Jim Plaxco's Art Portfolio on Crated.com
By Jim Plaxco, 09/10/2015, updated 9/15/2015
Last week I decided to sell open edition prints of some of my art on crated.com. I was investigating this art selling site as a result of their having been mentioned in the article Finding Your Place In The New E-Commerce which appears in the Oct/Nov 2015 issue of Professional Artist magazine. Crated was launched in 2014 with Adrian Salamunovicco identified as its founder. According to their web site, Crated has printing and production facilities in the US and Canada, with offices in Las Vegas, Ottawa, and Helsinki.
The site uses a motif that is quite popular these days - a style driven by the growth of mobile computing. And yes, the site is mobile-friendly, which is an absolute necessity these days for any e-commerce platform (if only Fotomoto.com would realize this).
While anyone can browse the site (yes, there have been platforms that require signing up before browsing is permitted), in order to "collect" (ie like) art or to comment on art, visitors do need to have an account - which is as it should be. Such accounts are revered to as buyer accounts.
If you are an artist wanting to sell your art, you create a seller account by uploading your first artwork. Artists who want to sell should first reference the Crated Switching from buyer account to selling account page. It's all quite simple once you've read the FAQ. For more about selling art on Crated, see Crated - Selling Art.
I have not yet done a cost comparison between Crated and other sites like ImageKind, Redbubble, Saatchi, etc. so I don't know where Crated stands in the hierarchy of affordability. I can say that Crated's profit sharing is structured on a percentage of the artist's markup on base cost.
Crated has a base cost for all the art products it offers. The artist then selects a percentage markup that is added to that base cost. It is from this markup that the artist earns money. The artist can choose any markup in the range of 0 to 300 percent. With respect to the markup, Crated will take 20% leaving the artist with 80%. For example, suppose that a given product has a base cost of $100.00 and the artist chooses a 200% markup. That will result in a selling price of $300 ($100 base cost + $200 markup). In this scenario, the artist would make $160 per sell ($200 * 0.8 = $160). In setting the markup, the artist is able to set different markups not only for each artwork but also for each of the three product types offered for each specific artwork. This means you can set one markup for an art print, a different markup for a canvas, and another markup for framed prints. Note that the product markup defaults to 30% across the board with the artist being able to set a different default markup in the Pricing section.
Crated support for marketing is limited. The site offers no widgets for embedding in other sites. What Crated does offer is the ability to share a link to your portfolio, your galleries, and your individual artworks on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter - which is standard practice. Unfortunately there is no similar option for providing html code that could be used for linking to your portfolio/galleries/artwork from your own web site or from other social media platforms. Crated does offer html code to place a small badge on your web site but that too is basic.
I have no idea how successful Crated is as a selling platform when compared to other similar companies. Such information is difficult to come by. Further clouding the issue with respect to sales is that many artists use these sites as a way of buying prints of their own work for subsequent exhibit and/or resale. The bottom line is that unless a company is willing to share this information, sales is an unknown quantity.
With respect to web traffic, Alexa currently has Crated's traffic rank as 109,311 in the US and 196,593 globally. By way of comparison, Google.com has a rank of 1 and my domain artsnova.com has a global rank of 2,986,373 with Alexa's rankings being based on three month moving averages. Crated also have a fairly low bounce rate - which is a positive indicator. The one big caveat is that there is no way to know what fraction of this traffic is visitors looking to buy art vs artists engaged in adding, promoting, and socializing (collecting and commenting on other artist's art) on the site. And of course the larger the site in terms of artists, artworks, and products, and the more internal social tools (like groups) they have, the more likely it is that a large fraction of the traffic is artists going about their business.
With respect to analytics, it is unfortunate that Crated provides no analytics data so artists have no idea of how many views their art gets. Contrast this with a site like Redbubble which supports the embedding of your Google Analytics id code - which is really a nice feature. (You may want to read my article Selling Art On Redbubble - A Review for comparison).
One thing I've notices is that there is a fair amount of variance in how well different art print services index artwork internally - as well as having new art indexed by the search engines. So far the absolute worst site I have come across is Saatchi Online. As I said in the opening to this article, I added my first art to Crated on 9/4/15. Using Google the evening of 9/9/15 I could not find any of my art listed. One of the nice features of Crated is the ability to go online and chat with one of their customer service representatives. Following is the conversation I had.
Me: Hello, I am wondering why my art is not being indexed by Google?
Customer Service: Indexing with google I believe takes a while. When did you upload your pieces?
Me: Last Friday
Customer Service: Your artwork has only just been indexed on Crated.com today, so you should appear in regular searches on Crated by tomorrow when people search for the tags of your pieces. Indexing with Google takes a little longer though, but you should see the results with Google in the next week or so.
Me: Ouch, that's slow. I know when I add art to my own web site Google has it indexed within hours. I would think that a major site would be indexed more quickly than a personal site. Strange.
Customer Service: Generally it goes fast, but I have experienced it sometimes taking longer, so I'm just guessing at this point based on that I have seen before.
The most disturbing part of this conversation was the admission as to how long it can take for art to get indexed within the Crated search system. With respect to speeding up indexing of your art for the standard search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), I'm thinking that linking from an outside web site directly to your artwork on Crated will get your art indexed much more quickly by the search engines versus waiting for them to find it via Crated's own internal system.
In addition to these standard fields, the artist is also given the option of changing the markups for this particular artwork. If you do not, then the default markups the artist has already selected for all art will be applied.
Chat Feature. The Crated site's chat feature is quite handy when help is needed on short notice. Aside from the chat detailed above, I initially had some questions and was able to chat with a Crated representative about them. On the downside, the person I spoke with gave me incorrect information for one of my queries. Specifically I asked why I had not received a verification email after signing up. The person said that I should have and didn't know why I hadn't. However, later when adding artwork to sell, a pop-up message appeared telling me that I would be receiving an email to verify my account. So it would appear that the representative's correct answer would have been to say "you won't receive a verification email until you begin the process of adding your first artwork to sell".
Art Only Products. Unlike many of the sites where there are a multitude of products to which an artist's art is applied, Crated focuses on traditional printing and framing.
Clean design and workflow. Yes I like both the overall design and more importantly the workflow associated with adding new art to my portfolio.
Readability could be better. Viewing the web pages via my laptop's browser, I must say that light gray text on a white background is not the most readable. Yes it looks rather nice but the number one mission of text is to be easily readable.
More Categories Needed. When adding new art to your portfolio, you can add it to up to three art categories. Currently these categories are:
For me, this very limited number of categories is a shortcoming. I would suggest the addition of categories like Portrait, Impressionism, Pop (as in Pop art), Still Life, etc. in order to allow artists to better categorize their artwork. These additional categories would also make it easier for buyers to more easily and quickly locate the types of art they are searching for.
In summary, so far I have been generally pleased with what I have seen. So based on my first impression I will continue to add art to my Crated portfolio and hope that Crated continues to add features to their system.
After writing this review of Crated I began to wonder what it would take to have one of my artworks show up in the first few pages of the Discover search results, which defaults to a sort order of "Sort By Popular". At the time I ran this analysis, Crated listed the total number of artworks at 133,477. That is a lot of competition for eyeballs. Clearly if an artist wants their Crated art to be found, they are going to have to do a fair amount of advertising and promoting off-site. But the question I asked myself was "What could I do within Crated itself to improve my chances of having my art found?"
For my analysis I recorded the statistics for every artwork listed on the first two pages of Discover results - a total of 50 artworks. One thing that took me by surprise was that of the 50 artworks shown on these first two pages, there were only 12 artists represented with only one artist not having multiple artworks shown.
Plugging the numbers I collected into a spreadsheet revealed that the average number of times an artwork was collected (liked) was 19.5 with a minumum of 10 and a maximum of 72. With respect to the artists whose work appears, they each have, on average, a total of 225 artworks in their portfolio and an average of 230 followers. Skewing these numbers slightly was the appearance in the top 50 of a single artwork by one artist who had only 22 artworks and 27 followers. If this artist is omitted, then the average total of artworks becomes 244 and the average number of followers becomes 249. While I do not know how Crated calculates its popularity ranking, it is reasonable to assume that how many times an artwork is collected (liked), how many followers an artist has, and how many artworks they've uploaded are most likely key variables in their calculation. Therefore, an artist who has only a handful of artworks in their portfolio and few followers should not expect to have their art show up high in the Discover results. This also indicates that it will take a significant amount of effort on the part of an artist to get their work to appear in the first few pages of Crated search results.
Following are links to the art that I have for sell on Crated.com as of 9/9/2015. Clicking the image will take you to that artwork's page on Crated.
If you found this review useful, you may also be interested in these POD (print on demand) site reviews: