Tattooing is by necessity an in-person business. With the pandemic, Steven Anderson and Carrie Olson knew 920 Tattoo Company would take a hit. Because of health and safety regulations they are required to follow every day, they already had a good idea of what steps they could take to physically mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. But those changes wouldn’t be cheap, and with fewer customers walking through the door of their Oshkosh studio, they needed to get up to speed on ecommerce, fast.
Selling outside the lines
Like many businesses, 920 Tattoo turned to ecommerce. Although they couldn’t sell tattoos online, they were able to sell original art and body jewelry. Unfortunately, their website was designed to show off their work, not sell it, so its ecommerce functionality was limited. They were active on social media, and used online appointment booking software, but that was all to bring people into the studio.
Steven and Carrie started looking for an ecommerce platform that would be easy for customers to use and didn’t require a lot of website expertise from them to manage behind the scenes. With so many to choose from, they looked to other artists for recommendations. The platform they ended up choosing was designed specifically for artists and let them customize the look of their online store.
Their online store now features original art from Steven and Carrie, along with custom-designed merchandise and unique body jewelry. The third member of their team, Molly Moon, has become the studio’s product photographer, helping the jewelry they sell stand out in their online store and in targeted social media ads.
Taking the lead on health and safety
As they were renovating their website, they also got busy upgrading their HVAC system and separating their larger work area into smaller rooms. Each room now has its own handwashing sink and is sterilized between client visits with a UV light sanitizer.
The biggest change affecting customers was Steven and Carrie’s decision to close the studio to walk-ins. By switching to an appointment-only schedule and online consultations, they can keep the number of people in the studio to a minimum.
Before COVID-19, they had already been sourcing PPE through four different distributors. With the pandemic, quality PPE became harder to find and more expensive to purchase, so Carrie spent much of her time calling around to find other sources.
Because they offer a service that requires long periods of close contact between artist and client, Steven and Carrie believe the tattoo industry should be a leader in developing best practices to limit the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
“If we are going to continue to offer our services, it must be as ethically, responsibly and safely as possible,” Steven says. “We’re doing this to keep ourselves safe, too.”
Facing changes with confidence
“We’ve learned we shouldn’t be afraid of change,” Carrie says. Many of the changes they’ve made to their business, like appointment-only scheduling, were changes they’d considered before the pandemic. COVID-19 forced them to make those changes, and they’re glad they did.
Because they no longer accepting walk-in appointments, they’ve cut store traffic by almost half. But their fear of losing customers to shops with less strict safety requirements never materialized, even with an increase in their hourly rates. Steven says that financially, the studio is in as good a position as ever, getting far more inquires than they can accommodate.
“We have our safety requirements, and we stick to them. That’s what customers have come to expect,” Steven says. “This is just us doing us.”
That “us doing us” mentality has also helped with online sales. Their art is original and the jewelry they sell is high quality, not mass-market, so customers know they can find something unique. Steven thinks that’s why 920 Tattoo has attracted new sales from as far away as California, despite minimal advertising focused mainly on their existing audiences.