Process
16
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Sell art online – how to build an eCommerce website from scratch

Written by
Olha Kurinna
Published on
August 31, 2023
TL;DR

Over the last few years, the digital presence in most industries has grown immensely. We were a witness to the digitalization of one of the fine art resellers, - the PLATFORM, while we assisted in the creation of their own eCommerce store. In this blog post, you will find an in-depth approach to creating an ecommerce website for the Art industry, as well as some best insider tips.

Author
Olha Kurinna
Content Specialist
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If you’re an artist who intends to display and sell your creations in an online store, Apptension is here to walk you through building an ecommerce website from scratch to sell your artwork. We will assist you in developing a visually appealing and user-friendly platform that will attract potential consumers and improve your internet presence as an artist. 

Moreover, our instructions and professional recommendations will guide you to build an ecommerce website to promote and sell your art to a global audience. Let's discover how to build an ecommerce website step by step for your artistic journey. Get reading!

The state of art sales over the last 2 years   

You can see the significant shifts and trends in art sales that have transformed how artists and buyers interact in the Internet environment during the last two years. They usually adopt augmented reality and virtual reality technologies, allowing prospective buyers to see how the artwork would look in their residences.

According to statistics, online art sales have increased considerably with the help of building an ecommerce website from scratch. The first half of 2023 will be a critical test of the global art market's resilience in the face of macroeconomic and geopolitical difficulties. During the post-pandemic recovery of the art market, sales at Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips increased by 70% year on year in 2021 and another 13% in 2022, setting an all-time high for the global auction market of $65.1 billion.

The importance of going online for art sales

With the passage of years, artists must embrace the digital realm to prosper and connect with a global audience. Follow the below critical benefits of selling art online and how we transform your artistic journey with the help of our ecommerce website development.

  • Reaching a wider audience

The chance to reach a large and diversified audience is one of the most appealing reasons to start selling art online. Unlike conventional galleries, an ecommerce platform removes geographical barriers that allow art fans worldwide to view your work.

  • Developing a personal brand

We help to build an ecommerce website from scratch that allows you to establish a distinct personal brand. You can express your artistic journey, inspiration, and creative process on your ecommerce website. This can also assist in building a closer relationship with potential buyers. 

  • 24/7 accessibility

Your online store should always open and be available to potential buyers 24/7, allowing them to browse, inquire, and make purchases whenever they wish. This adaptability accommodates the varied schedules of art fans worldwide, enabling you to generate sales even when you are not actively promoting your work. 

PLATFORM - entering the online market

Our client, PLATFORM, was among the businesses that managed to react to the global situation swiftly. The ecommerce website store would sell artworks represented by American galleries, created by both emerging and established artists.

The concept behind the store is to be the only place to buy artwork by the most desirable young artists online and without any of the elitist hurdles of the art world. . The site was designed to show artwork at its best, using tools, images and information that make it easy for anyone – from experienced collectors to those buying art for the first time – to get excited about and buy the extremely high quality art offered on Platform. 

Moreover, the value propositions of establishing an ecommerce website for art sales are boosted by unique features such as the 'Preview in your space' functionality. With this feature, website users can easily upload images of their living spaces, input measurements of existing objects, and visualize how the chosen artwork will fit smoothly inside their environment. This user experience increases trust in purchase decisions and improves the engagement and personalization that online art sales can provide.

Indeed, the client wanted to create and launch an MVP in 6 months.   

Choosing the right ecommerce platform

When building an ecommerce website, it’s critical to decide on the right ecommerce platform that will become a base for your website as it can make or break the success of your online art sales venture. Let's now discuss different ecommerce platforms' features, pricing, and benefits to help you make the right decision.

  1. Shopify

Shopify has a user-friendly interface and extensive app store which offers customizable templates, robust payment gateways, and integrated marketing tools. However, its pricing can be relatively higher compared to other platforms.

  1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is built as a plugin for WordPress and provides flexibility and customization options. It's ideal for artists already familiar with WordPress. Indeed, the platform is cost-effective but requires more technical expertise for setup and maintenance.

  1. Wix

With its drag-and-drop functionality, Wix simplifies website building. It has a friendly user interface for beginners and offers artistic templates. However, it may need more scalability and advanced features desired by growing art businesses.

  1. BigCommerce

BigCommerce has customizable templates, robust SEO features, and scalability. It offers a balance between ease of use and advanced capabilities. The platform provides comprehensive tools for artists who establish a professional online store for their art.

Indeed, our clients opted for BigCommerce as their ecommerce platform. BigCommerce's extensive features, scalability to handle future development, and seamless integration of the 'Preview in your space' feature influenced the decision. The platform's blend of usability and advanced capabilities made it an excellent choice for its online art sales journey.

Technical requirements

Our client’s idea required lots of research, backend and frontend collaboration, and integrations with external systems to be brought to life. Below, you can find a list of components and features that are worth considering if you’re planning to build a similar website from scratch:  

  • Extremely high image resolution with a high page loading speed accordingly;
  • BigCommerce integration as a chosen engine for the store; 
  • Admin Interface - to manage product pages, add content, and access customer data;
  • Supplier Interface - unique profile and login credential management.  
  • Access control - separate content for VIPs and partners, separate links for early birds;
  • ‘Preview in your space’ feature - the website visitors should easily upload the image of their space, provide the measurement of other objects located in the space, and see how the piece of art will match the interior. 
  • A custom checkout process matching the overall website design; 
  • Integration with email marketing service and triggered email sequences; 
  • Integration with Google Analytics;
  • Consistency with the languages and frameworks previously used in the company; 
  • Additional UX research to match the art-appropriate experience and employ the standard eCommerce best practices for high discovery and conversion rates.

Our process

For the PLATFORM project, we provided a team consisting of: 

  1. Team leader, 
  2. 5 Frontend developers, 
  3. 3 Backend developers, 
  4. 2 QA specialists, 
  5. and Project Manager

Then, to ensure continuity and logical progress, we started our ecommerce website development process from the following steps: 

  • Market & stack research 

The research of user needs and the competitors' offerings was the starting point of this project. The same was applied to the tools and technologies, emphasizing unfamiliar stacks. It took some brainstorming to gather the ideas and pick the best-fitting tech for developing the expected functionality. 

Then, UX & UI research was conducted by internal specialists of PLATFORM. Afterward, they delivered the results to our team, ready to implement them in the product-in-process. 

  • Product discovery 

Based on research, brainstorming results, and the client's primary goals, we shaped the ultimate MVP to be delivered in 6 months. Minor parts of the discovery phase took place during the following stages of the process, mainly because of the Agile method we selected for all of our projects. 

  • Backlog creation 

After the discovery phase, it was high time for planning and scheduling. All our teams work in Scrum, so we set off identifying key deliverables, dividing them into smaller parts, and fitting them into several 2-week plans. Then, the priorities were set and regularly reviewed in the future stages of the project. 

  • Backend + frontend development 

The standard store templates from BigCommerce were too limited for PLATFORM's idea, while the required content possibilities and marketplace complexities were unavailable. So, we decided to build our front-end application.

The front end was written mainly in NextJS, NodeJS, and ReduxJS. The usage of NextJS specifically allowed our developers to create a system that would automatically render the pages with new artworks and articles so that they would show on Google search right after the publication. 

If you’re looking for how to build an ecommerce website with Django and Python, we are here to help since we use these languages as the backend. Due to a large amount of customization needed from the client regarding CMS, we opted to have it on our side rather than a service like Contentful. That's why we chose Wagtail CMS, a system on top of Django, which allowed us the needed customization range.

  • Integrations

Some of the integrations needed for the store to work properly is the payment option, Klarna, and the attached shipping service, Art Shipper, that was built through a custom-built API. Buyers could insure the purchased artwork during the shipment stage as well.

Lastly, the development team integrated the ecommerce website with third-party applications, like Omnisend (for marketing campaigns) and BigQuery for SQL inquiries (the client requested the latter).

How much time does it take?

The time it takes to build an ecommerce website for selling art can vary depending on several factors. These factors include your familiarity with website development, the complexity of your desired features, the extent of customization required, and the platform you choose. Based on research, brainstorming results, and the client's primary goals, we shaped the ultimate MVP to be delivered in 6 months, however, we managed to finish it in 4.

It was high time for planning and scheduling after the finding phase. Because all our teams use Scrum, we begin by selecting essential deliverables, splitting them into parts, and putting them into several 2-week sprints. The priorities were established and reviewed regularly throughout the project's subsequent stages.

Possible challenges

There are several challenges involved in building an ecommerce website for selling art, especially a complex one as described above. Hence, here’s a list of all possible challenges you can expect when building an ecommerce website for selling art from scratch:

  • Art relies heavily on visuals. Ensuring high-resolution, color-accurate images that are also optimized for web speed can be challenging. Offering zoom capabilities and 360-degree views might also be essential.
  • It can be challenging to set up and administer an ecommerce website that requires some technological skills. In the beginning, the staff will need help navigating the platform, customizing the design, and resolving technical issues.
  • The ecommerce website must be integrated with a secure and flexible payment gateway (for installments, bank transfers, or even cryptocurrency.). For this purpose, it’s required to ensure smooth transactions while safeguarding customer data.
  • Since each art piece is unique, once it's sold, it can't be resold. The platform must ensure that no two buyers can purchase the same item simultaneously.
  • Art pieces are delicate and often require specialized packaging and shipping. Implementing a flexible and reliable shipping solution that ensures artwork safety can be challenging. However, if you organize the shipping process by yourself you can use route planning apps for fast deliveries.
  • Unlike common products, unique art pieces might not have high search volume keywords. Crafting an SEO strategy tailored to the niche market of unique art buyers can be challenging.
  • As art pieces get sold, new ones get created, and inventory changes, the platform must handle dynamic inventory updates efficiently. 

 

Strategies for marketing and promoting your art store

Marketing and promotion are significant for  visibility, engagement, and success of your art store in the fast-paced world of ecommerce. Aside from designing a visually appealing website, efficient marketing strategies are required to attract traffic, engage potential buyers, and develop a robust online presence. Here are the marketing strategies you need to follow:

  • Content marketing

We craft compelling and informative content related to your art, creative process and the stories behind each piece. We’re also here to publish blog posts, videos, and articles to engage your audience and enhance your website's search engine ranking.

  • Social media marketing

We can use social media platforms to showcase your artwork, interact with your audience, and drive traffic to your ecommerce website. The platform must engage with relevant hashtags and communities to expand your reach and connect with art enthusiasts.

  • Email marketing

We can build an email list of interested art enthusiasts and send out regular newsletters with updates about new artwork, exclusive offers, and insights into your artistic journey. Our email marketing help to keep your audience engaged and informed.

  • Influencer collaborations

We can partner with reputed influencers or bloggers who align with your artistic style. Their endorsement can introduce your art to a broader audience and lend credibility to your brand.

Managing and growing your ecommerce store

Once your art e-commerce store is up and running, the journey doesn't end – it's just the beginning of a continuous effort to manage, optimize, and grow your online store. Consider these post-launch activities to develop your online presence further:

  • Monitor Sales and Analytics: We can track your sales, conversion rates, and other key performance indicators regularly. Our team performs the data analysis to identify trends, popular products, and areas for improvement.
  • Track Customer Behavior: We utilize analytics tools to understand how visitors navigate your ecommerce website, which products they view, and where they drop off. This insight can help you optimize your website's layout and user experience.
  • Customer Engagement: We engage with your customers through social media, email newsletters, and personalized interactions. Our customer support responds promptly to inquiries, provide excellent customer support, and create a community around your brand.

Conclusion

In short, building an ecommerce website to sell art can be challenging, but we’re here to display your creativity, interact with a global audience, and generate sales. Once you have started your journey with Apptension, you've learned insights about the changing landscape of art sales, the significance of moving digital, and the tactics for success in the online marketplace.

We have explained everything from comprehending the shifts in art sales trends over the last two years to picking the best e-commerce platform and overcoming potential hurdles. The case study of our client's successful transition to online art sales highlights the significant benefits of adopting digital techniques customized to artists' specific needs.

Finally, you must know that the journey doesn't end with the launch of your e-commerce store. Continuous efforts should be required to market, manage, and grow your online store while sustaining your success and expanding your reach.

Picking a reliable web development vendor can be a crucial step in the success of your ecommerce website. Read the PLATFORM case study with more visual elements and project details in our Portfolio.