Social media and unique products drive sales growth at UGallery

June 4, 2013 12:51 PM

While some web retail giants like Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and Target Corp. include framed and unframed prints among the thousands of home décor products they sell, only two retailers in the Top 500 Guide— Inc. and Etsy Inc.—sell only art-related products.

That suggests the market for artwork e-retailers has room for more players like UGallery, a retailer that will be new to Internet Retailer’s upcoming 2013 Second 500 Guide, especially as UGallery  sells only original artwork, says Stephen Tanenbaum, UGallery’s co-founder and operations director

 “There have been hundreds of online companies in the last couple of years focusing on artwork,” Tanenbaum says. “There are the established big ones like that sell posters and prints. Or there’s Artspace and Artsy that are more like liaisons for the physical galleries. Our focus is the niche of offering original artwork. We go direct to the artist.”

The retailer’s sales growth suggests UGallery may be benefitting from little direct competition. Its sales have grown more than 50% each year on average since its founding in 2006, Tanenbaum says. The merchant lists artwork ranging from $500 to $5,000 from more than 500 artists around the world, many of which are new artists or artists in the middle of their careers. UGallery handles all sales and marketing efforts on behalf of the artists. Artists ship the pieces themselves once there are sold on UGallery’s site and the retailer provides the artists with custom packaging to ship their work. UGallery takes around a 50% cut of all sales, Tanenbaum says.

Most of UGallery’s growth stems from word of mouth, he adds. “We do a little bit of paid search with Google AdWords, and we do some retargeting with display ads,” Tanenbaum says. But our traffic from those channels is less than 10%. What matters for us is e-mail and social media because these channels allow us to actually show consumers what we’re about. Referral traffic is big for us because every day there are bloggers, artists or designers out there who find artwork they like and decide to write about it.”

Pinterest has especially helped the retailer grow sales, Tanenbaum says, as the image-focused nature of the social network is well suited for UGallery’s business. The merchant has more than 1.8 million Pinterest followers, and nearly 20% of UGallery’s site traffic comes directly from the site.

Part of that has happened naturally, Tanenbaum says, but UGallery also has stepped up its marketing efforts on the social network.

It installed a Pin It button to all product pages last year and regularly runs Pin It to Win It contests that reward consumers who Pin items from UGallery with prizes and discounts. UGallery also works with outside interior designers, bloggers and art connoisseurs who post weekly Pin boards that feature their favorite works of art from UGallery.

So far this year, the merchant has added a gift and wedding registry to its site, and just this week it added a program that offers bulk discounts for art consultants and designers.

Other retailers of artwork in the 2012 Second 500 Guide include, No. 800, DNA 11 Inc., No. 805,, No. 820, and, No. 914. The 2013 edition of the Second 500 Guide will be available on July 9. Inc. is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Bed Bath & Beyond is No. 210; Target is No. 18 and Etsy is No. 38.




Top Solution Providers