If you’ve been in the art world for a while, you have likely observed three types of art buyers: one-time buyers, clients who buy a lot in a frenzy, and customers who return regularly but slowly to buy repeatedly over time.
Understanding buying patterns will help you better serve your customers and increase sales. Let’s take a look at each type of buyer.
The one-time buyer is exactly what it sounds like. They come in, buy one piece, and never return. There are a few reasons why someone might be a one-time buyer.
First, they may have found your art by chance and liked it but only on a casual level.
They may have been in the area, seen your art on display, and decided to buy on a whim.
Or, they may have been looking for a specific type of art and found yours but didn’t connect with it on a deeper level.
It’s also possible that they loved your art but only had the budget for one piece, or they may have found the perfect piece for their home but don’t need any more art.
Looking over nearly four years of Xanadu Gallery sales data, I can see that 72% of our buyers are one-time purchasers. We’re always asking, “what can we do to convert more of those one-time buyers into collectors?” More on that later.
It’s worth noting that one-time buyers can still be valuable customers. Even if they only buy from you once, they still buy your art and support your career. And, if they love your art, they may tell their friends about you, which could lead to more sales down the road.
The frenzied client is the opposite of the one-time buyer. They buy a lot of art, either all at once or over a relatively short period.
There are a few reasons why someone might be a frenzied buyer. First, they may have just discovered your art and fallen in love with it. They may want to buy everything they can while they can.
Or, they may be looking to quickly fill a large space and need to buy a lot of art at once. They may have, for instance, recently purchased or built a new home. While furnishing the house, they may decide that they want to quickly amass an impressive collection of art to showcase in the home.
Xanadu Gallery is located in Scottsdale, a market with many second-home buyers. These are great customers because they typically do not bring much art with them from their previous homes.
Finally, they may be an art investor looking to quickly build a collection of your work.
Frenzied buyers can be great customers because they buy a lot of art and they buy it quickly. However, their purchases are likely to be limited. Once they have completed their project or burned out their frenzy, they may stop buying altogether.
Looking at our sales data, I can see that about 5% of our buyers are frenzied, but some years they account for up to 25%(!) of our total sales revenue.
The slow and steady buyer is the type of buyer that most gallerists and artists hope for. They buy slowly over time, usually buying one or two pieces per year.
There are a few reasons someone might be a slow and steady buyer. First, they may need to warm up to your work. After an initial purchase, they will slowly see how much they enjoy your work and may feel a growing affinity for their personal relationship with you. This almost always leads to additional sales.
Other slow and steady buyers may want to acquire a collection of your work but want to savor the experience and wait for the right pieces.
Finally, some slow and steady buyers may not have a lot of disposable income and can only afford to buy one or two pieces per year.
Slow and steady buyers can be great customers because they often become more personally invested in you and your art and enjoy watching your art evolve and your career grow over time.
When thinking of this kind of buyer, my mind instantly goes to a couple from Tennessee who first visited Xanadu Gallery in 2002. They bought several minor works, but we immediately hit it off with them. In the years and decades since then, they have returned to the gallery each time they visit Scottsdale and usually buy a piece or two. They’ve built a great collection of a wide range of work from a variety of our artists, and I’ve watched their children grow from childhood into adulthood. I consider them friends first and collectors second.
Slow and steady buyers can create some of your best relationships and are likely to become your favorite customers.
So, which type of buyer is best?
The answer, of course, is all of them!
Each type of buyer has its own set of benefits and risks, but all of them are valuable customers.
One-time buyers are valuable because they acquire your art and support your career. Even though each individual buyer may not spend a lot, they are likely to be your largest group of customers.
Frenzied buyers are valuable because they buy a lot of art and they buy it quickly.
Slow and steady buyers are valuable because they are usually more invested in your art and are more likely to build a collection of your work over time.
The best way to maximize sales and minimize risk is to have a mix of all three types of buyers. Of course, every buyer must be a first-time buyer before becoming one of the other types. Most of our marketing efforts will focus on drawing in new buyers, and most of them will end up being one-time buyers. However, ensure you are working to cultivate relationships and return customers.
Look over your sales for the last year. If fewer than 20% of your buyers were returning customers, I urge you to work toward strengthening relationships with your clients.
Communication is key. Are you reaching out regularly to your customers via email and social media? Are you letting past buyers know about new work? If not, you are missing out on a vast and critical opportunity to increase your sales dramatically. If you aren’t following up with your customers, they may not become repeat buyers simply because you aren’t giving them the opportunity.
We especially want to be in heavy communication with clients immediately after they make a purchase. Send an email with additional artwork. “I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my other sculptures,” you might say. There is a well-documented phenomenon called the Diderot Effect, where people who have just felt the joy of making a purchase are primed to make additional purchases.
Here are a few additional tips for building relationships with your customers:
– Get to know them on a personal level. Ask them about their families, their hobbies, and their favorite art.
– Keep in touch with them even when they’re not buying. Send them holiday cards, birthday cards, and postcards for art shows.
– Offer them exclusive access to you and your work. Give them first access to new art and free shipping on future orders.
– Invite them to private events. Host a private viewing for them at your studio or a special event at your gallery.
By following these tips, you will be on your way to building solid relationships with your customers that will last for years to come. You will improve your bottom line, but at the same time, you will be improving the lives of your collectors with your amazing art!
Have you experienced these three types of art buyers? Are there other types that I’m missing? What have you done to cultivate relationships with your buyers? What more would you like to know about art buyers? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments below!