Matter of Form have helped to transform the Affordable Art Fair from a global events business to a global arts retailer through best in class technology and design.
Affordable Art Fair (AAF) are a global art event company, whose primary objective is to democratise access to art valued under £5,000. Their fairs are focussed on providing consumers with ease of buying, a range of choice and (of course) affordable prices.
Founded in 1999, the organisation has gone from success to success, expanding globally to over 20 locations from the UK and Europe through to the US and Asia.
Scope & Challenges
AAF approached Matter of Form to help transform their business from global events, to global retail. No small feat for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, there was a natural tension that existed between teams responsible for event sales and those focussed on the online direct to consumer model. Secondly, the digitisation of the on-boarding processes for galleries wishing to apply into the marketplace involved a deeply complex business logic, resulted in nuanced process flows that were difficult to replicate online. Lastly, selling art online is a tightrope act — balancing experience and inspiration with functional and fact-based information whilst handholding users through to conversion is a tough act.
The project was divided into 3 distinct work streams. The first required a deep dive audit and set of recommendations around the gallery application process; this set of flows was developed into an online portal, and subsequently integrated with a Salesforce Enterprise project running in parallel. A clear and intuitive user experience was key for galleries wishing to apply; none of whom had online commerce experience.
The consumer facing marketplace required a complex user experience design phase — we needed to ensure that events retail teams had their priorities in balance. The lifeblood of the business is in its ticketing and event-stand sales, and it was important to pay respect to this commercial reality.
A strong and curatorial content strategy was also vital to create sustained engagement— ours sought to both inspire and guide users to a natural set of buying choices based on themes. These ranged from topics such as investment, through to medium, style and more obvious gallery and artist profiles.
Technologically, we built a marketplace using Magento to power the catalogue and checkout. There was a ream of considerations to account for, including complexities around returns, insurance, fulfilment, through to more behavioural challenges — for example how to incentivise galleries to keep (almost entirely) one-off inventory up to date.
Lastly, shipping presented a particularly unique set of issues (art dimensions, value and weight vary dramatically). We needed to find a resolve that remained intuitive enough to financially forecast, especially so when combined with shipping and returns in a global context. Our solution included multiple integrations to ensure we always return the best price and most efficient mechanism for delivery.
Matter Of Form have worked closely with AAF in an ongoing partnership to test and learn which parts of this innovative proposition work for both galleries and consumers. By constantly developing new hypothesise to test against, the business is gradually refining its commercial model and operating structure.
Since the site was launched, the Affordable Art Fair have seen a 350% increase in new month on month customers and a 200% increase in year on year customers. They have also seen a 14% increase in repeat purchases.