For those of us old enough to remember Sears, Delia's, and L.L. Bean direct-mail catalogs, the new carousel ad format found on Facebook and Instagram may look familiar.
Built from multiple images and copy combinations, carousel ads act as mini online product catalogs. Potential shoppers scroll through them on desktop or mobile, and click to purchase when the mood strikes. (Scrolling and clicking is much quicker than tearing out and mailing the order form of a print publication.)
Although relatively new compared to mobile app install and video ads, this innovative format is seeing rapid adoption among digital marketers. My company Nanigans has observed a rapid increase in investment from its e-commerce, mobile gaming, and lead-generation customers.
Investment is on the rise because carousel link ads drive 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion and 20-30% lower cost-per-click than single-image link ads, which up until now have been online advertisers' bread and butter.
How are brands using carousel ads on Facebook and Instagram to increase revenue? Here are just a few examples.
1. Target: Buyer Personas
In the following example from Target, the omnichannel retailer is advertising its collection of organic smoothies, vitamins, and baby food to moms and moms-to-be. The combination of playful illustrations and colorful featured products produce a family-friendly vibe.
Takeaway: The buyer persona approach to advertising only works well when you are segmenting your campaigns by demographic. (In Target's case, this is most likely women ages 25-35 who have bought items for children in the past). Think about the attributes of your chosen cohort... What are they interested in, and what do they care most about?
2. IBM: Storytelling
Nothing's less personal than a computer hardware company. So, to build more of a connection with Instagram's Millennial audience, IBM's carousel ad focused on one of its IBM product managers, Leanne, and her work to improve healthcare. Note the second split-screen image, which is highly reminiscent of a newspaper centerspread ad.
Takeaway: B2B marketing has a bad reputation for being dry and unrelatable, but humans are behind every company and product. Highlight the people who make your business what it is—or better yet, turn the spotlight on your best customers (i.e., your biggest fans).
3. Verizon: Sense of Humor
Verizon offers several sizes of its data plan... but listing out the gigabyte amounts in an ad would be boring. Instead, its Facebook's carousel ads bring focus to each incrementally larger option and humorously convey the message by using man's best friend and a reference to everyone's favorite Internet pastime, cat videos.
Takeaway: If you're advertising on Facebook and Instagram, you're advertising to an Internet-savvy audience. What will make your ads resonate with people who spend a lot of time online? Take a look at popular memes and what's trending. Adapt your messaging accordingly, if it makes sense to do so.
4. GMC: Parts as a Whole
The carousel scroll experience lends itself extremely well to panorama-style images. Here, GMC shares a photo of its Sierra Denali pickup using the four available slots to showcase dashboard features. This continual canvas effect makes the Instagram advertisement a lot more engaging than a traditional magazine insert.
Takeaway: Instagram is a visually focused social network, so the bar for your ad creative is extremely high. Follow top Instagram accounts, and study up on professional photography techniques to ensure that your images are compelling enough to blend in with native posts.
5. Tieks: Seasonal Targeting
Tieks only makes designer ballet flats but that doesn't stop the company from showcasing entire outfits in a Facebook carousel ad. Here, the company offers creative suggestions for Halloween costumes based on the different colors of shoe that it offers on its website.
Takeaway: It's possible to target 1.4 billion users on Facebook, but keeping ads relevant to such a wide group of people can be difficult. If you're trying to get maximum impact with a large audience, showcasing seasonally appropriate products is a quick and easy approach.
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The versatility of the carousel ad unit has made it a favorite among digital marketers looking to display multiple features of one product or several products of a collection.