A Feature-Rich Platform for Print Sales: Fstoppers Reviews Art Storefronts

A Feature-Rich Platform for Print Sales: Fstoppers Reviews Art Storefronts

If you’ve decided to start selling prints of your work, you’ve found there are a lot of options, from print-on-demand websites where your work is part of a larger marketplace and orders are fulfilled by the website, to customizable platforms that you can make all your own. Art Storefronts attempts to offer the best of both worlds.

Is Art Storefronts the right platform for you? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at the differences between print-on-demand (POD) and a custom website.

There are a number of POD websites out there, including Fine Art America, Zazzle, RedBubble, Saatchi Art, Society 6, and more. With these websites, while you’ll have your own profile page, your work is also listed as part of the parent website’s marketplace. There are pros and cons to this setup. One big positive is if you manage to be listed near the top of the search results, your work can be found by people who aren’t even aware you exist. Ideally, however, you’ll do some marketing to drive traffic to your own profile. Another pro is most PODs offer a wide variety of products so you can offer everything from prints to beach towels and more. The major downside of a POD website is that the customer is not yours. You are simply licensing your image to the website to print the product the customer ordered. This means that unless the buyer contacts you directly, you have no ability to reach out and build a relationship with that customer, encouraging repeat sales.

A custom website allows you to more fully present your work in your own way. You choose the look of the site, what products you offer, and your work is not part of a greater collection of work from other artists and photographers. The biggest plus to selling through your own website is that your customers are yours, enabling you to build relationships and encourage repeat buying. However, you are solely responsible for driving traffic to your site and fulfilling all orders.

The purchase page from a photographer's website, using the Art Storefronts' platform.

Enter Art Storefronts

 Art Storefronts was founded in 2013 and launched their first website in 2014. Their goal? Providing artists and photographers with an all-in-one solution for selling prints of their work online. A little over two years ago, I chose Art Storefronts as my solution for selling prints of my landscape work.

I’ll be blunt: most photographers (and artists in general) are terrible at marketing.  Art Storefronts’ biggest draw is the heavy emphasis on marketing guidance. While their websites are not cheap – licenses start at around $2,000 – you get access to all of the marketing playbooks and strategies, as well as weekly Zoom meetings led by art marketing professionals.  This marketing guidance is constantly updated to address changing times, making sure you’re able to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

While the marketing guidance was a key component to why I chose to use Art Storefronts for my website, the e-commerce component is equally as strong. You can sell pretty much any product you like, and you have the ability to set your own markups in a variety of ways, be it a flat percentage, a dollar value, or specific percentages based on size and media.

Art Storefronts offers some great sales tools, including a mockup wall preview, and also a Live Preview Augumented Reality option. The latter allows a buyer to visualize the print at the selected size on their wall, while using a tablet or phone’s camera. This ability to show the image, with selected matting and framing options, on the buyer’s wall, is a must-have feature that is extremely helpful in closing sales.

Art Storefronts' Wall Preview Tool allows you to preview art on a generic wall. There are several different rooms available, and wall color can be changed to match the color of your room.

Building the site is relatively straightforward. A checklist is provided for you to follow, so you'll know when you're ready to go live. You have multiple themes to choose from for the look of your site, and these themes can be further customized to put your own distinct stamp on it. Setting up your static pages is done through a WYSIWYG interface that is easy to use and allows for a variety of page layouts. Your gallery pages are set up similarly, but are also automatically populated when you upload an image and add it to the gallery. Additionally, you have the ability to create smart galleries, which self-populate based on keywords listed on each photo you upload.

When setting up your site, you have the option to self-fulfill orders from your website, using either your own local lab or printing yourself. However, Art Storefronts has also arranged for the website to work as a print-on-demand site, by partnering with labs such as Bay Photo and Graphik Dimensions, the company behind PictureFrames.com. This means that when an order comes in, you don’t have to lift a finger. The file is automatically sent to the lab, printed, and shipped directly to your customer, with your logo on the packaging.

A wide variety of media options are available, from photo and fine art papers, to canvas, metal, acrylic, and wood. You have the option to enable matting and framing, allowing you to increase profits when customers add them on. In addition, you have the ability to offer a variety of home goods as POD offerings, such as cellphone cases, mugs, tote bags, puzzles, and more.  Finally, if there’s something you’d like to offer that isn’t available through the connected labs, you have the ability to offer it yourself as a self-fulfilled product.

One of the things I love about Art Storefronts is the continual update and addition of features to the platform. One welcome feature was the ability to automatically email potential customers to start the conversation about your work. Another was the aforementioned ability to sell various merchandise, on a print-on-demand basis. The point is, value is continually being added.

The Augmented Reality Tool by Art Storefronts allows a potential customer to preview the image they are considering on their own wall, by using the camera on a cellphone or tablet.

In the two years I’ve been using my Art Storefronts website, I have had occasion to use their technical support. While it would be nice to have a dedicated support phone line, I am pleased with support overall. They can be reached directly through a support chat window that is available on your back end, and are always an email away as well. Response time overall is great, but weekends and off-hours can take longer. In addition to the support options, there is an active group of members on Facebook (moderated by Art Storefronts staff). This group is an outstanding resource both for marketing and technical support from other users.

So, what are the drawbacks? One thing I didn’t like was the hard sell I received during the demo process. As I mentioned, it’s not cheap, and I wanted time to digest everything I was being told, and to do some further research. It was a bit of a turnoff, but I’d also spoken to other photographers on the platform to get their thoughts, so I was able to disregard the aggressive sales tactics in favor of the positive feedback.

Another downside is that at times, the software that runs the website can be a bit clunky. For instance, replacing an image for any reason, such as a new edit, requires a two-step process that on other platforms can be done in one click. The same goes for exporting contact lists and sales reports. And while at times it can be frustrating, it’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch.

The final negative, or more realistically, a tradeoff from working with a POD website, is that you are now responsible for your own customer service. This is one that cuts both ways. Having sold on POD websites, it’s infuriating when a sale gets canceled through no fault of your own, and you have no recourse. At the same time, Customer Service is yet another hat to be worn, in addition to Photographer, Marketer, Salesman, Accountant, and Office Manager.  Thankfully, in two years of sales through Art Storefronts, I’ve had exactly one customer complaint (a print damaged in shipping), and that was rectified with a quick email to Art Storefronts support, which handles all quality and production concerns for the labs their websites are connected to.

The Conclusion

Is Art Storefronts right for you? That’s going to depend on your commitment to selling prints of your work. If you just want to throw some photos on a website and see if they sell, a POD website is probably more for you. The investment is lower, but the return likely will be as well. If you’re looking to turn print sales into a significant part of your business, Art Storefronts is worth considering.

What I Like:

  • Excellent Website features
  • Frequent feature updates
  • Marketing Support
  • Attentive technical support

What I Don’t Like

  • Occasionally clunky software
  • Aggressive sales pitch
  • No phone technical support

Images used with permission of Andy Crawford Photography

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11 Comments
Nicholas Chopp's picture

Do you have any recommendations for alternatives without services like the marketing training?

Rick Berk's picture

For a standalone website? There are several such as Zenfolio, SmugMug, and others. I've never used them so I can't speak to their features or whether they have the ability to automatically fulfill as Art Storefronts does. The other option is the POD sites I mentioned in the review, which have their pros but also the big negative of not being able to speak directly with buyers who purchase your work. It depends on what your goals are. I've used Fine Art America as a POD site and overall been satisfied with them, but the negatives I mentioned in using POD websites are all things I experienced directly that made me seek out a solution for my own website.

Nicholas Chopp's picture

Thanks, I should have been more specific - particularly with a similar AR feature. We use Pixieset currently and are pretty happy with it, but with minimizing IPS due to COVID it would be nice to have another feature that helps push print sales.

Kevin Harding's picture

I'm investigating options and Artspan is looking very good at a fraction fo the cost for much the same services (and includes integrated Augmented Reality).

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Try Pixieset, they are a Canadian provider and have an EXCELLENT platform that murders the one promoted here for a fraction of cost!

jim blair's picture

zenfolio stinks.

user 65983's picture

.

Wayne Stadler's picture

Don't Bother.

I've been with ArtStoreFronts since 2017, I mistakenly made the jump "all in" on a 3 year package (to save money over the long run). From day 1 I've had nothing but problems with them. As soon as I started uploading images I noticed that my masonry gallery was a slow loading mess (if it loaded at all). Support told me that it was a feature still in beta testing (yet it was available to use). Regardless, it's not in beta testing anymore but guess what the last straw was that lead me here. Yup, you got it. I logged in to check my site because I received a heads up that someone was looking to purchase multiple prints and there it was, messed up again. Still after contacting support 2 days ago nothing has been fixed.

Backtracking now, in the beginning I uploaded my photography, pages of it in fact, created my galleries, my hidden sub niche pages for better SEO, even had extra domain names pointing to different sub niches etc etc. Every time I've ever logged in to work on my actually art, my photo galleries, add new work etc I've been sucked into a tech support hole because something wasn't working right, wasting a bunch of time with support and killing my desire to work on my actual website. And for those who might be thinking I'm just a frustrated, non tech savy luddite, I've been a graphic designer web designer/developer since 1998. I know how thing should work.

I've also done almost everything they suggest doing for marketing over the years to increase my sales and nothing. I have over 1300 followers on instagram which I didn't think was enough but was told I'm doing better then most.

My account came up for renewal last year and I emailed about cancelling, told them ALL the reasons why (which over the years has been a lot of problems) and they gave me a free year and dropped my yearly rate to stay. Then set up a call with one of their "marketing gurus" to help with the lack of sales. You know what transpired from that? He basically said that it looks like I'm doing everything right, good luck. Yeah. Brilliant advice and not much help.

The only reason I went with ASF in the first place was the POD aspect because I travel a lot and didn't want to worry about managing prints myself and because I believed all the hype and BS about their marketing knowledge.

Since 2017 I've sold more prints on my own and again on my Etsy store in the past 6 months then I ever did with ASF. So I don't think it's my work.

Are they viable in 2021/2022. NOT. AT. ALL.
Don't believe the BS about how they can teach you how to market yourself, don't believe the BS about how great their platform is. Whatever they're charging these days to onboard new artists it's too much. Based on the last two days once again dealing with my website looking like shit because "something's broke" on their end and not to mention the total lack of sales, and actual real support (they have lots of copy and paste platitudes to send you), these people will never see my credit card number again.

Someone is getting rich from ASF but it sure as hell isn't the artists.

*photo is what my "3 column masonry gallery" has looked like for over 3 days. I even looked at changing my theme but all the previews showed the same mess. No update from support in 2 days.

Deleted Account's picture

Thank you for sharing your experience. If I may ask - why do you keep using ASF? By looking at your site, it is still built by ASF, so why did you chose to stay with them? Would appreciate your feedback as I am considering them. Thank you.

Skip Rowland's picture

I appreciate your comments and insights, but I too am curious as to what you are doing next as your URL still goes to an ASF-based site.

Skip Rowland's picture

forgive my noobishness, please, but can you update an article? it appears that you have moved away from ASF. i'm curious as to what prompted that and how you came to your current sales platform. TIA