Art Store Fronts has brought a lot of good ideas to photographer’s websites. How can you incorporate those into SmugMug to boost print sales?
Over the past few months I’ve done some soul searching about whether to stick with SmugMug, or switch to the competition. I have to admit, none of the competition really excited me, certainly not enough to switch.
That said, artstorefronts.com did turn my head. With a focus on sales of prints and originals alone, it tackles a problem a lot of us have faced … dwindling print sales.
The reason I was looking into switching to begin with was that it was time to start a new site, this time from scratch. I had already decided to focus on prints alone on this site, because the only thing going for less than prints in today’s market, is stock photography.
I stuck with SmugMug because I like their product, their product has been incredibly reliable, they provide great customer service on print sales, and Art Store Fronts is way out of my league on price.
Luckily Art Store Fronts makes a lot of their ideas public, with a rather helpful blog to walk you through the basic steps they preach. That led me into more market research to see if I could find other examples of their theories in action, other ideas that are out there, and quite a few of my own, gleaned from more than five years of working with SmugMug clients.
As I close in on finishing the site, I thought I’d point out the features I’m including, and will later on share the results. Keep in mind that the site is still in progress, but we’re close enough that you get the idea I think.
Art Storefronts is really pushing two key ideas. The first is a better shopping experience leads to more sales. There’s no disputing that. They have all the features you would want … the ability to view images in a frame or matting choice, on a wall being a key one. A cleaner, more intuitive shopping cart experience is another. They take a lot of their ideas from art.com because, well obviously they work.
The second idea is you have to do self promotion. Again, this is beyond dispute. Gone are the days when you’ll make a lot of sales by just smacking up a website, and having a bit of Facebook presence. Believe it or not, those days did somewhat exist. They came to an end in no small part because of the success of sites like art.com. So having your site with Art Storefronts in a very real sense, levels the playing field.
Perhaps the biggest asset in their toolbox though is customer service. They work with you to create a successful site, including step by step instructions on how to market yourself. Their ecosystem is set up with sales in mind, so the ability to automate your marketing lets you do more. Their forums are staffed by people who sell art and share what they’ve learned. As Christmas is approaching, they’re walking their customers through the steps they need to be taking now to be positioned for sales during the shopping season.
So with all of that going for it, why would anyone turn to SmugMug for a photography website for print sales?
Art Storefronts is pricey. For those who have yet to earn enough through print sales to pay their yearly, or worse, monthly SmugMug hosting, it’s hard to imagine that you can sell enough to pay the fee at artstorefronts.com. That’s of course possible. Art is a subjective medium, and even if you do everything they suggest you still might bomb. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s hard to take the leap of faith in your work to commit yourself.
So you turn to SmugMug and make the best of it.
The training and marketing advice is a loss of course, but that kind of information is still out there if you look. It just takes time to find it, where with art storefronts.com, it’s fed to you.
The ability to see any image, mounted, framed and on a wall is invaluable, and of course SmugMug has no option there. The best you can do is create a few in photoshop and scatter them throughout the site. One mistake people frequently make is not making it obvious that your images are for sale. After all, most photo sites don’t sell prints, so most people don’t automatically think you do. Unless you make it very obvious.
That leaves the shopping cart. No, SmugMug’s cart doesn’t compare. It’s not that it’s bad … okay, yes it is. But you can make it better with a bit of planning. To their credit, SmugMug has done a lot of work on their shopping cart. My biggest issue has always been the huge number of sizes and surfaces available, most of which require cropping. People hate cropping, artists hate their customers cropping, so we want those choices to go away.
Thankfully SmugMug created a button to hide the choices that require cropping. Then they took it away from us.
There are options to clean up the SmugMug shopping cart, and I’ll go over those in a later post. But no, there is no comparison.
So that’s the mission here … implement Art Store Fronts and other best practices into a SmugMug site that maximizes fine art print sales. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Read Part Two: Customizing a SmugMug site to grow print sales by building an email list