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Mastering the art of upselling and cross-selling

Mastering the art of upselling and cross-selling in eCommerce

This post was last updated on October 24, 2022.

The last time you shopped for a new t-shirt online, you probably saw a gallery of similar or related products suggested at checkout.

Sometimes, those suggestions may serve as a great reminder that you’re in desperate need of new socks. Other times, they may show you a new design or collection that you didn’t know existed.

Either way, one or two clicks later, you probably felt better about your order and more confident that the store knows what you like.

This is the art of upselling and cross-selling.

Upselling and cross-selling can take several forms. Let’s dig a bit deeper into what each entails.

Upselling vs. cross-selling

difference between upsell and cross-sell

Upselling is the practice of guiding a customer to an upgraded version of a product or service when he or she is about to buy. For example, a large bag of popcorn at the movie theater is priced only a dollar higher than a medium sized bag, so a movie-goer may decide to go with a large bag. Or, instead of buying toilet paper from Target, you may buy it at Costco because you feel like you’re getting a better value. Each merchant, in turn, benefits from a larger order. Both parties win.

Sometimes upselling is confused with cross-selling, but cross-selling is a different eCommerce marketing approach. While both are a form of suggestive selling, cross-selling involves suggesting complementary products to a customer to increase the overall value of the order. An example would be selling a large Coke and a packet of Jujubes with the large popcorn. Or, suggesting socks and gloves to go along with a new jacket.

Neither tactic has to be pushy or aggressive. When done right, both upselling and cross selling can improve the customer experience, increasing brand loyalty and customer retention. Studies even show that using upselling and cross-selling techniques can increase overall sales by 10% to 30%.

Benefits of upselling and cross-selling

Upselling and cross-selling are invaluable strategies for eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Their benefits include:

  • Boost AOV - By suggesting relevant products to your customers, you can increase average cart sizes and the average transaction amount per customer.

  • Increase customer LTV - Your customers should feel a greater sense of satisfaction after purchasing a better version of a product or complementary products, all without leaving your store. This could ultimately convert more buyers into repeat customers and increase their overall purchasing value with your business.

  • Generate brand advocates - One of the best ways to develop genuine brand advocates is to deliver a personalized customer experience and offer value through pricing strategies, such as upselling and cross-selling. When customers feel valued, they will become some of your best advocates.

7 ways to upsell and cross-sell in eCommerce

01. “Related products” gallery

One of the most common (and effective) ways to cross-sell is by designating space on your site to promote related items.

Spanish clothing brand Celia B, for instance, includes a “related items'' gallery at the bottom of each product page. The gallery invites buyers to “Complete Your Look” by purchasing accessories to complement their new clothes. It also makes it easy for them to add these items to their carts.

related products gallery on Celia B's product page

Similarly, Forge to Table, which sells handmade kitchen knives and cutlery, suggests similar items at checkout. This section serves as a last-minute reminder of products that a customer could use in conjunction with the kitchen tools that they already purchased.

related items banner on Forge to Table's checkout page

Wix Stores that display related items on their product pages get an average of 43% more sales transactions.

02. Bundles and multipacks

Bundles and multipacks inherently invite upsells and cross-sells by packaging two or more products together. While bundles include an assortment of products (characteristic of a cross-sell), multipacks include multiple units of the same product (characteristic of an upsell).

Both recommend a larger purchase at a higher price, but make customers feel like they’re getting a better value because the unit price of items is lower than if purchased separately from the bundle.

As an example, the Dollar Shave Club offers a variety of bundles and multipacks that translate to 6% or more in savings for their buyers. Bundles feature products from the same collection, plus fan favorites.

03. Incentives and rewards

Offering incentives, such as free shipping or loyalty points, for additional purchases can motivate customers to buy more than they initially intended.

For instance, Jule Dancewear offers five points for every dollar spent on its site. Customers can rack up points over time and unlock exclusive savings, such as 25% off your next order after earning 1,000 points or $40 off with 1,500 points.

Another popular way to increase order sizes: offer free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount. Or, throw in a free product with the purchase of a certain product or for orders over a specified amount.

04. Premium products

Showing two versions of a product side-by-side on a product page can naturally lead a customer towards a higher-priced model of an item.

This is a technique that many tech companies, like Apple, use. Apple, for one, gives a detailed side-by-side comparison of all MacBook models on its site. Customers can easily research and visualize the difference between each model. In fact, many may make a last-minute decision to buy a MacBook Pro 14” instead of a MacBook Pro 13”, given that the 14” has a much better processor, display, and other advantages that could justify its higher price tag.

Related Reading: Ethical impulse buying

In another scenario, a jewelry site may show the same pieces in various metals, highlighting the key differences between a budget-friendly version and a higher-quality variation.

05. Subscriptions

Selling subscriptions (aka auto-replenishment programs) can help you upsell a one-time purchase into a recurring order.

Your customers can enjoy the convenience of receiving products on their doorsteps each week, month, or year, all without lifting a finger. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a more consistent and predictable flow of orders.

Online beauty supply seller House of Suppliez uses a subscription model to serve its customer base of beauty artists and salon owners, who need to regularly replenish their nail supplies and stay on top of current trends. Its monthly boxes are reasonably priced and feature everything from acrylic powders to a “revolutionary nail liquid.”

House of Suppliez's subscription boxes

06. Free samples

There are a number of post-purchase strategies you can employ to encourage additional purchases from your site. Among them: throwing in free samples into a shipment to entice customers to try new products.

Make sure that any samples you provide are relevant to a customer’s purchase or known interests. Alternatively, you can follow in Sephora’s footsteps and let customers pick their own samples at checkout.

When done well, samples are a great way to surprise, delight, and cater to a customer’s unique tastes.

07. Coupons and discounts

Thank you emails, text messages, live chat, and packages all offer prime real estate for recommending new products and displaying special offers.

This strategy can boost sales by engaging customers who are experiencing a “shopper’s high.” A customer might be more inclined to buy another one of your products if they’re satisfied with their recent purchase and are presented with a coupon that needs to be used within the next 10 days (as an example).

Tips for upselling and cross-selling successfully on your site

Once you’ve decided on the right approach for upselling or cross-selling your buyers, it’s important to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and deliver an experience that they’ll remember. To that end, here are some steps you’ll want to take.

Know your buyers

Data is your best friend here. In order to upsell effectively, you have to know a lot about your target audience and their purchasing habits.

Use tools like Wix Analytics to examine the products that they consistently buy, the needs they’re looking to satisfy, and the things they’re willing to splurge on. Look for patterns based on location, time of year, demographics, and more. This information will help inform you better anticipate their future purchases.

If you notice that certain products are usually bought together or in larger quantities, try emulating this in your upselling strategy.

Observe the 25% guideline

As a general rule of thumb, an upsell should not exceed 25% of the original item’s cost.

For example, if a customer is planning to spend $100 on your eCommerce site, suggest a product that is $125 or lower. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and you may want to test this theory out yourself.

However, this guideline helps to ensure that you don’t go overboard when upselling, and annoy or scare off a buyer by proposing an option that’s out of the question.

Communicate (and quantify) the value that you’re offering

Make it easy for shoppers to see the value that you’re offering. Does that bundle or subscription box amount to 20% in savings for your buyers? Then say so versus relying on them to do the math themselves.

Give customers a clear reason to upgrade their purchase or buy complementary items. Let them know that you’re not just trying to charge them more. Rather, you’re offering value back in the form of cost savings, product quality, and/or other noteworthy benefits.

Engage your customers with live chat

Live chat is a simple website add-on that allows you to interact with shoppers at any point in the eCommerce customer journey. As with any conversational commerce technique, live chat can help you learn your customers’ preferences and thought process as they’re shopping.

Wix stores that offer live chat get 8-12X higher revenues, and those that recommend products to customers via live chat generate 71% more sales.

You can also use live chat to identify windows of opportunity to cross-sell and upsell. However, remember to keep your efforts subtle and focus first on providing the right service for your customers.

Leverage user-generated content (UGC)

UGC can further convince your buyers to pull the trigger on a purchase.

Take, for example, an Instagram photo of someone wearing a leather jacket that you sell. Aside from serving as social proof of a jacket that you might be trying to upsell another person on, it can inspire a cross-sell if, say, the same Instagram user is also wearing a hat and jewelry from your store.

A visitor may want to buy the entire outfit and wind up purchasing multiple items from your site.

Invite customer feedback

Customer case studies, testimonials, and reviews are a great way to show an objective perspective beyond your own recommendations. They’re perfect for demonstrating how actual customers have used your related product suggestions or bundles to meet their needs. By inviting customer feedback you might also find out what isn’t working, which, although disappointing, will help to inform how you curate related products or bundles in future.

Your customers are your greatest asset

At the end of the day, the best customers are your most loyal customers who keep coming back for future purchases.

Upselling and cross-selling are two powerful ways to build meaningful relationships with your customers. When done with integrity, these marketing techniques can strengthen your online store by increasing conversion rates, revenue, and brand advocacy.

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Geraldine Feehily marketing writer at Wix

Geraldine Feehily

Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce

Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.

Allison Lee eCommerce editor at Wix

Allison Lee

Editor, Wix eCommerce

Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.

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