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Marketing Affordable Luxury

By Jen Gramm, Tru Vue Director of Marketing

Custom framing is an industry that has been undergoing a major transition, still recovering from the recent economic challenges and significant changes in retail and e-commerce. Some independent custom framers have been able to weather these changes by incorporating strategies to address one of the strongest segments of the consumer market — higher-income clients.


Market research shows that this is a smart move, because the overall higher-end market is strong. A survey by Unity Marketing shows that spending has increased among people with income levels at $100,000 to $249,000 more than any other group, including people with incomes above $249,000. Affordable luxury is taking a “larger slice of the pie,” say experts in luxury retail, and this presents a great opportunity for custom framers, who are offering one of the few truly custom products available.


Research on the Art, Wall Decor, Picture Frame and Custom Framing market shows that this segment also is one of the most active in purchasing art and custom framing. People who custom frame have an average income of $121,000, the highest of the four categories. They tend to own homes (at an average value of $350,000) and have a higher education (60 percent with at least a college degree).  Art buyers- people who have objects to frame—share similar demographics.


Other trends in high-end retail align well with the independent custom framing business. According to, a strong housing market indicates consumer willingness to spend on purchases for the home. Economic indicators have shown that the housing market is experiencing a recovery. Furthermore the Unity Marketing survey on the Art, Wall Decor, Picture Frame and Custom Framing market shows that 45 percent of custom framing consumers have items waiting to be framed, most of them at least two. This shows a potential or additional business from repeat customers.  So, how can custom framers include strategies to address the high-end market into their business? Following are three ways to target this type of customer.



1. Make the decision process as easy as possible


Higher income individuals may have more money to spend, but they are generally short on time. This requires flexibility and availability to avoid sacrificing the custom experience. Here are some ways custom framers can make the decision process easier.


  • Provide education through a variety of channels. This could include brochures on preservation framing, in-store displays that showcase different design elements, a website section on Custom Framing 101, and, of course, interaction in the store. Per the Luxury Marketing Outlook from in 2013, a multi-channel approach is key to reaching the high-end audience.
  • Begin your conversation with questions that provide more insight for the piece being framed. You can use this information to help streamline the process by beginning with a limited number of samples, such as two or three.
  • Create a “loaner library” of frames for customers to take home and consider. Many custom framers who handle fine art projects offer this service to help clients decide what framing package works best for their space. Wood or metal? Museum Glass or Conservation Clear? It’s easier to make this decision if you can see it in your own home.



2. Boost your online marketing – And if you’re not online, get there


One of the most significant transitions the custom framing market has made in the last five years is the increase in younger customers. Fifty-six percent of custom framing consumers are now age 44 or younger. Using demographic terms, these are Gen-Xers (age 34 to 49) and even people from the younger Generation Y who rely heavily on the internet for purchasing decisions and, increasingly, purchases.


According to a recent Forrester report, 72 percent of Gen X consumers go online for product research. A 2012 report from 8thBridge, a social media marketing firm, indicates that 70 percent of consumers polled prefer to hear about products from their Facebook friends, and 57 percent have sought advice from friends on Facebook before purchasing a product.


The art market is increasingly online, as evidenced by’s re-entry into the market and the presence of Artsy, Paddle8, Saatchi Online and online versions of galleries. Direct-to-consumer channels are the leading area of growth, per Unity Marketing, with significant increases in online sales.


“The internet is providing opportunities for artists to make deeper connections with their audiences,” said Julie Heath, an expert in the fine art market who serves as the museum and conservation liaison for Tru Vue. “The online space works well as an extension of the in-person experience, like attending an art show or a gallery visit.  For framers, it offers the chance to add value by educating customers on proper framing practices.”


Three ways custom framers can enhance their online are:


  • Create an online gallery of projects that showcase your expertise and creativity. This will give visitors who research you through your website an idea of what you have to offer before they walk into your shop. It also provides them with inspiration to get them excited about their own projects. Include copy that talks about the techniques and design principles that went behind the pieces.
  • Participate in social media with content that will appeal to consumers to share. Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites among Generation X consumers and a good place to invest social media time. Post weekly with things like photos of interesting projects, design and preservation trends, and even creative ideas for displaying and protecting treasured pieces. Always include a visual, as they are the most “share-able” type of content on social media.
  • Include a Tips From Your Framer section.  This will give visitors insight and information on custom framing that will help them make educated choices in your shop. Write about different materials, preservation, design ideas and other aspects of custom framing that would interest anyone considering having a piece framed. Not only will this help convey a sense of trust and professionalism that is so important to this audience, but search engines like quality content.



3. Get personal


“Many great art collections started in people’s homes,” said Heath, pointing out the personal connection people have with their art. “If you think about what your customers bring in to have framed, they are creating a museum of sorts for their own home.”


Although luxury retail experts say that it is still very much about the product, higher-end consumers appreciate and even expect personalized attention. Custom framing customers value the expertise of their framer – it is one of the top influencers for choosing where to custom frame. The multichannel strategy mentioned above provides a variety of opportunities to add that personal touch to the customer’s experience.


  • Direct mail is still a relevant tactic for potential customers in the high-end, depending on how it is done. Reach out to a limited group of customers whose information you’ve compiled from your own lists versus purchasing a list based on broad criteria. Something as simple as sending a postcard with a handwritten message conveys the custom approach. Target customers for promotions on services such as assistance with collections, in-home consultations and hanging. Announce upcoming events or other information relevant to what you know about them. Given that almost half of custom framing consumers have two or more pieces waiting to be framed, this is a great tool for repeat business.
  • Expand your customer database to include more than names and contact information. Make sure you keep track of details from projects you’ve already done for them, as well as insights from conversations you’ve had with them regarding other pieces they have. Note if they have a special interest, such as landscape paintings that reflect the seasons or vintage baseball cards. Mine this information for mailings on specials or around gift occasions, and include a handwritten note that shows you have paid attention to them.
  • Engage your customers and potential customers at special events, which have a strong appeal with this audience if they are interesting enough to be worth their time. Consider teaming up with other retailers targeting a similar audience, such as hosting a wine tasting with a local wine shop, a trunk show for upscale clothing or eyewear designer, a home trends event with a high-end interior designer, or a showing by a local gallery, artist or photographer. You can also provide space for a charitable organization or local museum holding an upscale fundraiser or hosting a reception to attract new board members.


If you aren’t doing many of these things, adjusting your marketing strategy to attract more higher-end customers may take some time. But it is an investment that should bring your business solid returns.

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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