Mobile Art Purchasing Apps

IPad ApplicationAs frequent readers of this blog are aware, I am often advocating the importance of making mobile product purchasing as simple as possible. Thirty percent of my art website’s sales originate through mobile devices and the site’s responsive format has really helped solidify this number. Many industry experts have been touting 2013 to be the year of responsive website design and, based upon my own experiences, I don’t doubt the truthfulness of this assumption.

It is interesting to note, however, that responsive websites are not the only mobile-friendly selling tool that many businesses are beginning to offer. As more and more mobile device and tablet computing formats are coming into existence, each is possessing its own app store and accompanying these stores are a plethora of retail applications. These device-specific retail apps are generally free and are growing in numbers daily. Many websites are beginning to embrace this format as an additional way to connect and interact with consumers. If the applications are for sites that peddle work for artists and crafts people, they often offer additional functionality that allows the artist to upload work, change prices and availability, and otherwise manipulate products in their online store.

IPad Application EtsyThe popular online art and craft selling site Etsy, for example, has apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android market. The apps allow one to explore the products on the site, purchase products, and manage merchandise and orders anywhere an Internet connection is available. The Etsy application for the iPhone/iPad has even prompted me to open a small Powers Fine Art Etsy Shop to investigate its usefulness and consumer reach. It is only .20 USD to list an item for sale for four months so I couldn’t resist.

FAAAnother application that has recently entered the iOS marketplace and is currently specifically for the iPad, is the FineArtAmerica.com application. While it doesn’t appear that one can upload work to the site from the application at this point, it does provide an excellent platform for viewing and purchasing artwork. A potential purchaser can see how a piece looks with a mat and frame, see the purchasing cost, buy online, and even utilize a “Wall View” mode that uses the iPad’s camera to allow one to view the artwork in the environment where it is to be displayed. The application is free and provides an excellent platform for exploring the many works that grace the FineArtAmerica.com marketplace. You can even find my paintings by typing “Ken Powers” into the app’s search box. As an additional feature, the application can also be used as a portable portfolio for designers, photographers, and artists who have a need to showcase work for potential clientele. I would expect this application to become available for other platforms in the future and is a great addition to FineArtAmerica.com.

ArtviewImageKind, which is another online marketplace for artwork and photography, has also embraced the mobile app revolution. Their ArtView application for the iPhone has similar features to other apps on the market and allows the consumer to browse work, change frames and mats, share work through social media, and immediately make purchases. Allowing users to instantly purchase available artwork is essential since one often only gets a single chance to make the sale.

Artists such as Ben Hope have even opted to utilize specialized mobile applications to showcase their artwork and to present biographical information to potential clientele. There are several companies that offer an app creation service for artists and Sysmoko is the one that Ben Hope has chosen to use. I believe we will begin to see more and more artists embracing this new technological approach to reaching potential purchasers as the years progress.

As you can see from the examples mentioned above, mobile specific sales websites and applications are getting to be an important factor for online sales. Have you created your own mobile-based application for selling your artwork and products? If so, let me know about it in the comment section below. I am always interested in learning more about the way fellow artists use the mobile platform to reach the world.

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Comments (2)
  • Dai Wynn December 29, 2012

    I congratulate Ken Powers on yet another informative article. Ken would attest that I followed his sage advice in a recent ‘blog and updated my own website using a responsive theme from WordPress. As an added bonus, the new website software rolled three websites into one, saving a large amount of time-consuming maintenance.

    While this current article is specifically devoted to Mobile Art Purchasing Apps, and is a logical extension of the responsive website technology, it does open a number of related issues in my mind, all of which could be subjects of ‘blogs in their own rights.

    Fine Art America has been heavily promoting their new iPad app in recent weeks. I have been a member of Fine Art America since the middle of 2012 and have over 50 paintings in my “shop”. I am also a member of Etsy where there are currently 31 “active” listings.

    Now one must remember that these US-centric free, or almost free, websites have huge member numbers and, while many may be inactive, members are in the millions. While Fine Art America is a site devoted to fine art, Etsy is really a craft space. For someone to find an artwork in either domain, search criteria must be accurate and relevant.

    I am encouraged to read that Ken Powers concludes 30% of his art sales via mobile devices, so his ‘blog is highly appropriate. Unfortunately I cannot claim the same and, at the risk of “paralysis by analysis”, have committed some thoughts to “paper”.

    Logically, an artist must attract viewers into his online shop, then convince them to buy. An iPad app is a brilliant and east-to-use way of displaying the contents of an artist’s “shop” once discovered. Clearly, there are many factors at play here, most of which are irrelevant to this ‘blog. Price, quality of work, subject matter, availability, shipping costs, and artist’s reputation are all evaluated by potential purchasers. All websites offer statistics on the number of “views” of each item in the “shop”; I watch these numbers with great interest on a daily basis.

    I generally post an image of a painting on Fine Art America and Etsy simultaneously. I use exactly the same images, descriptors and key words and phrases on each site. By way of example, numbers of views on Fine Art America for a recent ink and watercolour painting of a canal in Venice, Italy are 67, whereas there are only 2 views on Etsy. Over the last two months, Etsy views for the images in my shop have dropped dramatically to a trickle, whereas the same images on Fine Art America attract relatively large numbers of viewers. I have sold nothing on either site since joining in June 2012.

    What’s going on here? Please indulge me by contemplating a few ideas.

    Ken Powers is highly active in social networks. I am less so. Ken reaches out to other artists, friends and acquaintances and widens his field of viewers in the process.

    Ken Powers has developed a reputation for watercolor paintings, primarily of flowers. There is some consistency here. I paint in watercolors, ink and watercolors, ink sketches, oils on canvas panels, and oils on stretched canvases. Most paintings are unframed; some are framed. Sizes vary greatly. Subjects range from flowers to landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes. So, there is no consistency in either media, subject matter or size.

    While trying not to compare my watercolors with the high quality of Ken’s works, my prices are equivalent to his for a similar subject, and size of painting. However, it may be that my oil paintings are perceived to be too expensive, particularly larger canvases. It may well be that Etsy is simply not meant to be the place for “expensive” artworks.

    I am located in Melbourne, Australia so there may be a perception that an artwork will be costly to ship to an address in the USA. This may be true when an oil painting is framed, but a small oil on canvas panel can be shipped inexpensively through the post, and a larger canvas removed from its stretcher and rolled into a posting tube. Shipping costs will be comparable to those in the USA, although shipping time may be up to 14 days.

    While Australian place names might be a little too exotic for Americans, I always hope that the image of a landscape or a flower or a seascape or a sunset will have universal appeal.

    So, in summary, while smartphone and tablet apps are brilliant for displaying the contents of an artist’s “shop” anywhere and at anytime, and for providing a simplified online purchasing process, the artist must be “found” first. What search terms, tapped in to the mobile app search bar, will resonate with your key words and key phrases, and result in your Etsy or Fine Art America shop being displayed?

    • Ken Powers December 30, 2012

      Thanks for the wonderful and in-depth response to this article Dai. Everything you have stated rings extremely true and I humbly thank you for your kind words concerning my artwork.

      Interestingly, I wrote a recent guest blog post for a fellow artist that will be published on their blog very soon which addresses the importance of driving traffic to marketplaces through the use of social media. While certain types of work may be more suitable for particular marketplaces than others, I find that all benefit from the traffic boost that social media notifications can provide. I am sure that by now it is very apparent to the readers of this blog that I am strong proponent of this modern marketing method. The world-wide reach, enhanced consumer interaction, and networking capabilities that modern social networks create present a great vehicle for creating sales.

      I believe this method of increasing site traffic can be the key to generating more sales since many of these online sales websites tend to prioritize artwork and products based upon their own sets of criteria. The internal search engines provided by many of these sites weight their search results to favor artists or members whose work “fits” their concept of what will sell for them. Often, this leaves the work of many great artists buried under pages of other work. By utilizing social-media to drive our own traffic to these sites, we end up relying less upon their internal search engines and more upon our own devices.

      As an additional benefit, all the notification and URL links we provide through the Facebook Business Pages, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and other social networks show up in search engines which create additional organic web search traffic to our products, etc…

      The downside, of course, is the amount of time required to build this network/spiderweb of links. Over time, however, the effectiveness of this method continues to grow with every post and interaction. Unfortunately, the device-specific applications mentioned in the article above only utilize their own internal search engines to find work located within their marketplaces. We can only hope our choice of descriptive tags and the prioritization of the work by the website itself will provide each of us with additional visibility and, hopefully, sales.

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