Why did we create this?
Overall as a company, we believe that by focusing on the art buyer, and providing the best experience possible for the art buyer, is what ultimately will give an artist or photographer the best chance at succeeding. While our competition (the generic website platforms) focus on creating the best “website creator” for the small business owner. These are two entirely different philosophies that lead to two entirely different outcomes. If you focus only on the small business owner, you end up with a happy small business owner who happily created their website and loves all the generic features and site building tools. But where the art buyer in all of this? Notice that they are not the priority - you are. The art buyer is a distant second or maybe not a priority at all. But who is the website really for — you, or for your art buyers? As with any business that doesn’t prioritize their customer first and foremost in all decisions, sales will suffer.
As a company that believes in customer obsession (thank you Jeff Bezos), we believe the art buyer (your customer) must be prioritized as much as the artist (our customer). We therefore obsess about the art buyer and you. And when your priority includes the art buyer, you end up making different decisions about features and priorities. You try to do everything you can to make their experience better because you know it will lead to the maximization of art sales. And if our artists are selling more, we believe will end up with more happy customers. One comes before the other. And so, wherever and whenever we can, we look for opportunities to improve the art buying experience.
Why didn’t we create a native iOS or Android app?
There are many reasons. First, we would not be able to create individualized apps for each business owner. It would have to be an “Art Storefronts” app with the Art Storefronts brand and where your customer would have to first download and install it, and then search and find you. There are many problems with this that make it impractical. Not to mention all the inherent friction of requiring your customer to download and install an app. One needs to look no further than the Pixels app by Fine Art America, which has lackluster reviews, tons of bugs, and doesn’t appear to a priority for the company as it hasn’t received an update in years (at the time of this writing).
But the biggest reason we didn’t focus on building a catch-all generic app as mentioned, is because there is a better approach. This approach is to use the latest technology that allows a user to launch their camera right within a browser. To us, this development opened the door to allow a user to be on your website, click a button, which immediately launches their camera and gives them an augmented reality experience right on your website. This development meant that augmented reality could be a low friction, natural part of the conversion process of buying art. Overall and most importantly, it would be a major experience improvement for the art buyer.
The ability to launch a camera right from the browser is a huge development, and it is new. So new, that Apple only recently implemented it within the Safari browser last summer of 2017 with iOS 11 (which at the time of this writing, is their latest operating system). Android devices have had it for quite some time but Apple’s decision to support it with iOS 11 was the last piece we needed to convince us to begin development.
What devices are compatible?
The ability to launch a camera right from the browser is currently supported by Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera, in both their PC and Android versions. These browsers do not work with Apple devices! If you have an Apple device, you must use Apple's Safari browser, version 11 and higher. The good news is, Apple’s iOS 11 is already available on many devices that go as far back as the iPhone 5S. Go here to see a complete list of compatible Apple devices - https://support.apple.com/en-us/KM207938. If you haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 11, here’s where you can do so - https://support.apple.com/ios/update. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has yet to add support for this functionality.
What happens if a visitor’s device is not compatible? What do they see?
We show them an error message that not only explains the situation but provides them with a quick and simple way to email themselves a link which they can access from another compatible device. This is not only useful for this case, but for the case of desktop users. If I am on your website with my desktop computer and I want to use the Live Preview feature, sure, I can use my webcam on my computer, but I would much rather shoot myself an email to an account that I have access to on my phone or iPad, where I can immediately start rocking.
For visitors to your website who do not have compatible devices, it is important to mention our thinking on this, because they will not be able to use the feature. First, if your device is not compatible, at this point it’s an old device. Our thinking on this is that of all the people buying your art, becoming collectors, etc. chances are they have at least a little more income and therefore it will be extremely likely that they have at least one compatible devices — be it a laptop, phone, or tablet. Therefore, this feature will not only work for the clear majority of your visitors, but it will likely work for the clear majority of your potential art buyers.
How is this different or better than the current Wall Preview Tool?
The addition of augmented reality is essentially a huge upgrade to the current Wall Preview tool. As it stands today, the Wall Preview tool serves a few main purposes. First, it provides an immediate way to get a sense of scale in a generic room setting. Second, it allows you to change the wall color so that you can see if the image will mesh well on the wall you plan to hang it on.
The augmented reality “Live Preview” is complementary to this functionality; it is not a replacement of it. It enhances the experience by allowing the buyer to see the image on the actual wall of their home or business, right now. We have found there to be incredible value in this for the art buyer, for two reasons. First is the obvious — seeing the art right where you plan to put it is incredible and will likely firm up and hasten decision making. Second is how the size feature allows you to completely dial in the perfect size for the exact spot you plan to put the art. You might think that the current wall preview handles this, but it does not. One only needs to try this new feature for themselves to appreciate this point. Pick a tight spot on any wall, toggle the size until you find the perfect fit and you will see how incredible this is.
But overall, it is important to understand how the “Live Preview” and the “Wall Preview” are complimentary and must be used together. One very simple example illustrates this. If an art buyer (or an interior designer) plans on painting a wall in a house or office and is trying to determine which art will mesh well, the Live Preview will not be helpful for this part of the decision. For this reason and other reasons, we have designed the Wall Preview and the Live Preview so that it is easy to toggle back and forth. Which means, the art buyer can effectively see the image on their wall and choose the perfect size for that spot using the Live Preview feature, and then immediately toggle over to the Wall Preview feature and choose the perfect color — and all of this can be done on the spot, in seconds. Which means buying decisions can be made on the spot as well.
What other cool things can I do with the Live Preview tool?
First is with features.
Have you tried the QR codes yet? Particularly the QR codes that open the wall preview tool? You can see/download these when editing a product in the site manager (on the INFO tab, towards the bottom). You can now download QR codes that launch the Live Preview Tool.
Have you tried the Printable Art Catalogs feature yet? Particularly the one that uses QR Codes that open the Wall Preview Tool? There are now options that specifically open the Live Preview tool.
Second is in how you use it.
If you ever go to visit a client in their home or business, we recommend bringing an iPad with you or some device that will allow you to Live Preview images right in their establishment. It can be a great way to upsell art pieces and should be used to augment the Kim Vergil strategy as outlined in this podcast [link to podcast].
There will be many new ways that this feature will be utilized, and we are excited to hear about more success stories that we can share with you.
This feature is still in beta, and we need your feedback!
There are some aspects of this tool we are not 100% solid on yet. For example, one of these aspects is the name “Live Preview”. We are not sure whether this is the best naming convention that will make things obvious to the art buyer. Or the location of the Live Preview button being underneath the Wall Preview Tool. Our priority is to launch the feature, do some forensics on user behavior, get some feedback, try some different things and see what ends up working best. If you have feedback, we are open to it so please share it.
Second, as with any beta feature, you will likely run into some bugs. Please report them immediately, preferably on the thread in the Facebook Group where this feature was announced. We have found this to be an incredibly efficient an fast way for our developers to get information and attack/fix bugs very quickly. It also results in the production of a robust feature in a very short period, as opposed to letting bugs sort of drag out for long periods of time, or go completely unanswered, as is commonly seen with other software companies.