E-commerce in museums: a new asset to its cultural mission

As the pandemic has accelerated the expansion of online commerce, heritage institutions are adapting to this structural change. Seized in its dialectical opposition with an essentially non-profit educational vocation, can commerce not be an asset to reinforce the public service mission of museums? Overview of issues between public policies and the requirement of sustainable development.

All economic sectors are affected: the acceleration of online commerce is upsetting our museums. Built as timeless temples outside the commercial sphere, should they keep up with this shift in consumption patterns? Many are those who, after the pandemic, embarked on dancing: the Orléans Museum of Fine Arts launched its online store in record time in 2020, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts opened its own in winter, followed by the Louvre, which even then it was represented by the Réunion des musées nationalaux – Grand Palais. Last September, the Manufacture de Sèvres entered the field of digital commerce. With 55 million euros for the 34 physical stores managed by RMN-GP in 2019, the financial stakes and the potential for e-commerce development are substantial. But do commercial web initiatives present a scientific trap to make the museum a new consumption place like any other?

A key to diversifying the audience

The creation of an online store is closely linked to the issue of cultural appropriation, to our ability to distribute art to as many people as possible. comments Sophie Barcelord, e-commerce manager at RMN-GP, whose first e-commerce attempts were pioneered in the heritage world in 1999. If part of the sales concerns our visitors who don’t want to leave the museum overwhelmed with their purchases, a whole section of our sales comes from keywords like ”children’s game”., ”produces Picasso” in search engines and therefore reaches a different audience. It is at this level that we have a role to play in reaching out to an audience that does not necessarily know us. Through digital technology, we reach audiences that (yet!) do not visit our museum stores. By developing targeted products, such as the skateboard line in partnership with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s estate, we reach, for example, the teenage audience, which is difficult to attract to the museum. ” Trade and diversification of the public, is not the only track of development.

Stay anchored in a territory

Museums should not hesitate to expand their commercial policy. On the contrary, as prescriptive institutions, they have a role to play in the necessary evolution of consumption patterns.believes Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture. They must position themselves on issues of sustainable development, eco-responsibility, short circuits, know-how, but also online consumption… “. In Strasbourg, the city’s museums have been committed for ten years to supporting the local economy, highlighting the productions of local companies on their shelves. In Chambord, the castle turned to local production with its products from the beehive, vegetable garden, vineyard… This small revolution that puts local production ahead of supply of the products offered for sale is not reserved for the French public patrimony. In Porto, the Serralves contemporary art foundation, familiar with medium and high quality products developed with contemporary artists such as Ai Weiwei, initiated a shift towards eco-responsible products with a focus on the Douro Valley. ” The museum’s shops can help to anchor the institution in its territory, to support the local economy, to be a showcase of territorial or national know-how. Also, museums cannot stay away from this general trend “, insists Emmanuel Delbouis.

Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych “Irony of a black policeman”, maple,
79x20cm.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych
Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych “In Italian”, maple,
79x20cm.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture.
Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture.
© DR.

Manufacturing of Sevres.  Marcel Derny,
Manufacturing of Sevres.
Marcel Derny, “Sitting Bear”, soft porcelain, 10.5 x 6 x 8.5 cm.
© Daniel Besikian.

Manufacture of Sevres.  Philippe Apeloig (project),
Manufacturing of Sevres.
Philippe Apeloig (design), “Apeloig small plate”, 2017, 24 carat gold,
porcelain Antoine d’Albis, d. 16.5 cm.
© Daniel Besikian.

Wine production of the National Estate of Chambord.
Wine production of the National Estate of Chambord.
© Photo Olivier Marchant/Dominio Nacional de Chambord.

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