Recreate the Customer Journey. Develop the earned trust a customer would have developed if they arrived at your store in person, online. What normally would take a few minutes to develop in-person typically takes 30–60 days for higher ticket items. This involves a series of videos and articles presented to a client through ads and emails presenting content in a cohesive, linear manner that is also dynamic, educational, and entertaining.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Matias, an author and contemporary photographer who lives and works in the Greater Seattle Area. A New York native, his photographs of Nature includes locations around the globe. More recently in his career, his creative focus expanded work with models. No matter the subject, Jason’s work focuses on the ideas of isolation and introspection. Jason Matias’ career in photography officially began in 2012 however he began exploring photography as a medium of expression during his service in the United States Air Force in 2006. His experience and artist direction eventually culminated in two distant veins of work, Comfortable Isolation and the Aria.
Jason’s artwork has been shown in exhibitions in the US including Art Basel Week and Art Expo New York and in private shows around the world. His photography has been featured in National Geographic, Weather Channel, and TEDx, among others. In 2020, Jason published his first book, NakedThoughts.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Context always helps to clarify a story. I’m 34 years old, and I run two six-figure silos of business in the art world. The first is an online or virtual art gallery. The second is an online membership course that teaches business skills to artists. I started with the art in 2012. I quickly realized that the business of selling my artwork would not look like the idealized picture I had painted in my head. That was fine, though. I have a master’s degree in Organization Leadership, and I’ve been inclined toward entrepreneurship my whole life; so, I applied business principles to art and began scaling.
In many ways, building the business was a lot like building a life boat as you paddle downstream. The turning point for me was when I stopped thinking of what I was selling as “art” and instead formed a different context: I sell luxury products to an affluent audience. After that, The Art of Selling Art grew on its own as a simple extension of what I did for myself at first. Soon it became its own appendage to my business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I used to get frazzled when potential art collectors would compare me to established big-names in the business. One time, I began defending myself/my work before realizing the collector wasn’t even steering the conversation in that direction. Needless to say, I lost that sale do to my tone in our conversation. That may not sound funny, but I laugh because my sense of humor is a bit dry. The lesson I learned is a derivative of ‘the customer is always right.’ Instead of defending my work in the future, I always agree with a customer before attempting to change their mind about something.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I find the solopreneur life to be incredibly isolating. In the art world, it is difficult to find peers in the business who are open to the ‘rising tide raises all ships’ mentality. I found help in parallel business partners such as Public Relations. My PR agent, Julia Lytle, has been a fantastic bridge to opportunities that were out of reach until I had someone to speak up on my behalf in certain circles.
I’ve also paid for Many business courses that are only tangentially related to selling art. I mine these and adapt them to this business. James Wedmore from Business By Design has been a major resource for my growth in my actual business and in my mindset.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
This is an excellent segue from your last question! Mind Your Business Podcast episode 141 introduced the idea of Self Integrity and “Be, Do, Have” to me. Because of this episode, there are 16 words I keep on my vision board to reference often. In the podcast by James Wedmore, Jim Fortin invites the listener to ask themselves, “ What would I do, whom would I be, how would I feel, if I already had _____” So, what sort of person would I be if I already had a successful business? Genuine, Productive, Caring, Present, Healthy, and Of Service. Well, to be successful, I need to BE these six things FIRST. The success will come after.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I have spent much time focusing on the customer journey instead of focusing on presenting the art. My online gallery is as much a showcase of my collectors’ success and transformations as it is a showcase of my work. I have felt that sincere and genuine expression trumps “high volume” marketing for a while, and it’s nice to see the world moving in this direction. I focus on the stories related to my artwork and, in marketing, I focus on stories that represent my experience and that the reader can identify with.
In my membership course, I try to be as transparent and frank as possible. There is zero fake hype from me. I’m also a bit brazen and totally upfront, which can be off-putting. For instance, I curse often, and I share real experiences with no sugarcoating. This alienates a few people, I’m sure. That means they’re not my tribe, and that’s okay. There is a BIG pond to fish in for clients.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Shoots, I’ve been operating in Burn-Out territory for two years now. **laughs in despair**
I think the redline becomes a little softer when you’ve spent time in there. I do have two pieces of advice that keep me moving forward.
1. Keep a “Love Me” file. Whether it be a folder of screenshots or paper notes, each time you accomplish something or someone says something significant about what you do, stash that comment away somewhere. Keep it nearby for when times are tough to remind you that people love what you do, that you help people through some sort of transition, and that you are valued.
2. Exercise. No excuses. Do something physical. Proponents say lots of things about exercising, but what I don’t hear anyone articulate is that exercise gives your emotional stress a tangible form. You can see it. You can identify it. You can beat it up and smooth it away.
Okay super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Everything is a lifestyle product. Anytime someone is making a purchase, they are seeking a transformation of some kind. I think Lululemon does a fantastic job at laying the transformation the customer is about to receive before them so they can visualize it easily. I see many companies advertise their products and their specs, but less so how the product changes the buyer’s life.
For instance, when I speak to potential collectors about the art they want, instead of talking about the work itself, I ask about the space they want to hang it in and who lives in that space. Do they entertain often? What are their feelings about the space now, and how do they want to feel when their space is decorated?
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies for them to be successful in the face of such intense competition?
As an artist, I have been facing similar challenges for my entire career. There is always another artist willing to facilitate the race to the bottom. There are even Chinese painters who are wonderfully skilled who will counterfeit any art you bring to them. My recommendation is to focus on value, transformations, and social proof. Buying online is scary for many consumers. You are never quite sure what you will get if you’ve never seen it in person. However, seeing others’ transformations in the form of genuine social proof could be the deciding factor for customers on the fence about a product.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the most common mistakes I see people make is they hide behind the veil of perfection instead of launching and letting their product/presentation experience a bit of organic evolution. Sometimes, I see founders use the need to “make it perfect” as an emotional defense against potential failure.
What can you do to prevent this? Launch at 95%.
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
This is difficult to articulate: The internet allows you to reach more people, but you are still contacting each person individually, one at a time. Each interaction with your website is between you and the customer. Each customer needs to feel as if they are handled personally. Aside from genuinely wanting to create a good experience for people, preventing a bad experience is paramount because the human brain is wired to share negative experiences with others.
We have all had times either in a store or online when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
If people interact with real customer reps through the internet, two people will inevitably trigger each other into creating a bad experience. I think this sort of thing just happens.
This often happens (above the statistical average). The fault lies with how the company treats the representative and the inverse relationship, how the rep feels about the company. The rep to institution relationship should be among the highest priorities for companies with human layers between the customer and the core of the company.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
At Art Basel Week in 2018, I showed my Aria Collection at Red Dot Art Expo. I must have had more than 5,000 conversations at the expo. However, some people were greatly affected by the stories and the visuals of the collection, bringing them to tears. Those are my favorite experiences and definitely the type of memory that goes into that Love Me file I had mentioned earlier.
In The Art of Selling Art, my educational membership course for artists, one of my favorite feedbacks to hear is that the member feels like they’ve truly learned something that they can use to grow their business, even on one of my free webinars. That sounds a little pedantic, but the bar is truly set quite low for course creators.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Sure. The longest-term ripple effect of the feedback from both experiences is that they keep me motivated to continue creating and teaching. However, I can also use those feedback as social proof pieces that I can present to new clients in the decision making process about whether to work with me or buy my art.
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?
Assuming you have someone’s complete attention, I feel that identifying, through conversation, the customers’ motivations for wanting your product then validating those motivations while overcoming their objections will leave a customer feeling 100% confident in their purchase and satisfied with their experience.
Okay super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Recreate the Customer Journey
Develop the earned trust a customer would have developed if they arrived at your store in person, online. What normally would take a few minutes to develop in-person typically takes 30–60 days for higher ticket items. This involves a series of videos and articles presented to a client through ads and emails presenting content in a cohesive, linear manner that is also dynamic, educational, and entertaining.
2. Have a Process Plan
When you have said person engaged in your customer journey, give them a plan for how the relationship will continue. Three to six steps is usually enough to let the customer know there is a beginning, an end, and a purpose to your interactions.
3. Identify Objections
Everybody sale comes with a list of objections that have kept the buyer from making this purchase until now. Discover what they are and address them. Sometimes, an FAQ is enough. Other times, conversation with pointed questions helps get the person past their objections.
4. Identify Motivations
Why does your customer need what you have? Find out then reinforce this unfilled need to guide the customer into making the purchase.
5. Ensure All Parties Understand Next Steps
Make sure your customer knows what to do and/or what is going to happen now that they’ve made the purchase. If the ending is unambiguous, then there is little room for disappointment.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m not sure that this is a “movement,” but a pet peeve of mine is that packaging of goods to excessive and wasteful. I understand that opening a new product is an experience, but it all looks like pollution to me. Minimalize packaging, please.
How can our readers further follow your work?
On the web I can be found at www.jasonmatias.com and @realjasonmatias on Instagram
Artists looking for The Art of Selling Art can find it at the blue bar on the top of my website or @theartofsellingart on Instagram.
On Tiktok — @jason_matias
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!