Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I've been creating art since the mid-80s and have had an online presence since the mid-90s. Even at that early time I saw the opportunities and advantages of reaching collectors around the world virtually; moving beyond the traditional artist/gallery relationships that govern much of the art world and how art is purchased. Being featured online as an artist by Apple in 2001 and hosting a virtual art reception to coincide with my exhibition at Intel's corporate headquarters in 2008 were both experiences that solidified my opinion that online could be a powerful place to build my brand as an artist. Moving to the Shopify platform in 2012 greatly simplified and improved how I promoted and sold my work online. With collectors all over the world, Shopify has been a big part of my success. I personally create all my artwork through a combination of traditional painting and digital illustration. I partner with a professional printer in Oregon for the production of my limited edition fine art prints and with a San Francisco based company for assembly of my limited edition watches.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Word of mouth has always been the strongest driver for sales of my artwork and other products. With the rise of social media that same concept of word of mouth has been set on overdrive. I use a combination of paid and organic promotion on Facebook and other social channels to drive targeted traffic to my Shopify website. Without question it's referral traffic from social platforms that drives most of my sales both domestically and internationally. For online art sales, particularly those with a high price point, it's typically more than just a click and buy process. It's a conversation with the collector. My site includes Collector Reviews, Live Chat and more. All this is made easy with the combination of the Shopify hosted website and the integrated apps made available through the platform.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
Live Chat has been huge. Not only am I personally available to answer questions for those exploring the art on my website, the prominent "leave John a message", which is posted when I'm not online, has led to numerous conversations with prospective collectors and sales. The next winning app for me is Customer Reviews. People who purchase ANYTHING online like to feel comfortable about their purchase. And when you're selling art with price points in the hundreds or even thousands it is critical that you make the prospective customer as confident as possible that they are making the right decision and a safe decision. I invite all my collectors to submit reviews about both the product (in this case my art) as well as about their buying experience. I can't stress enough how much this has helped - especially with sales to people overseas. I personally prepare and ship all my limited edition fine art prints, which come both on archival paper and canvas. I ship worldwide, and - following the advice of an article posted by Shopify some time back - now offer free shipping in the USA. That's something that is worth emphasizing. Shopify has been far more than just a host of my website and a provider of a template and theme. I view them as a partner that is always looking for ways to make me more successful. That's a BIG deal in my book.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
My biggest recommendation is for new store owners to give a lot of thought to how they want to present their brand and their products. That's really the foundation for everything that follows. Specific to Shopify, make sure your checking out the wealth of information on the forums and Blog, experiment with different themes, apps etc. until you find the mix that works best for you, your brand and your business.