Artist Websites: Appealing to the Slow Scavenger vs Fast Hunter Shoppers

Guest blogger: Whitney Zeldow

Recently, I went shopping with a friend of a friend.

After spending an hour in the SAME STORE, I finally burst:

“Oh. My. God. You shop so weird! You’ve looked at every piece of clothing on that rack, mulling over each one.”

“Well…yeah. That’s how I shop. What do you do?”

“I walk quickly through the aisles, look side-to-side and trust my subconscious to yell at me if it sees something it likes.”

These are two wildly different styles of shopping, and part of the reason there is such contradictory advice on what your artist website should look like is because both shopping styles occur among online art buyers. Slow scavengers get frustrated when they see websites that are designed to appeal to fast hunters and vice versa.

Alyson has given you advice on what appeals to art industry types who care more about the “feel” and “quality” of your work than anything else (slow scavengers). It’s hard to get them into your store, but once they are there, they will browse piece by piece.

The following advice is for artists who want to appeal to people who will buy right now (fast hunters). These people don’t particularly care who you are or what your overall portfolio looks like, but they are willing to go into anyone’s shop because they move quickly and only need to pause when there’s a show-stopper in your portfolio.

1. Beware of decision paralysis. When you display your images as thumbnails, quick browsers can better judge each piece by color, framing, and general feel. They can quickly judge which pieces they like best, instead of being enamored by all of your work (which you don’t want because it’s easier for them to decide to buy nothing than decide which one they like best!).

Important note: Make sure the thumbnails display the ENTIRE image, not a cropped version.

2. Not everyone is picky. Some of your customers will be looking for something vague, like a piece of art to hang on their wall. They don’t care if it’s a photograph, painting, landscape, or nude. A huge problem I come across when I look for art on the Internet is when artists over-categorize.

The quickest way to frustrate me is to force me to push the “back” button on my browser every time I want to look at a category of art (“New York Cityscapes,” “Portraits,” “Florals,” “Mixed Media”). I suggest adding an “All Artwork” category where someone like me can browse all styles at once.

But use your common sense! Just because Target sells Easy Mac and women’s size 12 jeans in the same store doesn’t mean it makes sense to display them next to each other.

3. Don’t be boring. Quick shoppers don’t read much, but they do occasionally read the first couple of sentences of your “About Me” page (it’s a popular page). Make sure these sentences are interesting and informative. Save the info about your art education and years of experience for later.

4. Curate your art. Never have one thousand or more pieces of art in your portfolio. And never (photographers, I’m talking to you) have side-by-side “experiments” where you take the same picture, edit it in two different ways via Photoshop, then put them both on your site. Your indecisiveness is equivalent to expecting us to do your job for you.

These four rules apply to your personal website and – because this is where the quick shoppers are – third-party sites where you display and sell your art.

And here is one extra piece of advice that applies to all shopping styles . . .

Learn from the corporations. Have you ever looked at a corporation’s email form and thought, “Yeah, I’m never gonna get a response if I fill that out?” The same goes for the email form on your site. You can keep the form on your site as long as you also offer an email address.

Whitney Zeldow About the Guest Blogger

Whitney Zeldow runs a free email newsletter that aims to connect “regular people” with the best, most sale-able art on the web. She regularly hunts on the Internet for painters and photographers with show-stoppers in their portfolios that can be featured in her newsletter.

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16 comments to Artist Websites: Appealing to the Slow Scavenger vs Fast Hunter Shoppers

  • Nice blog post… I agree with the points you made here. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down, as artists, what we went to show the world! ;) I am definitely a ‘fast shopper’ so I feel you on that point as well!!

    ;) Ashley
    http://www.ladylucas.com
    http://www.ashleylucas.com

  • Whitney, thanks for the helpful advice. I’ve already added an email link to my blog in addition to my contact form. Your remark about curating is spot on and is particularly relevant to fine-art photography.

    I’ve always considered that my online presence was mainly for creating contacts and generating interest rather than sales. My instinct – and I’m keeping an open mind here – is that I might make online sales after people have seen my work at an art fair or show, but that not many people will actually buy “cold” online. Definitely a topic for another time / post, but I’d be interested to know about people’s experiences with online selling.

    • Thanks David!

      That might explain why artist websites never make any sense to me (I’m a fast hunter). Creating contacts instead of sales sounds like something that appeals to art industry types, not regular folk like me.

  • Great article…just having to update my art website and your tips will come in handy as I design the content….great tips that I will try to include on my site. You answered concerns I had and enjoyed learning about web design based on shopping attitudes. Great stuff! Thanks.

    • Good luck! I’m very curious to learn if oil paintings sell well online because I just went to a gallery show of an oil painter I wasn’t too enthusiastic about, but the paintings looked completely different in person than they did online (because the amount of detail in them can only be seen when you get really close).

  • Interesting stuff, Whitney! We should all rethink our sites from time to time from the viewpoint of the customers. “Don’t be boring” is fabulous advice – I just redid my About page yesterday because it was b o r i n g (yawn).

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  • Sari Grove

    There are some pricepoint issues…at over 2k a fast hunter may become a slow scavenger…security concerns block large sales online as well…my art is slow art & so it finds slow people…I also think a slow economy creates a slower willingness to spend…slowness does require training & practice…but you get fewer mistakes in your closet…I like the analysis though…smart…

  • Am just setting up my Etsy shop, so this post is very timely for me. Thanks for a great post.

    Lou

    • I love Etsy. It’s a great place for fast browsers like me. Except they crop their images to create thumbnails. If there are any little tricks to prevent that you’ll be good to go.

  • My favorite point is #3 Don’t be Boring.
    I used to worry that people might label me as a “crazy artist” type. But then I decided that I would rather be crazy than boring.
    Crazy, not boring… yet to the point!

    • Crazy is fine, as long as people can understand you. Which…you are a storyteller, so you don’t have to worry about that.

      I had the weirdest phone conversation with this artist once (I’m pretty sure he was on drugs) and nothing he said made any sense. He couldn’t answer a simple question. Then when I hung up on him he emailed me angrily saying “Andy Warhol was a rambler!”

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    makes sense, but who sells art via internet? never tought of that…

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  • [...] websites are often the first place that people experience our work. We don’t want to be apologizing for [...]