Earlier this year, Unity Marketing released a comprehensive survey of the Art, Wall Decor, Custom Framing and Picture Frame market that provided an overall state of the industry. The good news is that the overall category is up since the economic downturn in 2010. Of more than 2,600 American consumers, 50 percent indicated that they made a purchase in the art, wall decor, custom framing and picture frame market in 2012. This is up three percentage points from 2010.
While custom framing hasn’t rebounded in the same way, growth in the overall category indicates opportunity through a focused approach on the “low-hanging fruit” — people who value custom framing and those in possession of something to frame. The Unity Marketing research gives a clear picture of who those consumers are.
So, what is the profile of the typical custom framing customer? According to the research from Unity Marketing, custom framing consumers:
- Have an average household income of $121,100 (15 percent higher than overall category buyers)
- Skew younger with 56 percent age 44 years or less
- Are more often male than female
In addition, most are college-educated (60%) and own a home (with an average value of around $350,000). The higher-income consumers in the category are more likely to seek out custom frame shops specifically.
The research also shows strong parallels between the art buying customer — a growing category — and the custom framing consumer. Their demographics are very similar, and art buyers are more likely to custom frame than consumers in the wall decor or picture framing categories. Original art (18%) and art reproductions (16%) were the items custom framing consumers sited when asked what item they had most recently framed. (Personal photographs was 15 percent.)
While unframed art reproductions are still the most frequently purchased art, the biggest area of growth in terms of spending and number of pieces sold is in original art. This indicates an area of potential for anyone offering conservation framing.
For the most part, my business is a reflection of what this research shows. Since the economic downturn of the last decade, I’ve noticed a shift in my customer base. Some people continued to frame through the recession. Art was of value to them, and they wanted to protect it as well as enjoy it. One of the things that helped me maintain — and even grow — my business was paying close attention to who was coming into my shop, even during the tough economy.
This change was alarming at first, but I stepped back and viewed my business from the outside, adding an element of objectivity to my assessment. I realized I needed to modify my marketing approach. Here are some of the things I did to transition my business:
1. Identified who was still custom framing.
During the recession, low-level jobs fell away completely, such as posters and mass-produced pieces. But customers were still framing pieces they treasured. Rather than take a price-conscious approach, I pursued those bigger jobs and adjusted my business to meet those customers’ specific needs and expectations.
I spent time building a profile of who was custom framing during the recession. My research was primarily anecdotal conversations with the people who were coming into my shop.
Here are three things I found influenced my new approach:
- Word-of-mouth was very important. These people were most influenced by family and friends.
- They truly treasured their purchases. They had an emotional attachment to their pieces and wanted to enjoy and protect them. Many were inspired by art during travel and brought them home to be framed.
- They saw value in custom framing and were less swayed by “sticker shock” if they felt confident that their pieces would be well-preserved.
2. Focused on what these customers value most
I strengthened aspects of my business that would appeal to customers who were looking for quality and expertise in handling treasured items. I found that what these customers were framing was original work, collectibles and other items that were highly meaningful to them.
Here are ways I demonstrated my abilities to address what my customers wanted:
- Earned certifications in various aspects of preservation framing.
- Kept up with industry trends by attending shows and seminars, reading trade publications, working closely with suppliers and sharing knowledge with other framers.
- Continued talking with my customers to stay on top of their preferences and needs.
3. Streamlined my marketing to reach a specific target
Updating and upgrading my marketing plan was important to targeting a more niche audience. Some of the things I had been doing did not appeal to my customers, making them a waste of resources. Take a look at your marketing approach to determine if what you are doing is right for your audience.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating your marketing approach:
- Determine if you are spending resources on outdated or irrelevant tactics. For example, one of the first things I did was discontinued Yellow Pages advertising, which was costly and ineffective for my audience.
- Make sure your charitable outreach is focused on your specific target. As local businesses, we are frequently asked to support charitable events through ads or action items. This can be an effective part of your strategy if you limit your donations to organizations and schools that your customers are involved in.
- Put yourself in proximity to art buyers when they have art on their minds. Set up a booth at a local art show, share information about the services you provide and bring examples of your work. Make sure to have plenty of brochures and business cards on hand and have a sign-in sheet for post-show follow-up. You can also purchase an ad or write up a brief on custom framing (if space allows) in the show directory.
- Partner with galleries that don’t provide framing services and offer an incentive for customers who are referred by the gallery to your shop.
- Partner with high-end designers and realtors who specialize in affluent neighborhoods. Art buyers are more active when purchasing a new home or undergoing a remodeling project and this is a good way to find these types of customers. For example, some realtors give welcome gifts to clients when they move into their new homes. Offer a free in-home consultation to new homeowners as part of that gift.
- Make sure your website includes all the services you offer, is updated and looks professional. This demographic especially seeks out information online, so it is important for your website to give a great first impression. Consider modifying your search engine optimization (SEO) to include keywords of interest to art buyers.
Custom framing may be an industry in transition, but I do believe that there is opportunity for growth by targeting the right audience.
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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.