“The Internet enables us to have a much broader inventory than we could ever justify with just a brick-and-mortar store.”Dan Sayers
In 2004, Dan and Merri Sayers were shopping for watercolor paper when they stumbled upon a small art supply store in Bend, Oregon. “Dan looked around and said, ‘You know, we can do this,’” Merri remembers. Back in their hometown of McMinnville a short time later, “we saw a small storefront for rent at a really good spot near an intersection, and we immediately rented it,” she adds. They named the place The Merri Artist. They started out slowly, until eventually Dan joined the business full-time. In 2006, they created their first e-commerce website for the store.
Personal service is vital to The Merri Artist, but so is being online. “Every month we hear of old art supply stores that have been in business a long time, 50 or 100 years, that are closing their doors,” says Dan. “We’ve been able to keep growing our business by taking it online.” The Merri Artist began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, from the day they launched their website. Dan remembers running their first AdWords campaign and wondering what came next—until the first online order arrived the next morning. About 70 percent of their business now comes from online shoppers, with AdWords and Google Shopping campaigns accounting for over half of their digital sales. Google Analytics helps them keep their e-commerce site effective, and Google My Business gives customers the opportunity to check out their photos and reviews.
The Merri Artist continues to grow steadily, shipping about 9,000 orders annually across the U.S. Online customers often stop by in-person if they’re visiting the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s famous wine-growing region. The shop itself is also a key element of McMinnville’s historic, 1880s downtown. “Small businesses are what make the community more interesting,” says Sally Borg, the store’s vice president. “The small businesses are the ones donating to schools, programs, auctions, and other local causes”—all of which The Merri Artist does. In addition to supporting their community, The Merri Artist strives to provide each of their customers with a great shopping experience. All of their employees are artists themselves, and are always happy to share their knowledge and insights with the people who walk through their doors. “I really appreciate being in a business that actually can have a personal impact on people's lives,” Sally says.