Cross-selling and upselling to increase your e-commerce store’s sales

Fani Sánchez

Written by Fani Sánchez

There are tons of marketing techniques we can use in our online store to increase our sales. In this particular post we are going to talk about cross-selling and upselling, two traditional marketing techniques that we can use just as well for e-commerce purposes, promising to greatly improve our conversion rate.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is a marketing technique focussed on persuading our customers to acquire complementary products to the one they’ve already purchased o intend to purchase.

This technique can be used both online and offline. For example, if I want to buy a laptop online, the store where I’m buying it might suggest that I also purchase a backpack to carry it around more comfortably, a laptop sleeve to protect it, or a USB mouse. As you can see, these are products that are frequently purchased together, to complement the main one. For that reason, cross-selling is one of the most successful marketing techniques, boasting the highest conversion rate.

What is cross-selling and up-selling

What is upselling?

Upselling is a marketing technique focussed on multiplying sales. The seller will suggest alternative products to the ones you’re purchasing (more expensive or of better quality), as well as complementary and/or similar products to the one you’re interested in, aiming to convince you to buy them all, or that you choose the one with the highest price tag.

In a similar manner to cross-selling, this technique is also suitable for both online and offline scenarios. Following the previous example, one way to upsell a laptop to a customer would be to suggest buying the same model, but with better features (a hard drive with larger storage capacity, better RAM, or a more powerful processor), for more money. Upselling also is:

  • Suggesting customers who bought the first volume of a book series to buy the second and the third one, and offering a small discount (or not) for bulk purchase.
  • Suggesting to buy two of the same product for just a few more euros.
  • Suggesting a 3 for the price of 2 type of offer (3×2).

Using cross-selling and upselling on your online store

These marketing techniques are widely used at your local supermarket, large department stores, and without you even realising it, at many small retail stores on a daily basis. Why not use them on your online store as well? There are many different ways to do this: you can include these modules in several sections of your website, and you can even combine the use of both techniques, as most e-commerce businesses do.

Cross-selling and upselling on a product page

The usual way to present these marketing techniques is through various modules on a product page. Besides pictures, description, perhaps some comments and other relevant information, if an online store also wants you to purchase other products, it will display them through a separate module, the name of which can vary, but will be always something similar to:

  • “Related products”
  • “Recommended products”
  • “Other customers also purchased:”
  • “You might be interested in:”

cross selling and up selling on a product page

Cross-selling and upselling after adding products to your basket

Certain online stores also display a pop-up window with related products when you add an item to your basket. It’s a way of giving them more prominence than when located below the product information. It’s also a good way to complete the notification that a product has been successfully added, making the ‘related products’ module appear less intrusive.

For example, after adding a laptop to my basket, debenhams.com suggests some other products that I might be interested in…

Cross selling and up selling when adding an item to the basket

decathlon.co.uk also offers me some suggestions after adding an item to my basket:

cross and up pop-ups on decathlon

Cross-selling and upselling in your shopping basket

Suggesting customers to buy complementary or alternative products once they are browsing their basket summary before checkout is a very wise decision. It is the perfect moment, when they are ready to pay, credit card in hand. Making them think twice about purchasing an additional product may prove to be very effective.

Cross selling at the check out

Cross-selling and upselling on a mobile app

Some online stores with mobile apps, for instance, Amazon, use these techniques by way of sending notifications to their users’ mobile devices, suggesting items that are similar, complementary or that other customers bought together with the same product that you’ve just placed in your basket.

E-commerce platforms including these modules

There are several ways to implement these marketing techniques in your online store.

Custom development

If you’re going to pay for a custom-developed store, we recommend you to include this feature to the document listing functionalities you want your store to have. It will mean facing an additional cost in your final budget, which may vary depending on the firm you hire, but it will definitely be worth it.

Prestashop and Magento modules

Platforms such as Prestashop or Magento also provide modules with these features, though usually they are not free. Some examples:

Woocommerce extension for WordPress

WooCommerce is the e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It’s free, but it’s not available for any theme, so if you choose to use this CMS, you will have to know which theme you’ll need in advance, before putting your website together.

Cross-selling and upselling with e-mail marketing

These marketing techniques can be applied beyond the context of an online store, too. E-mail marketing, in particular, is a powerful tool for any technique, and cross-sellling/upselling aren’t an exception. I’m sure you’ve received this sort of e-mail more than once, and didn’t even realise it at the time.

Cross selling and upselling via e-mail
Based on your recent activity…

They are especially frequent after leaving a website with one or several items in your basket. There are many reasons a user might do this. Maybe they found the same product cheaper at a different store, they thought the sign up or payment process was too long and/or confusing, or they just added the item to their basket to see the shipping costs. Besides clarifying and solving the causes for this behaviour, if your online store can retain the data on why a user never completed their purchase, you will be able to use this information to send them an e-mail to remind them that they left some products in their basket, and to encourage finishing their purchase with a special discount or an offer. Given the subject of this post, though, it would also be the perfect occasion to offer them to buy the product they are interested in with other complementary ones or to suggest a better alternative to their choice.

Things to avoid with cross-selling and upselling

As with any marketing tool, when used incorrectly, this technique can provoke rejection in our potential customers, who will run as far as possible from our website, to never return. Misleading advertising or deceitful practices are to be avoided at all cost. Here is a list of a few examples of what NOT to do.

  • Don’t chase your customers with the same product over and over again if they hadn’t shown an interest the first time around. Doing this is entirely counterproductive.
  • Suggest products that are relevant to their purchase, not random items that are the most convenient to you in terms of their profitability or stock abundance.
  • Never sell products that aren’t 100% functional and need a complementary product to work. Users will feel deceived (and in fact, it is exactly what you are doing).

Make sure to give these marketing techniques a try and boost your online store’s sales!

Fani Sánchez
Autor: Fani Sánchez

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