Understanding your audience, how to think like a shopper

I wanted to write some thoughts down about understanding your audience. If you are a small business (creative or not) it is really important to think about who your audience is or who your  specific customer is, right?  The funny thing is as a creative person we have so many people that are our audience, often we operate from a place where we insist on doing art that WE like, darn it! The heck with everyone else. I have noticed that often we find ourselves (in this digital world) doing art that we think our peers will like. We want to be thought of as cutting edge and cool. In our heart we KNOW that we have to do work that art directors want (or think they want). They are looking for something spectacular from us even though they can’t quite pinpoint what that spectacular thing is, much to our frustration. What I would pose to you today is to really stop, put down your  pens pencils, lift your finger off your mouse and ask yourself who your audience really is then take the time to ask a friend who they think your audience is. You might be very surprised by their answer.  It is important to figure out who is doing the buying.  Is it women who are preppy, a fashionista,  a mom or is maybe it is a mom buying for small children or maybe your art falls into the tween or teen category? What this requires you to do is really take it to the next level and think like a shopper, A REAL LIVE SHOPPER, not just someone who trolls the internet and decides your art is cool or who might heart you on etsy. Go to a store,that’s right, leave your house and go out shopping. I am amazed at the amount of artists doing art for products that simply do not shop, hate to shop and rarely buy any goods at all. To create art for products, you genuinely need to understand the mind of a shopper. Are they buying for themselves, are they buying a gift, who is the gift for and does your art make the gift worth buying? The truth is that in America we all pretty much have what we need.  (My husband keeps trying to remind me of this!) Shoppers really have to have an emotional response to something. In these times when dollars are tight, you have to knock peoples socks off to get them to the emotional place when they respond with, “I simply MUST have it!”  If you can get a shoppers to respond, I believe you will also get art buyers to respond to your work. Ask yourself, who would buy this art and what would they buy it on? Sounds pretty basic, I know, but as a creative person it is all to easy for those questions to slip to the bottom of the list. So as homework, I insist that you go out and shop a bit (oh boy!) and to think objectively as you do it. When you create art, ask yourself if someone (and I don’t mean your mother) would hang your art in their home, would they purchase it for a friend or would they simply HAVE to have it.


  • Great advice. I think it is very overwhelming to shop. Then on the other hand, you start doubting yourself as an artist. Kinda a double edged sword. But with that being said, you really must go out there and see and be inspired. You will leave with a fresh new outlook…just maybe? 🙂

  • Monica Lee says:

    Thanks Laura! Sometimes I just go to a trade show thinking it gives me a better chance to see what is out there-but talk about overwhelming!

  • Joy Hall says:

    Very good article! And this is so true… “we find ourselves (in this digital world) doing art that we think our peers will like. ”

    Enjoy your interviews!

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