The 5th Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, entitled "A market yet to awaken?," documents strong annual growth in online sales, but slowing momentum in converting customers to buying art online.
The report, released Tuesday, forecasts "long-awaited consolidation" in the sector, which today is fragmented across several main players.
HISCOX ONLINE ART TRADE REPORT 2017 CHECKLIST
- Online art market sales reached an estimated $3.75 billion in 2016, up 15% from 2015. This gives the online art market an 8.4% share of the overall art market, up from 7.4% in 2015.
- Whilst the traditional auction houses were slow in adapting to the opportunities of the online art market, 2016 marked a significant shift in their online sales strategy
- The conversion of online art buyers remains static for the third consecutive year, signalling that the online art market could be struggling to convert sufficient numbers of hesitant art buyers.
- In 2017, 49% of galleries that sell art online say they are doing so through third-party online platforms.
- According to the latest survey, 79% of online art buyers spend less than $5,000 per piece when buying art online, up from 78% in 2016 and 67% in 2015.
THE CONVERSION OF ART COLLECTORS
Existing online art consumers were more likely to be repeat customers. The share of art buyers who purchased more than one artwork online in the prior 12 months rose two percentage points to 65% in 2017.
Online purchases were also increasingly likely to be at the low end, the survey found, with 79% spending less than $5,000 per purchase, up slightly from 78% in 2016 and 67% in 2015.
Sales in the online art market rose 15% to $3.75 billion in 2016, taking the online share of the overall art market to 8.4%, up one percentage point from 2015, according to the TEFAF Art Market Report 2017.
A separate estimate, from Art Basel and UBS's The Art Market 2017, put online sales of art and antiques at $4.9 billion, up 4% from the prior year.
The report documented the evolving competitive landscape among the online art platforms, with a timeline of several key launches, mergers, and acquisitions, including the 2016 merger of Auctionata and Paddle8.
Of the 42 industry players surveyed, 71% saw more consolidation ahead.
THE STRUGGLE OF AUCTION HOUSES IN THE ONLINE MARKET
The online art market grew in 2016 against a backdrop of a sleepy market, according to a new report from Hiscox, the specialty insurer.
The report noted that the online auction space would be the "battlefield" over the coming year, with a smaller share of those surveyed (24%) expecting increased competition in fostering gallery sales online.
The survey found that over a third of galleries don't yet have a clear online sales or e-commerce strategy, which could be because most galleries are small and may not have the resources to launch and maintain a successful online presence.
The customer wants to buy online if they know they're getting the best stock at the best price.
It is never too early for collectors to think about the art management of their collection. Only the way the collection is handled differs from each phase of the collector’s lifetime.
As a share of overall auction sales, online sales at Christie's more than doubled between 2015 and 2016, but still account for just 1.5% of auction turnover, implying substantial room to grow.
Heritage Auctions, which deals largely in collectibles, reported it conducted 41% of its auction sales online in 2016.
WHAT DO ONLINE COLLECTORS WANT?
The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report includes survey responses from 758 art buyers, up from 672 respondents in 2016, as well as 132 galleries and dealers, a slight increase from last year's number.
Art buyers surveyed named several services that online art platforms could offer to shore up their confidence.
The biggest concerns of online art buyers were the condition of the work, whether it would appear different in real life than on-screen, and authenticity.
The report found upwards of 75% of buyers still hesitated to purchase art online because of concerns about the condition of the work or that it would look different than it appeared on-screen, figures that haven't improved much since 2015.
Those figures were lower for buyers under 35, suggesting that an emerging collector base could support the online market going forward.
The most popular were condition reports, certificates of authenticity, and a 30-day return guarantee, with 75% or more of respondents consistently citing those in each survey going back to 2015.
Majorities of respondents also said their confidence could be bolstered by the option to purchase insurance at point of sale, more information about shipping and packing methods, and more information the artworks and artists themselves.
This year's edition also includes a new component, 42 interviews with managers and "key staff" at various online art platforms who provided information to Hiscox.
"The customer wants to buy online if they know they're getting the best stock at the best price, and at the moment that's not totally clear," said Robert Read, head of art and private clients at Hiscox.
"Once that does become clear, the fulfillment has to be nailed down as well ... That's the reason why we shop on Amazon; you get all three."
He said he expected online platforms to increasingly offer both options-- an auction feature and purchasing at a fixed price-- to cater to a broader base of customers."
I think the brand really helps because the brand gives people confidence," he said, adding that the two auction houses' deep pockets have also enabled them to invest in their online platforms without the added effort of raising capital.
He said he expected online platforms to increasingly offer both options-- an auction feature and purchasing at a fixed price-- to cater to a broader base of customers.
"It remains pretty fractured and very regional," he said. "Those are the things that are holding it back."