The Challenges of Selling Art Online Vs. In Person


I’ve been thinking about the differences between selling art online vs. selling in person via street fairs, galleries and shows.

I think of all of the art shows and gallery openings I’ve been to and think while I enjoyed the artist’s talks, the free wine and cheese and socializing, I haven’t walked out with any art except on one occasion.

Then again, I’ve purchased framed art, folk art and even a glass art piece while on vacation.  And then recently at the RISD Craft fair, an annual event in October which RISD alumni and students sell their work on the street in Providence, I found myself caught up in the excitement and purchased a print.

The RISD Craft sale was a good example of the excitement of selling person to person.  The idea of finding and discovering something you like especially perhaps from a young rising star, is contagious.  The event is only once a year and the artist are selling a limited number of items from art prints to jewelry to glassware.  So there is a scarcity element involved, plus the excitement of a crowd.

Going in to the event you are primed with the idea that you might be buying some art today and that the best stuff might sell first.  So there is a bargain hunting mentality involved.

This is a lot different that offering a portfolio of hundreds or thousands of  options online especially if those offering are open editions.  There is not pressing need for the buyer to snatch up a print.  So rather than selling in minutes, it might take years for the buyer to finally decide.

There also is endless competition online.  Not only from the zillions of other artists selling their work but the endless distractions online.

At the Craft Fair you basically had 40 or so artists selling and the only competition for your money was the food trucks.  Online the competition for your money and time is endless.

Of course offering your work for sale online is relatively easy (compared to actually selling).  You can offer your entire production.  You don’t have to edit down to a few items you guess might be attractive to the attendees of a show or fair.  This one of my pet peeves about showing my work.  I have so much to choose from and so many areas of interest.  Having to choose a handful of images for a show is so difficult.  Should I choose the most likely items that will sell or try for the most thought provoking work?  Online you don’t have to choose, you can display everything.


Advantages of selling online

  • Unlimited storage
  • 24/7 selling opportunity
  • Worldwide selling opportunity
  • Easy

Disadvantages of selling online

  • Endless competition
  • Inability to see and feel the product
  • No personal connection to the artist
  • Low excitement level
  • Selection overload
  • No direct contact with the buyer

Advantages of selling in person

  • Limited products available – scarcity
  • Excitement level
  • Face to face interaction
  • Ability to answer questions

Disadvantages of selling in person

  • Limited products shown
  • Potential damage to products
  • Personality conflicts
  • Difficulty in producing, transporting and displaying artwork
  • Time constraints
  • Limited number of potential buyers
  • Local only
  • Cost of producing items for the show (sunk costs)

 


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