Rotating carousels on the homepage waste precious real estate. Here are four reasons why they don’t work and four ways brands can better use that space.

While the title is obviously in jest, homepage carousels are a serious problem. Judging by the popularity of rotating banners, you’d think they were incredibly effective at boosting sales or helping visitors find something important. The problem is, that’s just not the case.

Homepage carousels are clicked by only 1% of a site’s customers

According to a recent study, static (non-rotating) homepage carousel are clicked by only 1% of a site’s customers. Of the 1% who chose to not ignore the carousel, 84% clicked the first position while the remaining four positions were clicked an average of 4% of the time. This was replicated across other sites where the carousel feature was clicked, about 2% of the time and the first position was chosen half of the time.

Carousels that automatically rotate don’t fare much better than their static counterpart. Rotating carousels averaged a higher overall use (8.8% click rate) and the first position still dominated with 40% of clicks. The second and third positions declined 18% and 11% respectively.

What explains this horrible click rate for carousel banners? Several factors are in play.

  • Banner Blindness – customers are so accustomed to the bombardment of daily advertising that they will instinctively look below the banner (often completely ignoring whatever is in the carousel).
  • Poor Readability – not all of your customers read at the same rate (or level). Slower readers may not finish the content on a automatically rotating carousel before it changes positions. International customers may also need more time reading the content.
  • It’s All Just Advertising – carousels look like advertising and when they automatically move, they look even more like advertising. While advertising works, it also annoys people and if a customer is already on your site, do you really want to risk annoying them?
  • Herd Mentality – Brands have a tendency to follow each other’s lead when it comes to digital tactics, and this is one tactic that just isn’t helping anyone anymore (add mega-navigation menus, company history, social media feeds, sponsored athletes doing cool things, and email pop-ups to the list as well).

Brands have a tendency to follow each other’s lead when it comes to digital tactics, and this is one tactic that just isn’t helping anyone anymore.

To break this trend in recycling old and unhelpful tactics, we’ve come up with four ways you can quickly make better use of the space currently occupied by your carousel (and maybe start a trend of your own).

  • Top products – know what your top products are and put it (or them) on your home page. If your customers are coming to your site and buying softball bats, have softball bats on the home page. This will save your customers time and instantly improve your sales.
  • Top content – for e-commerce sites whose customers really dive into content (or you have a product that naturally produces a ton of great content), display that top content on your homepage so your customers can quickly get the content.
  • Combination of top content and products – try different combinations of top content and top products to see which perform better. This will help you understand what is and is not working so you can do more with your precious space.
  • Current promotion for that period – this can be helpful during the holiday season or that time of year when your customers are looking for particular products you sell. Again, this requires that you actually know what your top selling products are during those promotional periods so you can accurately display the content your customers want.

While there is a bit of experimenting to see which tactic works best for your site, what is clear is the homepage carousel tactic does not work well. This Insight will not end the use of carousels on websites, but hopefully it will help you get your brand off the merry-go-round.

What would it be like if you brought homepage carousels into your retail stores? Watch this 15 second Instagram video.