2015’s key figures
At an estimated value of $3.27 billion, the online market recorded a 24% increase from 2014, with a growth rate up 5 points, modifying projections for 2020 from $7.47 to $9.58 billion.
While the online market’s share remains modest – 5% of the total – its growth is set against a total market decrease of 5% in 2015, from $68.2 to $63.8 billion, attributable to low sales in China.
The nature of the works on offer can help to explain the continued 2 figure growth, despite the unfavorable global economic context, with 87% of online works valued under the $15K bar. Moreover, the majority of transactions concern painting and print media (72%) while new media like video and digital remain marginal (18%).
Online market sites’ revenue saw a sharp increase :
- for Auctionata : $90 million in 2015, +165% from 2014;
- for Christie’s LIVE : $39.1 million, +11%;
- for Saatchi Art : $12 million, +36%;
- for Invaluable and Paddle8, although figures were not released, the report indicates a roughly 60% increase. Heritage Auction, however, saw revenues fall 3.5% in 2015 (from $356.6 to $344 million).
An online market increasingly built on blockbusters
An unknown element in prior reports, Hiscox includes a TOP 40 list of digital platforms chosen and ranked by 672 collectors :
- Rankings are dominated by Christie’s LIVE and Sotheby’s BIDnow, respectively 1st and 4th place – with Artsy in 2nd followed by Artnet. These results confirm the success of these traditional auction houses’ digital ventures.
- 37 of 40 platforms are Western (92.5%) : 24 have their headquarters in Europe, 13 in the United States. In the Top 10, there are 6 American companies, 2 based in London and 2 in Berlin. Expertissim, Drouot Live and Artsper are the only French companies, coming in respectively at 21st, 22nd and 23rd place.
- Collectors express a dramatic increase in their use of online marketplaces like Artsy, 1stdibs and Artfinder… 41% made online purchases, against 5% of those surveyed the year before.
Furthermore, an explosion of new players in the online sector has led platforms to collaborate : the “Input/Output” sale organized by Sotheby’s and Artsy and Sotheby’s partnership with Invaluable are two examples among many.
New models, new behaviors, new strategies
Hiscox highlights the role of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets…) in the online market. The percentage of total traffic from mobile devices is significant : 48% for Artfinder, 45% for Invaluable, 40% for Artsy, Artspace and 1stdibs… Concerning total transactions, figures are particularly important for Artfinder, with 43% of bids from smartphones or tablets, and 30% for Artsy. Concurrently, 31% of collectors interviewed stated social media influenced their purchases, against 24% the year before; with Facebook (54%) and Instagram (48%) the most heavily used.
This phenomenon obliges online market players to come up with e-commerce strategies including creating applications, increasing social media visibility, and producing ergonomic versions of their websites for smartphones and tablets. While numerous concerns persist, in particular having no direct access to the work prior to purchase, the online market has recorded some major sales : in June 2015, Sotheby’s, in collaboration with Invaluable, sold Zao Wou Ki’s “5.5.60” to an online buyer for $3 million.
While the Hiscox Art Market Online Report is a particularly comprehensive tool for understanding the importance of the online market, it is still lacking in some respects. The rankings are based on a panel of 672 collectors, of which 81% hail from the American and European continents. The underrepresentation of Asian collectors in particular would need to be redressed to obtain a more accurate geographical assessment.