As the buying habits of Wealthy Art Collectors continue to evolve, so does the need to enhance engagement strategies. Sweeping changes in technology and the rise of wealthy millennial collectors are two factors making a swift and significant impact on the industry. Galleries and auction houses are adjusting to keep pace and increasingly utilize wealth intelligence to uncover, understand and engage wealthy art collectors based on their interests and capacity to spend. Collecting continues to stem from appreciating aesthetics, supporting creativity and securing long-term investments. However, in this digital age publicly joining the elite community of HNW and UHNW collectors is often of equal importance and is contributing to the marked increase in collecting activity worldwide.

According to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, total global sales increased 6% to $67.4 billion year-over-year in 2018. Of these global sales, the U.S. made up 44%, the United Kingdom contributed 21% and China followed with 19%. Today’s wealthy art collectors want to engage in exclusive opportunities and immersive experiences. Social media provides one engagement opportunity and reaches well beyond events, as it encourages young collectors to seek out contemporary art that will garner appeal on social platforms. It is essential to produce captivating experiences and leverage e-commerce, social media and digital marketing to capture the interest and business of today’s HNW and UHNW clientele.

Produce captivating experiences – From Art Basel in Hong Kong, Basel and Miami to the first edition of Frieze Los Angeles, it’s evident that experiences are the new non-negotiable aspects for consequential art fairs. Exclusive dining events, retail pop-up shops, and film and art performances are immersive experiences offered to art fair attendees. HNW and UHNW collectors attend preview days and programming reserved solely for VIP guests, such as private dining, panel discussions, one-on-one conversations with key artists and other intimate fares. Experiences present special opportunities to leverage strategic co-op activations and advertising with targeted luxury brand partners relevant to wealthy art collectors – from baby boomers to millennials. Luxury firms such as automotive companies, beauty brands and hotel groups often resonate across cohorts and capitalize on these cross-marketing opportunities

Invest in data and e-commerce – According to Kejia Wu, Professor at Sotheby’s Institute New York and Columnist for FTChinese, major houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are dedicated to investing significantly into data collection and analysis, as well as creating streamlined e-commerce interfaces. Galleries and auction houses must offer fast, secure and simple purchasing processes. Savvy collectors expect to engage in live settings as well as online. It is as important to incorporate technology into the art fair experience, by way of cashless art fairs and mobile apps, as it is to accommodate multimillion-dollar transactions online. They must also invest in e-commerce infrastructure and database management and analytics to provide easy-to-use interfaces for clients and a cleaner client database for internal use. To remain competitive, they must know their evolving audience. Investing in wealth intelligence enables galleries and auction houses to find and engage wealthy art collectors and wealthy art enthusiasts. The ability to search for potential collectors by age, net worth, location and other metrics is especially useful to those wanting to target wealthy millennials who may be relatively new to art collecting or seeking to start a collection.

Tailor efforts to millennial clientele – Top galleries and auction houses are tailoring their strategies to cater to young millennial art buyers, which requires adapted marketing and communications strategies, a sophisticated online presence and a careful curation with a focus on contemporary art. As part of a developed digital marketing strategy, galleries and auction houses must build a content marketing plan that emphasizes the use of social media. As previously mentioned, social media provides an excellent opportunity for brands to engage with collectors, provides luxury brands with an advertising opportunity, and draws millennials to seek out specific art collections. “Auction houses are doing a phenomenal job in strategizing and tailoring to millennial generations. They’re also seeing very loyal groups of millennial buyers purchasing pieces by contemporary artists like Kaws” says Wu. Fine contemporary artist Kaws, whose background lies in graffiti art, explains that while her work does not appeal to a mature audience, it draws many millennials interested in contemporary art.

One of her pieces is a Simpsons parody of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, which recently sold for $14.7M. Sotheby’s Hong Kong-listed the piece for $1m but due to interest from millennial collectors, the artwork sold at a higher price than many well-known classical pieces. The sale provides valuable insight into the purchasing behaviour and power of wealthy millennials, motivating the industry to put this demographic at the centre of their strategies. According to Wu, the major auction houses are working diligently to “attract younger generations of collectors, create brand loyalty and expand the client base, converting more millennials into art collectors”. The industry is evolving at an ever-rapid pace, and the relevance of any gallery or auction house is determined by how well it knows its buyers and how effective it can anticipate and adapt to changes in the marketplace.  Working with expert partners in digital marketing and communications, events and experiential retail, and database management leveraging wealth intelligence will help galleries and auctions houses to not only remain relevant but to thrive in this dynamic space.

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Article edit by Manuel Bianchi

Managing Director and Head of Global Sales Wealth-X

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