Reputation and brand building is likely to become the single most important component to success in selling art and antiques online, a market now worth $1.57bn.
That is the chief finding of The Hiscox Online Art Trade
The report, researched by Art Tactic, tends to confirm existing
trends and observations rather than contradict them, a useful
indicator that many business development plans are probably on the
It also cites return policies, improved logistical processes,
trusted due diligence (condition reports, certificates of
authenticity) and more transparency (artist reports, past prices)
as key ingredients for success.
Reassuringly for traditional art market professionals, the
report also states that online buying is unlikely to replace
As well as the emergence of new younger buyers helping to expand
the online marketplace, Hiscox say the report shows that "sellers'
reputation is a key factor in deciding to commit to an art or
collectable purchase online. In fact, reputation and brand building
is likely to become the single most important component to success
in this market".
The report states that the challenges for business are clear:
"How can traditional galleries and auction houses transfer or
translate their existing reputation to a digital environment, and
how does a new art e-commerce platform build the trust that
sometimes takes decades to develop in the art market?
"The trend is also clear - real world galleries and auction
houses are already partnering with e-commerce platforms like
Amazon, Artsy, and the-saleroom.com, enabling them to reach new
clients and markets. At the same time e-commerce platforms are
building their own reputation and brand through their association
with their partner clients (real world galleries and auction
Read the full text of the report here.
Key findings from the Hiscox Online
Art Trade Report:
• a future generation of art buyers is likely to make
their first art purchase online.
"Among the 20-30 year olds surveyed who had purchased art
online, 22% had never bought from a physical gallery or auction
before (versus 10% based on the overall buyer sample), signalling
that online platforms play a more important role as a destination
first-time buyers among the younger generation."
• click-and-buy is gathering steam.
Almost 40% of individuals surveyed have bought art and
collectables through purely online click-and-buy platforms, say
Hiscox, suggesting that online-only platforms are building brand
awareness and trust with art buyers and collectors.
• browsing translates into sales.
Web traffic and time spent browsing on art-selling websites is
increasingly translating into direct sales. The findings show that
55% of the frequent browsers are also online art buyers. "Average
time spent per visitor will become a significant business driver
for these websites in the future, and the key is to create an
online environment in which people want to discover, browse, learn
about and eventually buy art," advises the report.
• online buying is unlikely to replace the gallery
Hiscox found that 90% of online buyers had bought from a
physical gallery or auction before they bought art online and, of
these, 56% still prefer the physical space, against a much smaller
10% who prefer buying online. The remaining 34% were indifferent as
to which they used.
• it is less intimidating buying art
"The art world is often perceived as exclusive and inaccessible
to new buyers, and 39% of the respondents feel that the process of
buying from an online art sales platform is less intimidating than
buying from a physical gallery or auction house," the report
• buyers have a strong preference for unique art
61% of online fine art buyers surveyed have bought one or more
paintings directly online in the last 12 months. The largest share
of buyers (45%) had bought in the £1000-10,000 range, with 10%
having spent more than £50,000 on a single painting online.
• limited edition prints are a popular entry point for
online art buyers.
55% of online buyers have purchased a print directly online in
the last 12 months. A total of 40% of these buyers had bought
prints below £500, 19% between £500 and £1000, 25% between £1000
and £5000 and 15% above £5000.
• repeat online buyers are rapidly gaining
confidence in higher price segments.
Hiscox's findings show that 45% of repeat online buyers are
willing to spend in the £5000 and above category on fine art,
compared to 19% of first-time buyers. "This signals that confidence
in higher price segments is likely to increase in line with the
familiarity of buying art online."
• online art purchases push price tolerance levels
"58% of online art buyers had bought other similar value items
online prior to their art purchase, indicating that having bought
other goods and services online at similar price points does
increase buyer confidence in the online art market," the report
concluded. "However, the findings also suggest that the online art
market is breaking boundaries with regards to buyers' online price
confidence threshold, with 42% saying that they had never bought
anything online in this price bracket before."
• ease of discovery and search drives interest in buying
75% of the online art buyers surveyed said that the primary
advantage of buying online was the ability to find art and
collectables that they otherwise would never find in a physical
space. 63% said that the convenience of bidding and buying was a
• not seeing the physical object remains the biggest
82% of online buyers said the most difficult aspect of buying
art online was not being able to physically inspect the object.
However, it looks as though this fear may be overcome by more
detailed information; condition reports and certificates of
authenticity are cited as greatly increasing confidence in buying
art and collectables online, by 94% and 84% of buyers
• there are high buyer satisfaction levels.
65% of buyers are already extremely or very satisfied with their
online art buying experience, with 27% saying they were 'moderately
satisfied'. Only 8% of buyers were unhappy. High satisfaction
levels suggest that the market could grow rapidly in the coming
years, as technological and logistical barriers are eroded, and
buyers' confidence in online buying increases.
• returns policies rank highly in establishing buyer
77% of art buyers said that a returns policy would encourage
them to buy art, although an increasing 'buy-and-return' mentality
would raise serious issues regarding practical aspects such as the
cost of returning works of art, and could make selling art online
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