We have a large number of art galleries in and around the Monterey Bay area, especially in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Originally founded as an artist colony, Carmel retains that history with the many galleries that line the streets and alleys. Locals and tourists alike flock year-round to the more than 100 art galleries that represent thousands of artists. We recently embarked on a project to help one gallery in particular better manage their business. Like many galleries in Carmel, this client has been in business for decades and has helped tens of thousands of customers find the right art. Of course, that means thousands of paintings have come in and out of the gallery, and many pieces remain in the gallery at any given time.
The main challenge they were facing was an aging system that was difficult to use and offered limited insight into the valuable information collected over the years. Art galleries are not unlike many local retail establishments, but they do have some special considerations that can complicate life as a gallery owner. Art can be quite valuable, and many pieces are one-of-a-kind. The affluent clientele purchasing art expect a certain level of service and an upscale experience throughout the art buying process.
In Carmel specifically, the mix of locals and tourists creates a wide variety of potential clients, but also challenges in marketing to and keeping track of all of those clients. Ultimately, managing an art gallery’s logistics comes down to three primary functions: inventory management, client management, and artist management. Keeping track of the inventory that comes in and out of the gallery is paramount. Of course, knowing clients’ interests and purchase history allows for better marketing to capture new customers or foster repeat purchases. And finally, keeping track of what an artist is owed when a particular piece sells is key to maintaining a successful relationship with the unique individuals that create the pieces clients want.
Fortunately, there are a variety of gallery management software packages* available to help gallery owners and employees manage inventory and artists more efficiently and better close sales. A list of some of the available packages are below. Of course, as with most software these days, most are cloud-based subscription services. Cloud-based software allows for easier implementation, zero software updates, automatic backups and access to critical data from any device at any time from any location.
- Artcloud (this is the package we chose and recommend)
- Masterpiece Manager
- Artsystems Gallery Pro
- IT Gallery
- Managed Artwork
*Most gallery management packages also have less expensive versions available for individual artists or collectors Masterpiece Manager (Masterpiece Solutions, Inc), has put together an excellent comparison of some of the gallery management software offerings. Keep in mind that Masterpiece Manager provides gallery management software, and while this appears to be an objective comparison, there may be some biased opinions in the comparison. A well-implemented gallery management solution can truly elevate a gallery to the next level. Not only do these systems help manage the logistics of running a successful gallery, they also drive sales through a variety of mechanisms including:
- Maintain relationships with existing clients to drive repeat purchases
- Manage the sales process for new clients from lead to purchase and everything in between
- Put your gallery’s art on display for the world to easily find
- Integrate inventory into your website
- List pieces and artists on shared marketplaces maintained by the gallery management software makers
We recently helped a local gallery migrate from their homegrown systems to Artcloud. The transition came with its share of challenges, but the new system almost immediately improved life at the gallery. We also setup an integrated email marketing system (MailChimp) to make marketing to current and potential clients vastly simpler and quicker. As with many of our clients, the gallery had a good idea of what type of system they needed. The problem was they didn’t have the technical expertise or extra time required to migrate to a new system. That’s where we came in.
Trailguide Digital worked hand-in-hand with the gallery to truly understand their needs and develop a solution using commercially available cloud-based software. We also spent a great deal of time understanding their current information systems and critical processes to ensure that any new system would satisfy all of their requirements. Then came the fun part engaging with Artcloud, setting up the system and migrating decades of client, inventory and financial data to the new system. As with any “IT” project, the technical work is only the tip of the iceberg. With any new system, user training and documentation of how specifically the business will use the system is critical to success. Simply turning over a working piece of software without guidance and documentation specific to the needs of the client will almost certainly lead to sub-optimal or disastrous results. Whether you own a gallery that has been around for many years or are just starting out, please let us know if you are considering implementing a gallery management solution. We are happy to help make the setup or transition as effortless as possible!