Selling Art Online In 2021 (Recording + Highlights)

This week on ArtEvolve we were joined by Frank McDermott, Founder and CEO of Caravan, a US-based company that provides top-tier digital services to clients both in and outside of the art world. He shared his insights into selling art online.

With the outbreak of the global pandemic, we’ve seen selling online go from a novelty in the art world to a necessity. Museums and galleries have had to consider new revenue streams, and, with the online art market valued at US$4.82 billion in 2019 and forecast to increase to $9.32 billion by 2024, art institutions ignore e-commerce at their peril.


Selling to the many, not the few


Selling art has always been about knowing your customer. In the past, this was most likely to be a seasoned collector, but times are changing and new customers, some without existing connections to the art world, are out there and ready to spend. And e-commerce and digital tools are key to connecting with these potential customers.

Like other industries have already done, the art world must demystify itself in order to connect with new audiences and build an engaged community. Getting involved in e-commerce is no longer the hard part – as Frank mentioned, a regular Shopify subscription only costs around $80. The challenge is selling with intention, using data to inform decisions that will help generate revenue.


A hybrid approach


In other industries, customers are used to shopping online, often with no interaction with another person from start to finish. In the art world, face-to-face sales have long been the norm and we won’t see this disappear completely. Instead, a hybrid approach – one that works to the benefits of both online and offline avenues – is likely.

What would that look like for museums, galleries, and other art organizations? Well, there are lots of tools at their disposal; social media channels, OVRs, email campaigns, virtual industry events, brand marketing content, and physical art fairs and events are just some ways to attract customers to your sales funnel.

Presence, outreach, and operations – the trifecta of digital services, as Frank calls it – is complex and a solid strategy is needed in order to get the most from your investment of time and money. Processes must be tested and data analyzed to make informed, rather than gut, decisions.


5 things you need to know to succeed in e-commerce

  • Your intentions – what do you want to achieve?
  • Your customer – what are they looking for and how do they want to be sold to?
  • Your product – who is it for and what is its value?
  • Numbers – everything from website analytics to budget and how to spend that budget to get the best return on investment.
  • Good people – use the skills and know-how of experts to get your projects past the finish line.



Thank you to our guest speaker Frank McDermott, CEO and Founder of Caravan and Caravan Art Ops, for joining us.