Halloween Edition: Escaping from Carou-hell

Halloween has just gone past. Kids and adults were dressing up, scary masks, spooky costumes - it was an ideal opportunity for a sale. Yet there was something more terrifying lurking on the classic homepage default…carousels.

Your homepage is your shopfront – would you put adverts that look like a 1200 rpm spin wash in front of your physical store? Or an advert so big that it obscures everything else from view? Not unless you’re trying to dissuade Dracula with a giant image of a stake.

“Carousels are effective at being able to tell people in Marketing/Senior Management that their latest idea is now on the homepage. They are next to useless for users and often “skipped” because they look like advertisements.” -- Peep Laja, Conversionxl.com 

Avoid Creating a Frankenstein’s Monster

Carousels are a cop-out. We want to please everyone, so we include everything. A dash of brand imagery; a splash of PR messaging; a pinch of the product; maybe even a ‘download an app' seasoning. It's a recipe for ineffectiveness and often resembles Frankenstein's Monster.

Carousels also miss the core point of your homepage – to drive a clear and consistent message to visitors. When someone lands on your site, you want them to:

  • Understand what it is that you do or sell
  • Get them to the right place as quickly as possible 

A carousel does precisely the opposite. Boggling the mind and leading to frustration.

Beware of Scarily Low Conversions

There are sites out there with, wait for it, 11 carousel images, two of which are repeated. Why? Where are the analytics on how many people made it to number 11, and then completed the desired action?

“A staggeringly low 1% of site visitors click on rotating image carousels (carousels that don’t change automatically). Additionally, 84% of those clicks are on the first slide, meaning all the remaining slides combined receive a paltry 16% of the clicks” -- Jon MacDonald, The Good Group

Image heavy, multi-message, carousel spaces are also ghoulish in other ways – they take an unnecessary amount of time and energy to update, as well as causing your pages to load exceptionally slowly. Frightfully unproductive when time is of the essence.

Visit the Ghost of a Brower’s Past

So, how do you turn this trick into a treat? Think as you would in a physical location – present something relevant, tailored, and timely. We often talk with clients about hyper-personalization, using data across every touchpoint. That's a difficult task, but the easiest place to do this for any user is your homepage.

Whether they're known or not, you can immediately display something more impactful than a Dante's Inferno of banner images. What media did they use before hitting the site? Were they looking at a specific item you want to resurface? Do they have something in a shopping bag you want them to buy? These are all valuable signals that can be reflected on your website.

Optimizely tested their personalized homepage and saw a 1.5% increase in conversions to Solutions page (a key page in their user journey) and 117% increase in conversions on ‘Test it Out’ CTA to start account creation process. 

Start Facing Your Worst Nightmares

The way to get the proverbial goodie bag of sweets is by using data to drive meaningful interaction. Look at who your audiences are. Where do they come from? What do they do? What behaviors do they exhibit before conversion? Could your homepage be tailored more towards this kind of user? Then, test and learn.

This might sound like a real nightmare but think about turning off that never-ending carousel. We worked with a client in the travel industry on this exact test, and it generated an astonishing 19% increase in users booking from the homepage. This wasn't even personalized. It just had a more directed message about what we wanted all visitors to do (in this case, searching for a hotel room).

Don’t Scare Off Your Customers

“59% of online shoppers believe that it is easier to find more interesting products on personalized online retail stores.” Neil Patel

Ultimately, you want to use that space on the homepage to talk to an individual as if you would in person – “Welcome back, here’s what we talked about last time. Is it still what you want? If not, here’s something else you might like”. 

To get there, you will need to prove that removing this ghoulish specter is the right thing. This requires data to bolster your argument, and a compelling experience you want to show to users which drives the outcome you need. This will give you a competitive advantage. People remember service in real life, so give it to them online.

Get it right, and you’ll be happy consigning the carousel into the bonfire of outdated web design history, with the ability to use data to drive meaningful, rather than terrifying digital engagements. 

That’s a trick that will treat everyone!

Patrick Milburn, managing director, Hong Kong at Mezzo Labs, contributed to this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends.