#John #Smiroldo #Antiques #Arts #Weekly
John Smiroldo, chief executive officer and owner of Incollect magazine (formally Antiques & Fine Art magazine) and its parent company the design, art and antiques platform Incollect.com, is bringing Twenty-First Century technology to antiques shows with his new app, Show-Off. After an initial launch at the Antiques in Manchester show this past August, he is ready to make Show-Off not only a handy buying and selling tool for dealers and collectors but also a new industry standard for how we look at and interact with antiques shows digitally. After hearing the buzz from Manchester all the way in Newtown, we caught up with Smiroldo for a few details before we tried it out ourselves.
Tell me about Incollect’s newest venture — what is it and what does it do?
We’ve created an app that lets show promoters offer their exhibitors the ability to put their entire show booth online in less than 30 minutes…there is nothing else like it. The app, which is called Show-Off, allows dealers to quickly take photos of objects in their booth and post them online in a digital “booth” that is viewable on Incollect during and after the show. Show-Off provides a virtual experience that replicates the live show, allowing potential buyers to view a show dealer’s booth, browse their offerings and experience a show’s sense of urgency in making purchases. Once dealers download the app to their phone or tablet, they can shoot individual objects, details, vignettes, information tags, record an audio clip describing the item, and easily post to their online booth. They can post up to 12 images per item. Some dealers take a photo of their entire wall or an entire case of small objects, some add audio, some shoot descriptions. It’s extremely quick, flexible and easy to use. Viewing the online show is easy as there is no need to download the app. Incollect, show organizers and exhibitors can each market the online Show-Off version to a significantly larger geographical audience generating more sales from an existing show.
Buyers can go to Incollect’s website and find a dealer’s show booth there. Can they buy from the website?
Yes and no. They can see the photos and contact the dealer directly through email or phone. We don’t get in the middle of the communication or transaction between the buyer and seller. Incollect is the tech and marketing platform, we’re not an e-commerce site, so we don’t charge commission on sales like other sites. All monies go directly to the dealer.
Have you tried this out yet?
Yes! We launched at Antiques in Manchester, Karen DiSaia’s show in New Hampshire in early August. Karen loved Show-Off and understood its potential, so she was extremely supportive. It worked flawlessly but we’re refining it to be even better. We’re making some minor changes to the process so it’s more intuitive to users. My colleagues and I spent a lot of time at the show working individually with dealers to make sure they were comfortable using it themselves while getting some valuable feedback. Both the dealers and the collectors loved seeing the show booths online and many sales occurred as a direct result of Show-Off, so it really works!
How long does it take on your end to put the show online?
We provide every participating dealer with an online booth prior to set up at the actual show. Using the Show-Off app, dealers shoot and upload their booths and all we do is open access to the show whenever the show organizer chooses. We don’t dictate when the show goes live or when it ends, it’s all up to the show organizer.
What was the response to it like?
It was overwhelmingly positive. We did two email blasts and had more than 11,000 unique views of the show. Karen DiSaia, the show organizer, also promoted the online version of the show heavily through social media, email, signage and flyers at the physical show in New Hampshire. Many participating dealers also posted on social media and sent emails to their clients who were not able to make it to the physical show to view it online on Incollect. We created marketing materials for Karen and the Show-Off dealers to use for both email and social media at no additional cost.
What is the cost to dealers to use the app and platform?
It’s very affordable – less than $100 per exhibitor. Dealers spend so much time and money exhibiting at shows and it’s such a shame that after a few days, the show is over, their booth is gone and so many potential buyers didn’t experience their incredible booth. With Show-Off, for less than $100, a dealer can maximize all the time and money spent on their booth and increase their reach significantly. Both the dealers and the show organizers benefit greatly. They are no longer restrained by geography. Exhibitors basically get a second show for less than $100. Show organizers love the expanded reach their show gains. This is why we created Show-Off.
Is Incollect’s show website open at the same time as the show?
For the most part, yes. For Antiques in Manchester, Karen DiSaia still wanted to reward all those people who had waited in line or came early on opening day, so we didn’t make Show-Off live until 5 pm on opening day. Those who visited the live show were able to buy before the show went live online. We kept Show-Off live for about a week after the show ended because we know from what dealers have told us that many sales, especially for more expensive pieces, take place after the show when the buyer has had time to consider.
What’s your plan for the app now that it’s up and running?
We plan to expand Show-Off this year; we want it to be the industry standard for all live shows as there is nothing else like it that can re-create the authenticity and energy of a live show online.
What’s the next event for Show-Off?
We’re going to start marketing and signing up shows to use it. Right now we’re focusing on decorative arts shows and are trying to keep it very affordable. We’re in talks now with many shows who all want to use Show-Off.
How is this different from other decorative arts and antiques websites currently online?
Show-Off is very different than your typical marketplace. Just like at a live show, it creates a sense of urgency as the material is only online for a limited time. We mirror the excitement and spontaneity of the live event. For the show promoters, it’s very simple because we take care of everything, they are essentially renting space on our platform and have no worries as regards to the setup and function of the site. And of course, it’s a wonderful additional benefit they can offer, both for their returning exhibitors and to help attract new exhibitors. For the dealers, it’s just a one-time fee of less than $100, so there are no monthly membership fees or commissions. The value proposition is exceptional.
How big a part did the pandemic play in this?
The pandemic certainly accelerated online shows. During the pandemic we launched AFAShows, hosting virtual online shows such as the Philadelphia Antiques Show when a live show was not an option. Show promoters had to keep their shows alive or cancel them, and they certainly wanted to avoid that. We came up with a quick solution. Dealers posted inventory from their own websites, so a show was simply a selection of items from each dealer’s website. It worked because there was no alternative, but it didn’t capture the immediacy and visual pleasure of being at a show. You weren’t seeing what was on the walls of the booth, it didn’t capture the dealer’s style. Show-Off is completely different as it delivers that richer experience, it’s fun, it’s time-sensitive, it’s real, it’s inexpensive, super easy to use, and generates more sales from a dealer’s existing show booth.
—Madelia Hickman Ring