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Econsultancy: Please describe your job. What do you do?
Matt Lamb: Castle Galleries is a fine art retailer and sells original artwork and limited edition prints by a range of leading artists, from big names such as Ronnie Wood and Bob Dylan to home grown British talent scouted by our publisher, Washington Green.
As head of ecommerce I manage a team of art consultants who handle enquiries through our website. We offer a mixture of sales and customer service, and advise clients on our portfolio of artwork to help them decide on the right piece for them. I also set the pipeline of work for ongoing improvements to our website which is run through an agency, as well as our PPC and email marketing campaigns.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
ML: I lead the entire ecommerce operation for the company and report to our sales director.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
ML: Technology and customer expectations change quickly in online retail, and this means I need to constantly be looking at all our activities and thinking about how we can improve our offering. I think to do well in ecommerce you need to be excited by change, up for trying something new and you can’t be frightened to get it wrong occasionally.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
ML: It’s cliché but no day is ever the same. Right now we’re in the process of building a new website, so I’m spending more time than ever researching industry trends and best practice to keep us ahead of the curve. I’m analysing browser feedback and digging into our data to make sure we retain the best features of our existing site while making it even more engaging and interactive.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
ML: Ecommerce can be really dry and data driven, but with sales and customer service being such a big part of our offering, there’s always a buzz in the office and lots of conversations taking place with clients. We have such a great selection of artwork on offer, I defy anyone to look through our collection and not find something they like. That enjoyment of the artwork is infectious. Saying that, we’re the only sales team in the company based in an office. Whilst I try to get out into our galleries as often as I can, it’s hard not to be envious of my colleagues’ work environment.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
ML: The sky’s the limit! Art retailers have been slow to take to ecommerce and the real winners have been the artists taking advantage of the platform social media offers, and dealing directly with collectors. My early goals were as simple as making ecommerce a credible part of our business. Now my focus is our international offering, particularly the US market.
As a luxury retailer with a high price point, it’s tricky to derive value looking at KPIs such as conversion rates in the same way most online retailers will. A typical artwork will only sell one or two copies online before the limited edition run sells out, so we focus on campaigns and marketing activities that generate enquiries and meaningful conversations with clients rather than basket conversion.
Ultimately we’re driven by turnover, but on a campaign to campaign basis I’m interested in engaging a client enough to prompt them to contact us.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
ML: There’s a lot of value in search data, not only to make website search functions more relevant for browsers but to see what people are looking for, and the words browsers use to find what they’re after.
We use Algolia as our in-built search function. It’s great value and pretty powerful for reporting and search manipulation, but there are plenty of other affordable search tools out there. We can very quickly identify which artists and titles are popular by looking at search data, and it helps us to understand how browsers discover artwork. For example, most browsers know the artist they’re looking for – we rarely see people searching terms like ‘landscape painting’.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
ML: My application was a bit of a punt – I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered the job! I’d previously helped run a boutique ski helmet business that only sold online so I was a bit of a Jack of all trades, and this appealed to the team at Castle Galleries.
My team is the fastest growing team in the company so there’s plenty here to keep us busy. If I ever did move on from Castle Galleries I can’t imagine working for another art retailer.
E: Who is doing ecommerce well? Who is doing UX well in the art world?
ML: Saatchi Art is a great website – it does product discovery really well. You can land on their homepage with no idea what you’re after and they’ve made it so easy for you to filter and navigate through their collection.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in digital in the world of fine art?
ML: It’s great to work in the art world. People buy art because they love it, so being part of that is good fun. Don’t stress about having a deep knowledge of art history, as long as you’re passionate about what you do you can learn the rest.
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