Ikea, Abba, Klarna: many things that make our lives more beautiful, more fun or easier have their origins in Sweden. And the Scandinavians are also playing a role in international online print: Printler is an online marketplace that – thanks to Print on Demand – has made it its business to sell very special art to men and women. Beyondprint took a closer look at Printler and spoke with co-founder and marketing director Lukas Löfgren.
There are many online stores that sell posters and wall art with iconic motifs, mostly on the basis of licensing agreements. By contrast, a marketplace that brings together (independent) artists from all over the world and art lovers, i.e. buyers, on one platform does not. At least until a few years ago. Because Printler is just that: With today’s business model, Printler went online in Sweden, giving creative people a stage – or rather, a virtual gallery at their fingertips – and thus a way to not only exhibit their artworks virtually, but to sell them directly.
Art makes the world a little more colorful – and is more in demand than you might think at first. “We launched in 2020 and grew by 300% in our first year, 2021 – and by another 100% in 2022,” explains Lukas Löfgren. “In 2022, we also started to scale the business model further.” After Sweden, Denmark and Norway, Printler has also been available in Germany since October 2021 and quite officially with a website in the national language, a marketing campaign and all the trimmings since the beginning of 2022. “With the launch in Germany, we have started our international business,” says Löfgren.
And quite successfully, because: “Germany went from zero to our biggest market last year”. Printler is also active in Austria, and in the Netherlands since fall 2022. France and Belgium are to follow next. Printler already supplies customers from all over Europe, regardless of whether it has a website in the national language or not. The international .com website in English enables the team led by founder and CEO Andreas Holmgren and CMO Lukas Löfgren to reach all Europeans.
“Contemporary Art” as a business model
To that end, you need to know one thing: Printler is not about the famous old masters, like Rembrandt or van Gogh – or rather, not in their original representation. Rather, Printler is an almost endless collection of works of what is probably commonly referred to as “Contemporary Art”; in other words, modern art, from Pop Art to new, unusual interpretations of well-known works and high-quality photographs and collages of all stripes. More than 50,000 motifs are currently listed on the platform – and the number is still rising.
Printler is an international community of artists
Printler benefits from one thing in particular: namely, that artists and art lovers form a community that is not only open to new things in itself, but also very active – on the social media channels, among others. Many artists have already built up a considerable reach or fan base themselves. But selling their art is difficult for many, at least for those who are not lucky enough to exhibit their work in well-known (real) galleries – and/or do not have the money and time to set up their own e-commerce business, including the appropriate marketing, customer services and so on.
This is exactly where Printler’s business model comes in: Because artists, no matter how they create their artwork, can use the network free of charge. “There is neither an entry fee, nor monthly fees or contractual obligations,” assures Lukas Löfgren. Because: “The artist community is the basis and foundation for our entire business. The artists are the heroes of our story, so to speak. We’ve managed to develop a business model that’s really okay for most creatives in terms of print quality and still makes the works orderable at an affordable price.”
Specialization as a success factor
Of course, nothing works here without registration. But every artist can then set up his or her own small virtual gallery on the platform with currently 50 works and present himself or herself and his or her profile page to a wide audience. At the same time – and this is the bridge to the end users or rather art lovers – motifs can be ordered directly from Printler as high-quality posters or fine art prints.
“We focus on a small selection of different core products,” explains the CMO. “We have the most common formats and most popular frame types on offer, with a passe-partout or without. We have fine art prints – those are the products we focus on. We do not intend to sell stickers or printed mugs. It’s much more important for us to build an art community.”
How do the artists benefit?
For each motif sold, the artist receives between 20 and 25 percent of the sales amount, invoiced at the end of the month and very simply via Paypal. In return, Printler takes care of everything to do with the platform, production and the entire process, including invoicing and logistics. By the way, the copyrights for the motifs remain with the artist at all times. Printler also does not demand any exclusivity rights.
The extent to which an artist uses the platform varies greatly. “There are artists who sell their works themselves and can already build on their name recognition and don’t need us. But there are also those who have built up their own business e-commerce system, but recognize the advantage of the platform and have switched completely to us after a few months. Because to run your own business successfully, you need a large audience and you need to put a lot of effort and money into marketing it. But when it comes to good margins, in the end it’s a question of volume,” says Löfgren. And that’s where Printler can act differently thanks to the marketplace principle and offer many artists the opportunity to make their art visible to the public at all.
Print on Demand makes it possible
Only when a motif is ordered is it produced – in digital print and “on demand”, in order to avoid costly storage of goods and generally to operate more sustainably. It was important to the Printler team to have all processes in their own hands. “We decided early on to manage the entire production process ourselves. Firstly, of course, because of quality assurance, but also to have the know-how within our own team,” says Löfgren.
Printler operates its own 700 m2 digital print shop in Stockholm, with Canon Colorado and Imageprograf fine art printers as well as Zünd cutters and a logistics department. All orders are shipped from there. For the time being. Because Printler wants to expand its production capacities in the medium term and set up the highly automated and functioning production model in other, more central European countries as well. But until that happens in 2024, the company will continue to print and frame what it can in Stockholm.
Platform uses the ripple effect
But back to what the online marketplace has mastered per excellence: organic growth. Because even though Printler invests a lot in marketing the platform in the relevant art-related markets and channels, most of its growth is organic. And that, in turn, has to do with the particular target group. Because many artists follow each other and have already built up their own reach. So when an artist shares the link to his Printler gallery on his channels – or even promotes it with a post of his own – 200, 300 or even 500 other artists quickly see this and become aware of Printler and also register on the platform. “This creates a ripple effect,” describes the marketing specialist. And it’s something to be proud of, because more than 9,000 artists from all over the world now offer their work via Printler. But: “If you are an unknown artist, upload your work to Printler and think that it will sell by itself, you will fail,” says Löfgren, emphasizing the importance of the authors of the artworks becoming active themselves. Keyword self-marketing.
Self-initiative and win-win situation
Ideally, then, it’s a win-win situation: the artists benefit from Printler and Printler benefits from the artists’ commitment. After all, with more than 50,000 listed motifs that can be found when browsing through the website, Printler cannot accompany every single one with a targeted marketing campaign. Instead, it identifies the motifs that are commercially promising, whether because the artist is well-known or because the style or motif corresponds to a current trend. “Last year, for example, pop art motifs were very popular, and around the World Cup, of course, soccer motifs were correspondingly popular,” says Löfgren. But it also depends on the artists’ own initiative, who in turn can refer to their Printler gallery via their channels, stories and the like, and thus boost their own sales. And make the Printler brand known. Not so long ago, explains Löfgren, one of the listed creatives sold his 10,000th art print through Printler – and that within a year.
Guerilla marketing and help for self-promotion
Google is important for marketing the platform, but so are platforms like Instagram and, more recently, TikTok, where Printler regularly posts stories and marketing campaigns. And as unconventional as the motifs offered on the platform sometimes are, so too do the Swedes’ advertising campaigns sometimes turn out to be. Just last year, Printler organized an “Art Print Gallery” in Stockholm, Amsterdam and Berlin – an exhibition in public space. Say, outside, where daily life takes place. “We had QR codes on the images and additionally brought some artists on site,” Löfgren explains of the campaign. In each of the three major cities, between 500 and 1,000 artworks from the Printler portfolio were on display – not in a gallery, but spread across the cities, on advertising pillars, billboards or street lamps. In this way, they have drawn attention to the artworks and the platform itself everywhere.
In addition, the team also offers its listed artists tools to market their own virtual gallery. For example, the creatives themselves can generate discount codes as part of a Printler community campaign or their own campaign and share them in their community. Or they can use image walls to place their own motifs in “real” spaces – and share these views with their followers. And of course, it is possible to share links to the personal online gallery directly on the most popular social media channels. In the end, this again creates a marketing ping-pong from which not only the platform but also the individual artist can benefit.
When is art Printler art?
By the way: When it comes to the question of which works can be offered via Printler, the Printler team is very liberal. After all, as we all know, art is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, the works sent in should be able to be regarded as art in some form, says Lukas Löfgren. Every random cell phone picture of a houseplant will therefore not make it onto the Printler platform – although that is not ruled out either, since the picture can still be artistically edited. Whether a Printler work of art is a photo, a painting or a (digital) collage, however, is entirely up to the creative minds. Only certain quality criteria with regard to megapixels, color space or file size must be adhered to – after all, the motifs should be able to be scaled to four different poster sizes. In addition: uploading a motif to the Printler platform is no guarantee that it will actually appear in the company’s own gallery. “We actually still have a team that releases the individual images,” explains the marketing boss. “And this team itself also consists of art lovers, art creators or photographers.”