Overhauling the print fulfillment model has always been a dream of ours.
The current options available to fine artists and photographers are automated, mass-production systems that lack the oversight required to produce work truly deserving of the label "fine art".
Sure, convenient ways to have your art printed automatically already exist - but who is looking out for you? Who is ensuring that the print vendors are maintaining a baseline of quality, and producing your prints with color-accuracy and consistency over time?
And while we're asking questions...how are you tracking your profits and costs? How do your business management tools help you spend your limited time effectively?
Artists deserve better a better system, and we decided to build it.
In this post, you'll learn all about how our system represents a new standard in fine art print fulfillment.
You'll learn about how deeply we care about print quality. And how we go about maintaining first class standards for quality and service – holding our print vendors accountable on behalf of our members.
You will also learn about how utilizing our print fulfillment features and tools will increase your conversion rates, boost your business's efficiency, improve your organization, and give you beautiful visibility of your profits and costs.
In a nutshell, we set out to build a print fulfillment service specifically to make artists lives easier. Here's how we did it.
NOTE: The Art Storefronts fulfillment program is ONLY AVAILABLE for customers who have a website on the Art Storefronts program. It is not available to anyone else, and cannot be plugged into an external website.
When evaluating any potential print provider, our first and foremost priority is maintaining a standard for print quality.
Over the past few years, the fine art printing industry has been compromised by companies who cut corners and use substandard printers, inks, and media that produce prints that look okay today but will not tomorrow. Most artists have no idea this is going on, but it is.
The words “fine art” have been and are being completely misused, and today many artists and photographers are buying "fine art prints" with the expectation that they can be marketed and sold as fine art only to find out that this is not the case, as these prints will degrade at some point in the future - typically by fading or yellowing.
How happy is your collector going to be when that happens?
A major problem with print-on-demand companies is that there are no minimum standards or accountability in place that will protect the artist. The company, at their own whim, can change printers, inks, and media that save them money and in doing so will dramatically increase their profits, all while misusing the term "fine art". This has been happening everywhere.
Therefore, we have established our own standard at Art Storefronts and we require our print vendors to maintain it. We regularly audit our print vendors, and those who do not meet the standard will be removed from the program.
When it comes to print quality, three areas we focus primarily on are printers, ink, and media (i.e. canvas, paper, etc.).
Printers must deliver high resolution and detail, and all media and ink used must meet the archival standard for their respective category of product. Under almost all circumstances, the ink used must be from the original equipment manufacturer and not a third-party (i.e. if you use an Epson printer, you should be using Epson ink which has been archival tested). In terms of media, each media type must come from a credible and recognized brand name with an established history of reputable performance and cannot be a cheap import.
Keeping these audits up-to-date is so important to us because it allows our customers to feel confident in the high quality of their fine art.
But what happens if something does go wrong?
Let’s face it, dealing with a print fulfillment is never perfect. There are a lot of details when it comes to making and delivering prints in a timely manner. At some point, you will likely experience a hiccup somewhere.
This is where accountability comes into play. On behalf of all Art Storefronts members, we work with our print vendors to make sure that they are meeting our standards — not just for print quality, but also with customer service.
Collectively, with thousands of professional artists and photographers using our platform to build their art businesses, Art Storefronts is a large and important customer for any print vendor. We are therefore able to maintain standards on behalf of our members that would be impossible for any individual artist to accomplish on their own. We are also able to give our members a voice, and work directly with the highest level executives at these companies to implement key improvements to the program.
Our members are encouraged to speak up about any issues or areas that need to be improved. We also give everyone the ability to easily switch their print vendor if they are not satisfied. This provides another built-in layer of accountability.
Take this recent example – a group of members took to our private Facebook group to share their concerns about the shipping prices of one particular print vendor. The concern was voiced to the print vendor, but the vendor was hesitant to change their pricing.
So, this group decided to vote with their feet and switch their print vendor, letting the original vendor know that they did this and why.
One week later, the original print vendor sent out an announcement that they had adjusted their shipping pricing to be more competitive. As a result, everyone benefitted.
We believe this entire process is extremely healthy for the art industry and immensely valuable for our members. But there's even more to it than this.
Growing an art business is hard enough already. There are so many things you can spend your time on - and all of it means less time spent actually creating.
The goal for any artist and photographer is to get the highest return on investment (“ROI”) on every minute of time spent that is not creating. Any tasks or hassles that can be done easier or more efficiently should be.
We believe that the biggest benefit to your art business will come by maximizing your time spent on marketing. This is where the sales are going to come from. It is the “highest ROI” activity that you can do. It's the one activity that will most positively impact your future.
Hence the reason we want our artists to offload the print fulfillment standards and accountability to us. We don’t want you to have to think about it, worry about it, or spend a bunch of time dealing with it.
You can approach your work day knowing you are using established fine art printing companies that have the highest standards in fine art. Knowing we are holding them accountable for you.
We want you to take those time savings and focus all of it on growing your art business through marketing. Of course, we'll show you how.
Now, the natural art marketers among us may be thinking: if we've established and invested in such high standards, how do I communicate this to my potential art buyers? This surely has value to an art buyer, doesn't it?
It absolutely does.
Trust badges are how this is done. By displaying trust badges, art buyers gain a lot of confidence knowing that your business is registered as a legitimate art-seller with a reputable third-party organization (Art Storefronts).
These trust badges help you convert more visitors into buyers (i.e. conversion rate). It also increases your average order size because buyers are less price-sensitive when they are confident and have trust.
When it comes to printing fine art, it is virtually impossible to have two prints that come out the same if they are coming from two different printing facilities. Regardless of whether the exact same printers, inks, and media are used.
This occurs for several reasons.
First, because environmental factors such as temperature and humidity at the time of printing will have an affect on the final print. Second, actual printers themselves “drift” and each one does not behave exactly as another.
Delivering a consistent product is the highest professional standard you can have for your art brand. You’re going to have art prints hanging on walls all over the world, and you want them to look the same.
Therefore, it is a serious benefit in terms of color consistency and overall product consistency to have all of your prints coming from one print vendor.
If you utilize the print fulfillment option at Art Storefronts (it is optional), you are not limited to only using print fulfillment for orders that come through your website.
In order to help you solve the two-printer problem, we make it easy to buy your own prints to sell at for Art Fairs, or because you took an order over the phone or in person and just need to quickly and easily drop ship a print directly to the customer.
Not surprisingly, this has become an extremely popular feature.
Now, let's talk about one of everyone's favorite topics: Making life a little bit easier.
Solving the two-printer problem by submitting orders within the Art Storefronts interface grants you some major productivity gains and helps you stay more organized than ever.
For one, you never need to call-in or email your order to a printing company again.
You also don't have to upload or send in any files, saving you that substantial time spent watching the dreaded progress bar crawl its way towards 100 each and every time you want to order a print.
And let's talk organization.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of your print purchases organized in one central location? So you have a permanent record of what you bought, when you bought it, and how much it costed you?
Organization like this helps you keep everything straight and saves you tons of time and headache down the road.
Within the Art Storefronts orders section, all of your "vendor purchases" are nicely organized:
This also makes it super easy to monitor the progress of any print order, or obtain the tracking number, at any time you wish and without having to track it down:
It’s nice to know your costs. But isn’t it also helpful to see your actual profit breakdown on every single order, in lieu of your costs? And to have all of this nicely organized as well?
Take the mystery out of understanding your profits with an in-depth, itemized Profit Breakdown. Available for any order placed through your website:
Or, if you want the bigger picture, you can easily generate a report of your profits and cost breakdown for any time period, so you can keep your accounting straight:
The bottom line is this: We want you creating art, and marketing it to earn more money.
Not fiddling with accounting spreadsheets, not uploading files every time you need to order a print, not going back and forth with print vendors, and certainly not worrying about whether your customers will receive a consistent, high quality product. This is the "low ROI" stuff you can find yourself spending time on that wears you out.
We'll do all of that for you. You create the art.
NOTE: Our Print Fulfillment is for Art Storefronts customers only. It is not a service you can utilize without being a full customer, and is not something you can attach to a website that exists on a different platform.