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Analysis: Walmart acquires Art.com, adding to home palette

Strategic win-win for Walmart acquisition of Art.com combining the strengths of art and commerce. Having worked with the Art.com team in merchandising and in product design, I have the utmost respect for their talented team, global acumen, and progressive technologies. It’s well noted that mining the proven expertise and consumer data around art commerce will prove fertile ground for product design and development and full scale, cross-promotional home-goods sales for Walmart eCommerce.

The digital design experience is taking off for consumers and Fortune 100 brands are actively positioning to fully capture this emerging growth market.

Why Art.com

In the face of Amazon and other marketplace competition, many of the largest dedicated home goods retailers are quickly evolving the consumer experience through innovation in 3-D technologies, private-label brand products, and website personalization.

Art.com is listed in top 10 Largest Dedicated Housewares/Home Furnishings E-Retailers, ranked by total 2017 online sales ($millions), competing with the likes of Wayfair, Williams-Sonoma Inc., Home Depot, Restoration Hardware and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Design is mainstream; the styles that consumers see socially with Influencers are in demand with retailers. There is a high appreciation for design and style with aspiring consumers, especially for art.

“The ‘wall’ is critical to completing the home and, as a $10 billion annual market in the United States, Walmart sees art and wall décor as fundamental to winning the home,” according to Anthony Soohoo, the senior vice president of Walmart’s U.S. online home business, told CNBC

Pinterest Top 100 Home Décor Trends of 2018 proved pins for “wall art” were up 637%. All online art marketplaces have been heavily promoting ways to win the Gallery Wall game. In fact, this provides art retailers myriad opportunities to sell beyond single SKUs to full art collections.

Along with a higher average order value, 90% of ‘Pinners,’ say Pinterest helps them make their purchasing-based decisions, and 78% say it is what they use to find all their new products. This is quite a lucrative opportunity for wall art and home décor retailing.

For example, Home Depot launched “Shop the Look”, a visual search program with Pinterest that allowed for advanced machine learning algorithms to enable the retailer to offer shoppers similar products based on style, color, and other search parameters.

Hiscox Art Market Premonitions

Interesting to note, Hiscox 2018 Art Report identified early premonitions that clearly relate to the Walmart acquisition of Art.com. Hiscox reported industry consolidation would speed up in 2018, that third-party marketplaces would gain in popularity while mobile commerce would gain further traction. Most telling, the online art market has broadened buyers’ interest in cross collecting. The future of the online market is guaranteed though ever evolving.

Shopper Personalization / Digital Design Experience

Art.com identifies art and design trends then shift to curate collections helping consumers “Get the Look”. Website personalization increases the likelihood that site visitors will buy upwards of 60%. The path to purchase for consumers landing on a product page recommendation after viewing wall art greatly increases sales conversion. Art.com’s massive consumer and design data can be used to further personalize consumer experience’s with website content and page layouts. Shoppers who see personalized recommendations convert at a greater rate than those who do not.

Retailers Leveraging Innovations in Augmented Reality

“As we think about the future right now, art will be one area where we will leverage augmented reality,” Soohoo, told CNBC. He said 25 percent of Art.com’s customers currently use a feature on the platform called ArtView, where shoppers can see what a piece of art looks like on their walls before they buy. Walmart will be able to “leverage that expertise” about augmented reality in other categories of its business moving forward, Soohoo said.

Artview augmented reality

Augmented Reality, 3-D experiences allowing consumers to see images of products in the context of their own homes using smartphones as viewers. Not only can they see thousands of new product considerations, but they can also view alongside their own furnishings and décor to gauge how best art and wall decor suit their own style and interiors.

For major retailers, it’s not just about the product (art/home decor) or developing designer collections to diversify their brands within the latest design trends, it’s optimizing the ecosystem.

The digital design experience is taking off for consumers and Fortune 100 brands are actively positioning to fully capture this emerging growth market.

Retailer trends

Retail trends in visualization and product development strategies used by leading home goods retailers that Walmart may consider:

WILLIAMS-SONOMA with eight e-commerce websites across primary brands – including Pottery Barn and West Elm – has made e-commerce a priority and continues to add more omnichannel services to attract buyers. Throughout 2018, Williams-Sonoma continued to focus on generating augmented reality 3-D features across all brands.

BED BATH & BEYOND acquired home furnishings and décor retailer One Kings Lane. The retailer has well-leveraged this namesake brand, with an enormous design conscious following, to bring “decorative furnishings” to the BBB assortment and increase engagement online. Online decorative furnishings product pages for Wall Art and more has doubled. The retailer’s push into lighting, furniture, art, and décor is most promising according to One King’s Lane president and chief merchandising officer, Debbie Propst. Of keen importance, Bed Bath & Beyond is developing private-label decorative furnishing brands planned for fiscal 2019 introductions.

HOUZZ, No. 10 in the Internet Retailer Top Marketplaces as a remodeling resource site and online marketplace is another important player in the home goods market to monitor. A major driver for home inspiration in today’s digital culture, Houzz has grown sales through their advanced technology that makes it easier for consumers to view products in their homes via websites launched in 14 countries around the world.

Alon Cohen, president and co-founder of Houzz.com, says letting consumers see three-dimensional images of products in their homes has increased conversion in a big way.

Of particular note, consumers could view 1 million-plus Houzz products as 3-D images, up from 300,000 in 2017, and more than 2 million consumers have used the visualization tool when making purchases. The ability to view and share product images validates that consumers are 11-times more likely to purchase than website visitors who don’t.

This speaks to the importance of augmented reality in consumers path to purchase. Art.com Gallery Wall Software, ArtView launched earlier 2018, significant intellectual property for Walmart. Implementing mobile 3-D technology has also been vital to growth for Amazon and home furnishings marketplaces Wayfair, HOUZZ, and mass-merchant Overstock.com.

Digital augmented reality to see and buy provide shopper solutions is gaining widespread appeal and quickly becoming commonplace.

Millennials and the art market

Strong growth in online art platforms such as FrameBridge, Minted, Artfully Walls and 1st dibs are growing consumer awareness. Millennials are more likely than other age groups to discover and purchase art online. A survey of U.S. art collectors noted 44 percent of younger millennials and 34 percent of older millennials find new art and artists via digital influencer platforms like Instagram and Pinterest (2016 Invaluable survey).

Affluent and style conscious Millennials are significantly more active in purchasing home goods, including wall art, as they move into a stage of establishing new families and buying new homes requiring they decorate for urban living, active lifestyles, nurseries, and career transitions.

Consumers, especially coveted millennials, have a well-developed design aesthetic that follows art and style trends, but they also want high style, artful décor options, and affordable luxury.

Millennials are investing their time, money and energy into designing their space and seeking interior design. That Art.com is an art authority with an established collective provides character, inspiration and consumer trust.

A highly visual group spending a lot of time online, Millennials study what’s available on design sites such as Pinterest, Houzz, Remodelista; friends’ Instagram‘s; well-designed blogs; and store sites, such as Ikea, CB2, and Design Within Reach. They’ll research what’s best and add their own signature style.

Art.com design catalog

Consumers gravitate to shop by style. Art.com’s prolific data analytics can enable Walmart to drive consumers to purchase higher-margin private-label brands, a prime opportunity for growth.

Considering customer acquisition, once Walmart sells wall art to a buyer, they can then recommend and sell other cross-category merchandise such as lamps, rugs, décor and towels and consumer linens to further outfit the room. Thus, the shopper has the convenience to style and single source with a trusted brand within a single shopping experience.

Product by Design – Licensing Opportunities

This strategic acquisition will not only benefit mass consumers, but it will also set a higher bar for creative licensing and business development across both lifestyle and home-furnishing industries.

There’s no place like home as Art.com has roughly 2 million design assets. Keeping a strategic eye on design: License Global proves consumers are lifting up the home category with successful brand-licensing collaborations for home-decor products. This could prove a goldmine for Art.com and Walmart merchandising teams with the portfolio of artist and art content. Exclusively licensed product development can extend across home decor categories to design a broader, competitive product mix.

Leading examples in the marketplace: Meredith Corporation, Universal Pictures, HGTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living Magazine, Coastal Living Magazine, Property Brothers/Scott Living, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, and CB2 with Gwyneth Paltrow.

About the Author

Ginger Hartford

As a career veteran of the art and design industries formerly with Larson-Juhl, a global Berkshire Hathaway Company, Ginger Hartford is recognized as a highly accomplished Business Development Strategist, Strategic Marketing and Design Leader in the BUSINESS OF DESIGN.

As a patented inventor of design technology, she also has keen insight into emerging design visualization tools and social media trends. Ginger’s extensive experience includes global business development, product design, integrated marketing and branding with leading national retailers, international online art marketplaces, the designer community, and major channel brands across home furnishings, art and framing, and photography.

Ginger founded EurDesign Studio to continue serving leading art and design brands ready to up-level their strategic business approach and share her passion for marketplace trends, resources and the Business of Design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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