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How This Urban Contemporary Gallery Targets Niche Customers


The entrepreneur behind Pretty Portal, Klaus Rosskothen, is a lifelong lover of urban contemporary art. He’s been a graffiti artist, a photographer and designer, and later, started his own marketing agency crafting campaigns for global brands. When Klaus started decorating his office space in Düsseldorf, Germany, he displayed all the urban contemporary art that he’d collected over the years. In 2007, he opened his space to the public so others could appreciate the artwork, and Pretty Portal was born. His gallery is nestled in the vibrant District Three neighborhood of Düsseldorf, surrounded by quaint cafés and eclectic restaurants. A year after opening, he wanted to reach a larger market beyond his city, so Klaus then built an online store for Pretty Portal on Shopify

Over a decade later, Pretty Portal’s online gallery is still on Shopify. While many entrepreneurs cast a wide net, aiming to reach as many customers as possible, Klaus is focused on finding the urban contemporary art enthusiasts around the world. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Klaus dives into how he reaches this niche audience by optimizing his website, engaging with online communities for art fans, and networking at live events. Below we share our three favorite tips from the podcast. 

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1. Craft your website with SEO in mind

Klaus has built an online storefront where you can purchase prints and editions from artists like Various & Gould or PARVATI. But Pretty Portal’s website is also an online destination where urban contemporary art enthusiasts can learn more about the art form, discover talented artists, and stay informed about upcoming art events and gallery displays. 

Not everyone is an art collector, and not all art collectors are urban contemporary art fans. So how did Klaus find the niche set of collectors who would be interested in the art he’s curating? 

Klaus Rosskothen is wearing a gray sweater and dark black jeans outside his urban contemporary art gallery, Pretty Portal.
Klaus Rosskothen pivoted his marketing career and turned his office space into an urban contemporary art gallery called Pretty Portal, located in District Three within Düsseldorf, Germany. Shuang Esther Shan

The answer lies in search engine optimization (SEO), the process of improving your online website and webpages to garner more organic traffic through search engine results. “Search engines are important,” shares Klaus. “You need to do a good job on SEO so that people who are searching for you will find you.” 

Here are SEO tips that ecommerce entrepreneurs can use to drive traffic to their websites and ensure their webpages are surfaced in results for search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo:

  • Conduct keyword research: Use keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush and Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant high-intent keywords associated with your products. Focus on keywords that are high-volume and also have high buyer intent. Learn more about keyword research for ecommerce and how to propel your store to the top of search results. 
  • Refine your site architecture: Google and other search engines reward websites that are user-friendly and simple for visitors to navigate. Ensure your site structure is easy to use, and can scale as you grow and expand your product line. Learn more about improving your ecommerce store’s user experience
  • Focus on on-page SEO: With keyword research complete, optimize the product category pages and product pages on your ecommerce storefront. Create quality content—web pages, product pages, and blog posts—that contain relevant keywords. Focus on optimizing your URLs, alt text, title tags, meta tags, meta descriptions, file names, and product descriptions to include your most important keywords. 
  • Understand technical SEO: Technical SEO refers to under-the-hood optimization of your website to ensure it loads quickly, is easy for search engines to read, and can easily be viewed on a mobile app or tablet. Learn more technical SEO tips like submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console and optimizing your images to load quickly.
  • Remember link building: The more your web pages are linked to online, the more authoritatively they’re viewed by search engines like Google. Focus on both internal backlinking—linking a webpage on your site from another webpage on your site—and external backlinking—having a page on your site linked to from another relevant website.

While every entrepreneur will benefit from putting resources and energy into SEO, it’s especially important for business owners with a niche customer base to ensure they’re being found through search. 

?Learn How to Get Your Shopify Store Rank in Search Engines

Ranking first in search engines can get you up to 30% more daily traffic on your website—for free. Learn how to harness the power of SEO for your ecommerce store with this tutorial on the Learn With Shopify YouTube channel. 

2. Engage on the ideal social media platforms for your audience 

Rather than spending money on broad and far-reaching marketing campaigns, Pretty Portal targets urban art enthusiasts across social media to build awareness for their online art gallery. “Social media platforms are important,” says Klaus. “You don’t need a big marketing campaign for awareness, as most people wouldn’t be my customers even if they know Pretty Portal..not everyone is an art buyer,” shares Klaus. Instead, Pretty Portal focuses on reaching and engaging with the right audience on the right social media platforms. 

Collection of urban contemporary art pieces at a staircase section of Pretty Portal gallery.
No need for mass marketing campaigns. It’s all about reaching the right audience on social media and building relationships online with fellow art fans. Shuang Esther Shan

Pretty Portal’s posts on social media are detailed, akin to how Klaus runs his site. Each post includes a caption about the artist’s process behind the piece, along with themes and the meaning of the artwork. Klaus also ensures that each post includes information that collectors are searching for when he crafts each caption “People who are especially into urban art are collectors. And collectors are people who are searching for where they can find it,” says Klaus, “So I just remember when I wanted to buy the first piece of urban artwork, they didn’t find me. I had to find them.” 

Aside from targeting their ideal customer on social media, Klaus also finds specific forums where urban contemporary art collectors gather. “Being on gallery platforms, for instance, Artsy, Aspen France, or White Wall, is important,” says Klaus. 

Klaus Rosskothen stands upstairs in thePretty Portal gallery, backdropped by a wall filled with urban contemporary art pieces.
Being on forums and art collecting platforms is a crucial strategy for Klaus to find new artists to work with and grow Pretty Portal. Shuang Esther Shan

?Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Using Social Media to Find Customers 

Pretty Portal’s presence in niche online social communities is specific to the art world, but Klaus’ philosophy on growing your business through social communities is useful advice for any entrepreneur. Previous Shopify Masters gues have shared how they’ve leveraged social media to find their initial set of potential customers: 

  • Reddit: Functional gum creator, Neuro, crushed their crowdfunding goal through engaging in various Reddit groups that focused on health and nootropic supplements. 
  • Facebook Group: immi, the makers of plant-based and high protein instant ramen, built their community by engaging in niche Facebook groups and eventually building their own community of thousands of members, all before the launching. 
  • TikTok, Instagram, Youtube: For fans of satisfying slime videos, Fireflyslime creates videos on Tiktok, Instagram, and Youtube with over 500K subscribers across platforms that has helped the company grow. 
  • Kickstarter: Crowdfunding is a great way to fundraise for your business and build a community. Stonemaier Games ran eight successful crowdfunding campaigns and converted those backers into community members who regularly engage across their site and social media channels. 

3. Attend in-person events to drive traffic from offline to online 

Attending in-person events that are targeted towards individuals in your industry can be crucial when scaling your business. Klaus often attends events to find new artists and customers, going beyond online engagement and finding new customers for Pretty Portal through offline experiences. “Specific urban art shows like the Urban Art Fair Paris are super important for this scene,” says Klaus. 

An urban art piece painted onto the walls outside of Pretty Portal in the design of a wolf.
An urban art piece by ARDIF painted on the walls outside of Pretty Portal. Shuang Esther Shan 

Here are a few different ways to leverage in-person events to get more customers to your online store:

  • Introduce yourself and your business: While most people you encounter won’t be an immediate customer, someone might be a future collaborator or a fellow entrepreneur with advice. Be forthcoming with how you can help others as well.
  • Have a pitch: Have a quick, concise and ramble-free explanation of your products, what customers say about them, and why they’re worth trying.
  • Have a sign-up sheet: For trade shows and conventions, have a sign-up sheet at your booth where people can opt-in to updates with their email address. 
  • Bring discount codes: Offer event goers an exclusive discount code that’s unique to the event. This incentivizes someone to buy and can also help you track the effectiveness of off-line events.
  • Offer samples: If possible, provide samples of your products for people to try. In-person events are an opportunity for people to touch or try products that are generally limited to your online store front. 

?The In-Person Events and Opportunities That Shopify Entrepreneurs Utilize

These founders shared the key in-person events that springboarded the growth of their business on previous podcast episodes of the Shopify Masters:

  • Trade shows: Partake Foods, backed by Jay-Z and Rihanna, gained substantial retail contracts by attending trade shows that allowed their founder Denise Richards to meet buyers from national retailers. 
  • Farmer’s markets and pop-ups: XO Marshmallow handcrafts gourmet marshmallows and initially frew through farmers’ markets booths and local pop-ups. Having visitors sample their products was key to converting one-time in-person customers into repeat online shoppers. 
  • Service providers: Skincare for everywhere by Bushbalm saw significant growth in its early days when co-founder and CEO David Gaylord reached out to local spas to carry their products and sell their skincare to visitors of the service providers. 

Strategies to target a niche market is only a part of the conversation with Klaus Rosskothen. Tune into the entire episode to learn more about: 

  • How Klaus transitioned from a marketing agency to an art gallery. 
  • The intricacies of running a business with a physical storefront and online business. 
  • What qualities Klaus looks for in partnerships with various artists. 

Want to share your experience on Shopify Masters? Submit your Shopify store for consideration.

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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