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Tapping Into Consumer Motivations for Custom Framing

By David Lantrip, Industry Expert

It’s easy to think that customers are primarily interested in price when it comes to custom framing. After all, how many times have we heard people say, “Custom framing is so expensive,” and other similar statements?


But research shows that people who custom frame aren’t driven by sales or special offers. According to a survey done by Unity Marketing on the Art, Wall Decor, Custom Framing and Picture Frame market, the top three reasons people custom frame are:


  • To preserve and protect 
  • Good value for price 
  • Special piece that requires custom framing


I see this in the shops I work with and I have developed a sales and marketing approach that is based on these factors. It boils down to strategies that build a rapport with customers, demonstrating the value of what we offer and giving people what they are looking for when they are framing their piece of art . Following are three things I do in my business that leverage the consumer motivation behind custom framing.



1. Create the right environment.


A large part of delivering value is not just the delivery of a product. It’s the delivery of a great experience and knowledge. Consider the environment your customer is walking into. They are bringing in art, a photograph or some other treasured piece that they want to look good on their wall. It’s a sensory experience, and your store should reflect that. Ask yourself these questions:


  • “What do customers see when they walk in?”  Do my displays reflect our best work and showcase the benefits we can offer? Are things out front neat and tidy? Is there visual flair?”
  • “What do customers hear in my store?”  Do they hear any sawing or work going on in the back room?  And, for that matter, can they smell it? Or is it barely audible, because I am playing pleasant music, such as light jazz that relaxes them and reflects the mood I want them to be in when selecting materials?”
  • “Do I have a clear, inviting space to set down their artwork and discuss their wants and needs?”  Will I need to move piles of paper, materials or coffee cups aside to make way for this space, or do I have a spot that is reserved for nothing besides viewing customer projects?”


Starbuck’s is a great example of how a retailer creates an environment that supports the price point for its product. When you walk into a Starbuck’s, it’s a very different experience from buying your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. Millions of customers who pay up to $4 for a cup of coffee agree. They wouldn’t do the same at a local convenience store.



2. Start with a conversation


If you get customers talking about their piece from the beginning, you have a better chance of determining what exactly they are looking for and an opportunity to educate them on different product benefits before you even approach a discussion about price. I generally begin the conversation by gathering information, saying things like:


  • “Tell me more about these photos.”  I try to get a handle on how old they are, if they are of family or a special event like a vacation or a celebration, where they came from, what kind of attachment the person has to them, etc.
  • “Is this a family heirloom?”  If so, I know that preserving and protecting is likely a key benefit they’ll be interested in.
  • “Where will this be displayed?”  Research shows that the primary spot for framing pieces is the living room, but things like diplomas, degrees, wedding or vacation photos, etc., may be placed in another room of the house.


For many pieces, you will learn that a customer has a strong attachment. Emphasizing the emotional component of the project is a great way to get on the same page with the customer. Take a few seconds to echo their sentiments by saying things like:


  •  “You must be so proud.”
  • “Your kids will be glad you preserved this for them.”
  • “This is something your mother will be thrilled to have.”
  • “What a thoughtful gift for your dad.”


Not only does this build a rapport with your customer, but it also gives them confidence that they are putting their piece in good hands.


It’s rare when a customer comes into a shop speaking the language of custom framing, so they may not say specifically that they want to preserve and protect a piece. But if what they are holding is a family heirloom, that’s something you should discuss with them. Once you’ve determined how important the piece is to the customer, you can then begin talking about specific products that will help them achieve their goals.


Though it has become a smaller part of our business, you likely still find customers who just want to frame something to make it look good. They don’t want the hassle of having to handle it themselves by purchasing a frame and mat at a big box retailer. If you’re having this conversation with them, you’ll know and will be able to suggest materials that are appropriate for their project.


They may say they don’t “want to spend a lot,” but this is a relative concept, and the focus should be on what they want for their piece before your discuss price. For example, they may be willing to spend an extra $100 on a feature that increases their enjoyment of a piece if they understand what that upgrade will do for them. Putting things in terms of features and benefits is a good way to develop their understanding of the value of different options.


Here are examples of some features/benefits statements:


  • “This frame’s design detail will draw the eye to this particular aspect of the art”
  • “The texture of this silk mat accentuates the texture in the art”
  • “This glass reduces reflections, which means you will see the details of your art better”


Be a good listener. Don’t assume a customer won’t buy something because of price. Hear what they are asking for and offer to deliver it to them.



3. Put the “custom” in the experience.


In a world where many things are mass produced, custom framing is one of the few truly custom products that isn’t an electronic device. Even furniture stores who advertise their custom services really mean purchasing couch A with fabric B and cushions C.


Yet, the irony is that the generation of consumers, which are coming into the life stage of buying and decorating homes, having treasures to protect and purchasing art, have been raised in world that puts high value on the custom experience. Generation Y and Millennials can watch whatever they want, whenever they want. They can create their own mix of music from iTunes and take full advantage of the thousands of options for their computers and mobile devices. Targeting this type of consumer is an opportunity I think many custom framers overlook.


When we talk to customers, it is important that they understand our customized approach.  We need to emphasize that they can get exactly the frame they want in size, colors and features that will bring out the best in their piece. I cut down on the stress of the decision process by guiding them with suggestions that take into account their attachment to the piece they are framing and their needs.  It’s great to have literally hundreds of choices, but it’s overwhelming. I also offer brochures and keep in-store displays handy to explain the features and benefits of upgraded products so that they understand and trust why I’m suggesting them.


Aside from these three strategies, I keep in mind the type of customer I want to attract to my store. Reaching out and speaking to relevant groups such as historical societies, needlework groups and photography clubs targets people who have a reason to seek out the expertise of custom framers.It’s tempting to fall into the trap of value vs. low prices, but it’s a slippery slope when you begin competing on price. That becomes your point of differentiation, and you’ll attract customers whose purchase decisions will be made on price alone. Likewise, you will be rewarded with customers who truly value what we offer by aligning your marketing strategies with what really motivates people to custom frame.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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