cindy a. stephens | Preparing your ecommerce art site for holiday shopping

Preparing your ecommerce art site for holiday shopping

September 30, 2014  •  3 Comments

by Cindy A Stephens


In New England we’ve been having a glorious Indian Summer so it may seem too early to blog about the holiday shopping season.  After all, it isn’t even Thanksgiving.  Consider this fact however: according to last year’s The DeepProfile study, one in three shoppers will start shopping before Thanksgiving.

Shopping for christmas goodiesShopping for christmas goodiesChristmas packages, ornaments candy cane and a bow in a miniature shopping cart.

The holiday shopping season can present unique challenges for art businesses:

• Art is not usually mass-produced like electronics or toys. Instead artists often have limited quantities of original pieces (e.g., an oil painting or sculpture).

• Selecting art is personal - what appeals to one person won’t appeal to another - so buying art as a gift can be especially difficult.

• Artists that aren’t represented by a traditional gallery or have their work in highly visited ecommerce sites (e.g., Etsy) will have to find creative ways to stay top of mind.


One way to overcome these difficulties is to do what fine art photographer Karin Rosenthal does, host an annual open house.


Karin told me she sells roughly 30% of her yearly print sales during the December open house.  This open house has allowed her to make a living primarily from the sale of artwork.


Read my interview with Karin Rosenthal, Building relationships with art collectors


If you want to sell online instead of in your home or studio, however, you’ll have to come up with another way to capitalize on the busy holiday shopping season that can represent a sizable percentage of your annual sales.  I have three art marketing tips to get you started.

Have some inventory ready to ship quickly


One way to overcome the unique artistic challenge of having limited quantities of pieces (versus mass-produced items) is to tell buyers what’s ready to ship now and what will be made to order.  And have some of the available inventory ready to ship quickly, in just a few days.  For example, in the Lone Beader’s Etsy shop (@lonebeader) she clearly tells visitors what inventory is available now and what will be a custom order.

The Lone BeaderEtsy Store

Sometimes, having pieces ready to ship immediately can be too costly for artists.  Consider this example: photographers who use outside printers. These artists would be paying to have prints created before they are sold, and incurring the printing costs up front.  One workaround is to have a few smaller-sized pieces made that are somewhat less expensive, and then offer larger sizes “made to order”.

Read my interview with Jessica Burko for more tips on turnaround time, Building an art business: is selling online right for you?

Offer gift certificates


A great way to make your art accessible to a wide variety of shoppers this holiday season is to offer a gift certificate.  Sites such as make offering gift certificates easy for artists.  You decide the amount of the certificates (e.g., $100) that you want. 

Zenfoliogift certificates for art businesses Providing gift certificates solves two problems.  First, it gives shoppers a way to purchase a gift without the stress of having to decide which piece to buy.  As I mentioned earlier, buying art is personal.  Second, gift certificates provide a low cost way for shoppers to buy even if they can’t afford to purchase an original painting or other more expensive piece.

Create holiday pieces (editions) and traditions

There’s no question that Black Friday sales are big business for major online retailers.  Buying online has become part and parcel of holiday shopping to avoid crowds, get a great selection, and terrific deals. 


As artists we don’t want to devalue our work and lower prices that we’ve worked hard to raise.  And let’s face it - it may be hard to compete with the more common holiday gifts.


That said, there are tasteful ways to tap into the buying frenzy.  One way is to concentrate on your current clients who already appreciate and admire your work.  Sending an early holiday card to wish them well and thank them for their business can go a long way.  You might also enclose a special discount coupon that s/he can pass along to a family member looking for gift ideas.


Another option is to create one-of-a-kind holiday pieces or limited holiday editions.  While there are many opinions on the concept of offering limited editions, stop for a moment to consider what Byers Choice Ltd. (caroler dolls) or Thomas Kinkade (painter of light) or Hallmark (ornaments) have created in terms of demand for their new holiday pieces. 


• Painters – Do you have limited-edition Christmas prints of your original oil? 
• Glass sculptors – Do you have holiday ornaments?
• Photographers - Could you create custom greeting cards? 


Get creative! We are after all, creative professionals.  In my opinion the best way to take advantage of this busy shopping season is not to try to compete with the mass-produced, always-on, retail frenzy.  Instead, consider new ways to delight buyers and show your appreciation for their business.    


Want more ideas? Check out  The Ecommerce Guide to Holiday Shopping & Marketing

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.


poorvi tiwari(non-registered)
The holiday season is almost always the most profitable time of year for online businesses, It is present unique challenges for art businesses:
Pallavi Malhotra(non-registered)
The one thing that all e-commerce businesspersons learn very fast is that preparing for the holiday season early is the only safe option.
Neha Gupta(non-registered)
The intelligent eCommerce sellers will tell you that the time to start making were a few months ago. The holiday shopping season can present unique challenges for art businesses.
No comments posted.





I am a marketing professional and a fine art photographer.  With more than 20 years of experience as a marketer and image maker during the digital technology revolution, I now educate creative professionals how to create their artistic presence in the changing art world.  


Create your artistic presence.  Sign up for tips.  You can opt out at any time and your email address is never sold or given to anyone.



My Fine Art Prints are Available for Purchase on

The Artful Home




Connect with Me:


Instagram: @cindyastephensfineart

Twitter: @cindyastephens

















January February March April (3) May (1) June (1) July (2) August September (1) October (1) November December (1)
January February March April May June July August September October November (1) December (1)
January (1) February March (1) April May June (1) July August September October (1) November December (1)
January (1) February March April May June July August September October November December