Integral to Christie’s growth strategy has been its plan to expand online sales both to more efficiently deal in lower-priced lots and to attract new buyers to the auction house. With so much riding on the success of online sales, it is worth paying close attention to what Christie’s says about last year’s numbers in their press release:
New buyers grow to 30% and account for 22% of all global sales with increasing engagement online bringing new consumers
It’s too easy to read this headline as suggesting that either 30% of buyers are online or that 22% of the value of sales is running through the digital bidding system. Christie’s tells us that 45% of the online buyers are new to the auction house but since sales only amounted to $20.8m online there’s not a lot of impact coming from those new buyers even if they’re taking home the highest value lots.
Online-only sales totalled £13.2 million ($20.8 million) – they were a clear, key driver of attracting new buyers and increasing global accessibility to acquiring authenticated art and luxury goods. Forty-five percent of buyers on the online platform were new to Christie’s, with registrants from over 100 countries. The top price achieved in any online-only sale was $387,750 for an original Apple computer, now known as the Apple-1. The highest price paid for a work of art in the live auction room via Christie’s LIVE™ was for Zao Wou-Ki’s 09.05.61 which realized HK$13.2 million (£1.1 million / $1.7 million). Unique visitors to Christies.com were also up 19% on 2012, to 20.6 million.