Give me a Lever

18/02/2019     Alexander Clement

Human beings are data creating machines. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we consume, everywhere we go we are leaving a data trail. This has always been the case but it is only in modern times that the data we create has been harvested and leveraged with increasing levels of precision.

As digital platforms have become more prevalent in the way we behave, traditional forms of demographics have been augmented by much more finely tuned segmentation. This is because behaviour changes faster than broad demographic markers. Someone living in central London with an income in the £40,000-60,000 range is unlikely to change their geographic location and salary very often but they will change the way they shop, the way they socialise and the way they consume various types of media much more swiftly.

Broadly speaking, we know that buyers of antiques and art at present are aged between 40 and 65 and enjoy above average household incomes, geographically they could potentially live anywhere but will proliferate in more affluent areas. Add to that, though, behavioural data captured through interaction with your website and other online channels, such as social media, and you are able to see more niche trends emerging that can inform the targeting of advertising and promotion. Into the mix would go:

  • Type of objects bought
  • Average value per lot
  • Average spend per auction
  • Average annual spend
  • Interests expressed through website visits
  • Lot alerts set by client
  • Subscriptions

You can use this data to target pre-auction advertising by lot category or discipline, aiming it directly at those people you know are likely to be interested, either because they have bought similar items before or have expressed an interest in them specifically and/or by dint of their browser habits. What you should be demanding of your client database is the ability to build lists of clients based on these behaviours.

Sellers are slightly more tricky because the demographics are much broader. Potentially anyone might have an antique or work of art that you, as an auctioneer, would want to include in a forthcoming sale. Objects may be bought, inherited, found or donated and in myriad ways that defy conventional demographic approaches. This is where data can help the auctioneer but a wider field of view is needed to get your message in front of potential customers. According to Forbes, 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers and so this should be the first port of call when mining data for marketing information. Studying your vendors' activity can include:

  • Type of objects consigned
  • Value of objects
  • Frequency of consignments
  • Geographic location

From this profile you can build a picture of where your business is coming from in your local and wider territory and see if there are any patterns particularly where value is concerned. Are your top lots coming from the same areas? If so, you can target your advertising to attract more. You can also see where there are gaps in your region and assess whether work can be done to improve your coverage. You’ll need to investigate why that area is under performing; is it sparsely populated? Is it being served by a competitor?

"This allows you to focus on campaigns

that genuinely attract business"


Another good discipline to work into your interaction with customers, especially new ones, is asking them how they heard about you. Was it a newspaper ad, social media, web search, personal recommendation? Recording that information within the client record on your database begins to build a picture of what forms of advertising are working and what aren’t. This allows you to focus on campaigns that genuinely attract business and ditch those that don’t, an exercise that could also save you money.

The picture that emerges from this ever-growing body of data is one where businesses are moving from the blunt instruments of advertising in years gone by to the laser-focused approach supported by fine-grain detail. This not only helps fine art auctioneers to target audiences for traditional sales but also meeting the increasingly niche interests of private buyers and collectors. We are nearly all of us operating with some level of online presence and the opportunity that this gives us in understanding our customers and providing better, more tailored, levels of service is essential in keeping up with market demands as well as the competition.

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