- A primer on how to make digital marketing understandable to clients who grew up with print
- How Christie’s in-house team uses digital marketing to target and attract a niche audience
- Samantha Margolis, Christie’s Vice President of Digital Marketing, discusses how the auction house attracts new users without alienating existing clients.
The best part about my job is that I rarely have to explain what my company does. The majority of people are familiar with Christie’s and what we do – we sell valuable objects for millions of pounds. We do, don’t we? Yes, we do, and while those great auction moments when records are broken as the hammer falls help build our brand, they represent a small percentage of the objects we sell each day.
Christie’s auctions cover more than 80 categories of art and luxury, with lots ranging in value from $200 to more than $100 million. We sell through three primary channels: our traditional auctions, which are well-known to the public, our online sales, which have grown in popularity in the aftermath of the coronavirus, and our Private Sales department, which offers objects for immediate purchase. We sell a variety of items, ranging from triceratops skulls to yellow diamonds to NFTs.
The accessibility issue
The issue with headline sales is that they can intimidate those new to the auction world. This is where my team and I come in. One of Christie’s digital marketing goals is to use these crowd-pulling moments to increase brand awareness and trust while also informing users that there is a way for them to participate for less money than they anticipated. That our offer is far more approachable than people believe, and that even if you are not a buyer, you can enjoy what Christie’s has to offer.
Consumers must be met where they are
For a long time, luxury brands resisted digital marketing, believing it to be too “democratizing.” The wisdom was to maintain the mystique, the allure. Adopting digital marketing (mostly due to a lack of understanding of what it could deliver) was akin to eliminating the liveried doorman.
Digital marketing has been transformative for us because it has enabled us to develop a more sophisticated method of involving our clients. We can meet them online or through our social media feeds, whichever is most appropriate for the situation. While Instagram is an excellent platform for promoting beautiful objects and telling stories, Twitter has been the most effective vehicle for introducing our NFT offer of digital art to a new digital audience. Additionally, we utilize Pinterest, Google, and Facebook – each of which enables us to target the most appropriate audience for the breadth of our offerings.
As a team, we’ve also learned along the way – adapting to ensure we use luxury shoppers’ familiar vocabulary and visual language. For instance, using more lifestyle images to promote our decorative arts—demonstrating how these objects can be used in everyday life.
Certain platforms have enabled us to target specific audiences in a given location – how convenient that if we are hosting an exhibition of contemporary art in Los Angeles or Aspen, we can share information with art enthusiasts in those cities without bothering those in Texas or Buffalo. When colleagues recognize the value of how their limited and frequently shrinking promotional budget results in increased engagement, inquiries, and the golden ticket – a bid – the circle is complete.
By utilizing content and education, you can increase your awareness and confidence.
While data intelligence is fantastic, we have not allowed data to be our sole motivator. Recognizing that Christie’s and the auction experience can be intimidating to first-time bidders, we have always recognized the importance of demystifying the process. This is critical in making us a more inclusive community. Our audience can rely on our editorial content – which provides a platform for great storytelling that is carefully crafted with eye-catching imagery and copy that complements the purpose. We demonstrate what is for sale through the objects themselves and the extremely clever digital tools available.
Bidding in one of our auctions requires more thought on the part of a new client than, say, purchasing a new lipstick. The path to purchase can be lengthy, and thus the educational component is critical to ensuring that we do not lose customers along the way.
Initiatives taken by internal teams
We’ve also had to educate our colleagues about the critical nature of our audiences finding us online. SEO-friendly content has been instrumental in increasing our site’s discoverability by Google users. Our specialist colleagues place a high premium on words, and this has not always been an easy sell, especially when some colleagues have no idea what SEO is!