The Last Go-Round for the Homepage Carousel

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Ideas and Strategies for Real-Time Personalization
The Last Go-Round for the Homepage Carousel

September 7, 2016 by

It’s time to say goodbye to an old friend — the rotating carousel of hero or banner images at the top of your homepage or other areas on your website. You can recognize it immediately when you land on a website that has one. The content on the homepage changes every few seconds as you’re trying to read it, or you spot the tell-tale dots under the image, as in the image below.

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While these carousels are still a common web design technique used by many sites, advancements in website personalization technology (as well as the carousel’s general ineffectiveness) may eventually force this once favorite strategy toward retirement.

Content in a Carousel Often Goes Ignored

Studies have shown that users who interact with a carousel will typically click on items in the first frame, even if the content order is randomized (this is an one example of such a test), and they rarely click the arrows to move to additional items.

So as you increase the amount of content in a carousel (often to appease different internal factions clamoring for high visibility home page real estate), the chances of your visitors actually seeing something relevant decreases. For example, let’s say you have a carousel of five offers with a 5-second rotation setting. If your average homepage visit time is under 10 seconds, your typical visitor is only seeing 2 pieces of content within that carousel, assuming they haven’t already scrolled down the page.

If the goal of your carousel is to feature content that is relevant to different groups of visitors, then a carousel isn’t the most effective way to accomplish this.

The Alternative to the Carousel

Website personalization allows you to present the most relevant content or offers to each visitor. In automatically displaying something relevant, you can limit the amount of irrelevant “noise” found on your website that can distract or discourage your visitors from moving forward in the engagement process.  

Let’s explore some examples to show how it works.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (SVAM) caters to different types of customers – from season pass holders to first-time skiers, and from tour groups to families. Each of these groups has unique interests and priorities. In order to speak differently to each of these groups, SVAM implemented personalization on its homepage.

For example, it provides a different homepage image and copy for visitors that have engaged with family-related content on its site (compared to its more generic experience — see both below).

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SVAM’s generic homepage experience

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SVAM’s “family” homepage experience

After implementing personalization across its website, the high-value “family” segment realized a 38% increase in its conversion rate and a 41% lift in revenue per user.

Mendix

For a B2B example, Mendix, a leader in the application Platform-as-a-Service market, takes an account-based marketing approach, personalizing its website to be instantly relevant to key industries. For example, when someone lands on the homepage, the CTA reflects that visitor’s industry (financial services and insurance in the images below), encouraging them to learn more about Mendix’s solutions.

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Mendix’s Financial Services homepage experience

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Mendix’s Insurance homepage experience

Mendix could have implemented a carousel for this, rotating between content for financial services, insurance, etc. But instead, each visitor only sees the industry that applies to him or her. After implementing this personalization, Mendix saw a 10% lift in content downloads and saw its home page bounce rate drop by 6%.

Final Thoughts

As with anything, there are exceptions, and there may be a scenario where a carousel is the right fit for your website. However, based on the information collected on their general ineffectiveness and the powerful alternative that website personalization can provide, marketers would be wise to think long and hard about implementing carousels. At a minimum, it would be smart to test personalized options against a carousel to see which approach yields better engagement and more conversions.

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