Converting Brick and Mortar Customers to Digital in Any Industry: Lessons from the First $1B Art Marketplace
May 1, 2024
Kendall Warson and Shyevin S’ng share what they've learned and strategies you, or anyone, can adopt to revolutionize your industry.

When launching their digital-first business in the $68 billion dollar brick and mortar first art world, they knew that they would be facing headwinds. But now with millions of dollars in sales, they've fully converted an offline shopping behavior into an online one.

"Our journey exemplifies the potential for technology to reshape traditional industries like art."

Traditional art market relies heavily on offline interactions at events, galleries, and through social media. Existing platforms like Saatchi Art and Instagram offer partial solutions but lack comprehensive features. But, there is now an emerging class of crossover platforms attempting to combine social media, marketplaces, and gallery credibility.

The journey of Cohart through product development reflects a commitment to user-centric design and iterative prototyping. Drawing from their experiences in the art world, the co-founders recognized the need to bridge the gap between offline art transactions and the online sphere. They engaged extensively with users, hosting founder talks and collecting feedback to shape their platform. One co-founder noted, "A big learning for us was looking at a prototype on a computer is very different than holding something in your hand." This insight guided their approach, emphasizing the importance of tactile experiences in the art-buying process. Through iterative prototyping, they developed a platform akin to "art Tinder," seamlessly merging the social aspect of discovering art with credible commerce tools for transactions. This iterative approach allowed them to refine their product based on real-world user interactions and preferences, ultimately leading to the creation of a platform that resonated with their target audience.

Cohart's success is further underscored by its ability to attract a diverse user base and foster meaningful engagement within the art community. With a blend of seasoned collectors and newcomers, their platform serves as a dynamic hub for art enthusiasts of all backgrounds. One of the co-founders remarked, "We're seeing a really wide demographic of people coming in." This observation speaks to their platform's inclusive appeal, which transcends traditional barriers to entry in the art world. By leveraging social media channels and hosting interactive events, they've cultivated a vibrant community where users can discover, discuss, and acquire art with ease. This emphasis on user engagement has not only enhanced the platform's visibility but also solidified its position as a go-to destination for art enthusiasts seeking both inspiration and connection.

Their top 5 lessons for success include:

  1. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity: Failure is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. Instead of fearing it, entrepreneurs should embrace failure as a valuable learning opportunity that can lead to growth and innovation.
  2. Focus on Product-Market Fit: Building a successful product requires a deep understanding of your target market's needs and preferences. Prioritize finding product-market fit early on to ensure that your product resonates with your audience.
  3. Stay Agile and Iterative: The journey from idea to market-ready product is rarely linear. Stay agile and be willing to iterate based on user feedback and market demands. Flexibility and adaptability are key traits of successful entrepreneurs.
  4. Invest in User Engagement: Building a strong and engaged user community is crucial for long-term success. Invest in strategies to foster meaningful engagement, such as hosting interactive events, leveraging social media, and facilitating discussions among users.
  5. Stay True to Your Vision: While it's important to listen to feedback and adapt to market trends, it's equally essential to stay true to your core vision and values. Maintain a clear sense of purpose and let it guide your decision-making process, even in the face of challenges and setbacks.

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