Online Viewing Rooms: Busting OVR Myths To Increase Engagement and Sell More Art (Part 2)

computer with gallery graphic

Online Viewing Rooms: Busting OVR Myths To Increase Engagement and Sell More Art (Part 2)

Online Viewing Rooms: Busting OVR Myths To Increase Engagement and Sell More Art (Part 2) 1024 683 Jim Fenner

Welcome back to Caravan’s series on Online Viewing Rooms, where we interrogate some established industry instincts and see how they intersect with OVRs and the new brand of collector interactions they produced. Check out Part 1 here, and don’t forget to sign up for upcoming webinar – “The Art of Digital: Selling High-Value Art Online” – where we cover OVRs, online pricing strategies, NFTs for collectors and galleries, and much more. Now, let’s pick up with Myth #3, and follow it up with some bonus tips:


Myth #3:
Sales interactions should be 100% handled by sales staff

art bust with binary code

Help manage inquiry influx from OVRs with some basic automation

Providing white glove service, maintaining decades-long relationships, disclosing insider information and rewarding special discounts are all the purview of your sales team. Traditional art sales pipelines center the salesperson as the face of the transaction. These are good ways to capitalize on what’s special about true, personal connection in sales efforts. However, selling digitally is a fundamentally different skillset from selling in person at galleries, fairs, exhibitions and auctions – and we would argue they are made richer by that fact. Why? Because of automation, and the ways it frees your staff to sell more.

Caravan conducted an experiment on 15 mid- to large-sized galleries to measure time-to-first-response and content quality when inquiring about an artwork on one of their active OVRs. Inquiries were made early in the work-day for each gallery, with timezone factored into our approach. Of the 15, only two utilized an autoresponder for submissions (response received within 3 minutes of inquiry). Four galleries provided a same-day response from a sales staff address, with the appearance of being manually sent, if still cut-and-copied from a template. The remaining nine galleries responded to our initial inquiry anywhere between 24 and 72 hours after submission. 12 galleries responded with an attached pdf, while the remaining three enclosed all information they were willing to share in the body of the email. Of the PDFs sent, six were specific to the artwork and six featured additional artworks we had not inquired about, all with varying degrees of effort put into design and amount of purchase data shared. Clearly, this is a recipe for lost sales.

If your gallery’s approach to inbound sales inquiries from an OVR is based on your standard remote response best practices, then it is failing to account for how OVRs are unique.

OVRs enable faster movement through the sales pipeline.

OVRs are built to advance more collectors past their first touch and on to deeper levels of the sales pipeline quickly. From the perspective of a collector, the commitments of time, money and effort previously required to see a work in a gallery or at a fair are unnecessary if they are already motivated to purchase art. To that end, it is incumbent on galleries to borrow from the wisdom of online conversion specialists since online-time immemorial (about 15 years or so) – place your inquiries as close to the point of a transaction as possible, as early as possible. To put it frankly, the end goal for any of these efforts is to sell more art. If OVRs attract a new audience of buyers who aren’t interested in the traditional pace of relationship development typical of more established sales procedures, it is to your gallery’s benefit to serve them rather than to attempt to re-steer them. If OVRs accelerate the pace of sales, your response should accelerate in tandem. Implementing tools that help this is a core competency of Caravan – reach out to us at info@crvn.net to find out how. I

OVRs produce a larger volume of digital inquiries

Requesting full attention from your sales staff is now a single click away for anyone on the planet – for better or for worse. That is the cost of doing business with an OVR – it’s your responsibility on how to handle the larger volume of, on average, lower-quality leads in a timely and effective manner. After all, if an OVR sells every piece, it is a success whether it attracts 50 inquiries or 50,000 – the ‘lead quality’ metric vanishes once the art begins to sell.

Still, managing more leads is a logistical obstacle, and one best solved with technology. Again, autoresponders will show all inquiring parties that you are attentive to their request. Further, rich forms with sortable (read: not free-entry) fields can help refine inquiries and build a more comprehensive CRM contact base. Finally, more inquiries can actually motivate buyers – a simple ticker next to the inquiry button (“38 collectors have already inquired, but the piece is still available!”) can leverage sales psychology principles around urgency and scarcity. Rather than taming a frenzy of interest to better fit your capacity, work on how your capacity can increase with technologic solutions.

OVRs attract younger collectors

In broad strokes, OVRs attract digital natives more frequently than luddites – and these natives are more populous, more capable, and more capricious than their older classical counterparts. Even in cases where an older collector defers to an agent to investigate and inquire artworks to add to a collection, the assumption that your typical user can navigate digital sales scenarios fluently is a safe one. The idea that art collection is a practice where there are a few thousand wealthy individuals in the world all buying and selling art to one another fails to conform with what we see in OVR activity, especially for pieces under $100,000. Because of that, we suggest leaning into digital-first best practices that demonstrate your technical acumen to younger buyers rather than ‘dumbing down’ the digital experience to better accommodate less technical users. Why? Because younger, savvier collectors will actually be more sensitive to the quality of your digital presence than older collectors. Will an OVR with a broken SSL cert pass muster with someone who has been buying online frequently for a significant portion of their life? How about clearly broken styling or javascript? Overall health-checks on your digital property are a topic for another full-length article, but in regards to sales staff owning the process end-to-end, the consequence of a younger collector base is that your visitors expect both the white glove service only a real sales rep can give in addition to the supporting technological cues (cross-site retargeting, automated drip campaigns, information-rich interaction feedback) provided by automation.

To conclude this point, here are our primary considerations: You will receive more inquiries with an OVR, your staff will be overwhelmed with responses if you can’t support inquiries with the help of automation, and your typical online shopper expects high quality content in all communications from your gallery, manual or automated. Audit your own response time as a secret shopper and assess the quality of each interaction as though you were a young, flush collector new to your gallery. Would that version of you be excited and encouraged by their experience?

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Bonus:
All Data is Actionable Data

hands on surreal background

When art and digital intersect, your insights grow exponentially.

We’ve looked at the per-visit implications of an OVR and how the user experience should be adjusted based on the data we’ve seen, but what about that data is valuable? To our minds, any data that can be tracked can be used to enhance your sales. Big Data is one of the more misunderstood technological principles of our time, because many people stop short of its actual material application. 

To begin, answer three questions about data you’re farming from your site:

  1. What are you tracking?
  2. Where is it going?
  3. What are you doing with it?

Answering questions 1 and 2 is relatively simple: look at the on-page events available for you to track and make sure there’s some agent catching those events (Google Analytics with Event and Conversion tracking is good, but there are additional data points you may have depending on how your room is constructed), and, once the events are caught, identify the platform where that action is saved and/or displayed. The third question – what are you doing with it – is a matter of creative problem solving. 

Think of Sherlock Holmes – the charm of those stories most people remember is his nearly eidetic memory (comprehensive tracking and storage of data points) and how cleverly he extrapolates those points into actionable conclusions. In this instance, you can play Sherlock with your data. Are all of the inquiries in an OVR for the first artwork displayed? Try changing the order of artworks to see if you yield different results and then you can test the hypothesis that page placement matters to your collectors. Is the same user inquiring and engaging but failing to convert to a sale after several rooms? Identify all 3+ inquiry collectors in your system and offer a Zoom meeting to go over the works with a curator personally. 

Big Data essentially means collecting maximum data points and finding applications for them later. To be clear, the data we collected to develop our conclusions in this article preceded this article’s conception, existing as a big blob of information waiting to be investigated and parsed. Similarly, your OVRs can become customer-insight factories with a few small tracking codes put onto strategic elements of your site. However, if these points are collected purely as a curio, you’ll never benefit from the enhanced sales practices they may illustrate. If you aren’t tracking and saving interaction data, start this minute. But, if you have the data and don’t know what to do with it, contact Caravan and we’ll help you spin 1s and 0s into gold. Caravan ArtOps has a built in analytics dashboard so that you can see how each viewing room is performing, and how you can gain insight into your customers.


In Conclusion:

OVRs are a new tool. They aren’t a temporary replacement, and they aren’t suborned by alternate means of accomplishing the same goal (selling art). As such, exploring the tool, its best practices, and its results on its own terms has yielded much richer and more actionable information for Caravan and our clients than we would receive with a perspective blinkered by where it is deficient when compared to in-person opportunities to sell art. 

If you want to hear more from Caravan and our OVR clients, join us on March 30th at 12:00pm EST for “The Art of Digital: Selling High-Value Art Online”. We’ll be discussing OVRs, NFTs, data management, modern sales strategies and much more with an esteemed, international panel of experts. Learn more here: