, eight years ago a museum director said, “we will never put high-resolution images on the Internet because that will mean that nobody will come to our museum anymore. I can tell you they are no longer the director of that museum. And at that museum now they put content on Instagram and that may have tripled their foot traffic because people wanted to go see the real thing, as seemed obvious to me at that time”.

10. Blockchain is not what you think it is

Finally, Annika Erikson cleared up a common confusion in the art world around blockchain: “Blockchain doesn’t provide a verification. Blockchain provides immutability. There’s an important distinction between those two things. People think that if it’s on the blockchain and it’s wrong, it’s there forever. And the answer is you just update the information as it becomes available.”

The next Art Innovators Alliance event will take place on 24th September 2019 in London. The topic will be “does the art world need transparency?”. Register here.