7 Super Effective Cross-Selling Strategies to Maximize Profits

Cross-selling is one of the best marketing strategies to out there.

And with ad costs creeping up every day, squeezing the most out of every transaction is vital for your business.

In this guide, we’ll deep dive into cross-selling, looking at proven strategies that’ll help you pull in more profit.

We’ll look at several real-life examples from brands so you can understand the principles of cross selling and put them into action on your own site.

Sounds good? Let's jump in.

What is Cross-Selling And Why Should You Care?

If you’ve ever been to McDonald’s, you've already experienced cross-selling techniques, even if you haven't realized it. 

Seriously, “Would you like fries with that?” is arguably the most well-known cross-sell examples in the world.

What's more, the simple upsell is estimated to account for between 15-40% of McDonald's annual revenue.

And they aren't the only ones.

Amazon attributes over 35% of its annual revenue to cross-selling initiatives.

In essence, the art of cross-selling is about offering additional complementary products that enhance your customers’ purchase - like fries to a burger.

Some other common examples of cross-selling include:

  • The guy in the phone shop offering you insurance on your new phone
  • A footwear store clerk suggesting a pair of insoles for your new shoes
  • Amazon showing you that ‘what other customers bought’ section

Cross-selling has several potent benefits for your business which we’ll look at in just a second, but before that, let’s clear up the differences between cross-selling and upselling.

📝Editor’s Note: How much can cross-selling generate for your store?

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The Differences Between Cross-Selling vs Upselling

Lots of merchants confuse cross-selling with its first cousin, upselling. But understanding the differences between cross-selling vs upselling is crucial.

Upselling differs in that it involves offering customers a more expensive version of a product or service. For example, “Would you like to go large for $1.99?” is an attempt at an upsell.

The difference between the two is subtle, but it’s essential to understand when it comes to implementing them in your store.

Remember: cross selling is about offering additional items that complement the customer's purchase (e.g. Offering Fries with a burger order).

Upselling is about offering a more expensive version of the same item (Offering an upgrade to a supersize meal from a regular meal, for example).

The Benefits of Cross-Selling

So, what exactly is the purpose of adding cross-sales to your marketing arsenal?

Here are three big reasons to care:

1. Cross-Selling Boosts Your Average Order Value

Naturally, if you’re showing additional products and add-ons to shoppers, a good chunk of them will accept your offer and buy things they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Remember, people on your site are in peak buying mode - so it doesn’t take a whole lot of persuasion to get them to spend more. 

Seriously, there’s evidence to suggest that shoppers who click on product recommendations are almost 500% more likely to add them to their carts.

With more people adding your cross-sell offers to the cart, your AOV will rise, and you’ll be making more money without increasing your costs.

2. It Helps You Maximize Profits Over the Long Term

As stated in the intro, acquisition costs seem to be creeping up each year. Therefore, squeezing the most out of each customer becomes more important.

For example, if it costs you $50 in Facebook ads to acquire a customer and your AOV is $60, you’re making $10 per sale.

Now imagine you could spend the same $50 on acquisition, but you leverage cross-selling to bump your AOV up to $70.

Over the long term, you’ve effectively just doubled your profitability. You can use this money to reinvest it into your business to fuel even more growth and outpace your competitors.

3. Effective Cross-Selling Raises Customer Satisfaction

Besides increasing revenue, cross-selling also provides an opportunity to give more value to your customers.

Think about it; by offering complementary products that enhance what your customers buy, you’re giving customers a better overall experience.

For example, would a Big Mac really be as good without the fries? I think not.

In a similar vein, a beginner guitar player mightn’t know that they need to pick up a few packs of strings, right?

See, a solid upsell can help customers discover the products they need to reach their goals.

We’ll talk more about this when we cover the best practices for upselling, but if you can create a cross-sell that delivers genuine value, your customers will be more satisfied than if you never offered it in the first place.

7 Cross-Selling Examples to Inspire Your Next Marketing Strategy

With the concept of cross-selling under our belts, let’s look at some eCommerce-specific examples to help you build your cross-selling strategy.

1. The Product Suggestion

In a physical store, shop assistants handle the bulk of the cross-selling. But online, there’s nobody there to pick out related items and offer them to customers.

That’s where product suggestions come in. One of the key advantages of eCommerce is that you can leverage browsing data to present personalized offers to customers.

Product suggestions are one of the most straightforward cross-selling techniques - you’ve probably seen them on a bunch of eCommerce sites, but let’s look at a specific example from Shoe retailer Zappos:

eCommerce cross selling

In this example, Zappos places a ‘Wear it with’ section beneath their products which encourages shoppers to complete their look.

It’s also clear that Zappos isn’t suggesting these products randomly. The suggestions are for brands closely related to Converse like Levis, Nixon, and Alternative, which I was looking at before taking the above screenshot.

These kinds of personalized cross-sells are way more effective than regular suggestions - for example, eCom giant Amazon attributes up to 30% of their sales to product recommendations.

The best part of this cross-selling approach is that it’s extremely unpushy. You’re simply saying, ‘Hey! These might also interest you!” and letting customers make up their minds.

🔑Key Takeaway: Product suggestions are one of the easiest ways to boost your AOV by up to 11% for minimal effort. Use data to offer personalized cross-sells that’ll send you margins through the roof.

🤖Best App to Implement This on Shopify: Wiser - Product Recommendations

2. The Add to Cart Opportunity

Technically the ‘Add to Cart’ cross-sell is also a product suggestion cross-sell, but it’s deployed differently, so it’s worth including.

In this cross-sell, instead of suggesting complementary products beneath the fold, you display them directly above the add-to-cart button like Casper does here:

mattress addons

This cross-sell is best used for products that are highly related or even necessary for the main product to function.

For example, it’s likely if you’re in the market for a new mattress, that you’ll need a new bed frame to go with it.

Or if you’re in the market for a new bike, it’s likely that you’d be interested in buying a new lock and lights as Veloretti offers here:

bike add-on offers

Unlike the product suggestions we saw above (trousers to go with shoes), these cross-sell offer products that directly impact the user experience and, in many cases, are important for the product to function as required.

One key thing to note here is that you don’t want to overcrowd the page - for example, this product page from Best Buy isn’t overtly bad, but there are so many cross-sell suggestions that it’s distracting.

Laptop product protection offer

The CTA is pushed beneath the fold, and the sheer amount of options creates a ‘paradox of choice’ situation where the purchasing decision becomes increasingly stressful.

🔑Key Takeaway: Remind customers not to miss essential items by placing them above the CTA. At the same time, don’t overcrowd your page with offers. This is a smart way to boost AOV and also enhance the customer’s experience with your product.

3. The Bundle Sales Technique

Grouping complementary items into an attractive package is one of the best ways to cross-sell customers to a higher-order value.

Bundling is brilliant because it reduces the number of buyer journeys that customers have to complete. Instead of researching and evaluating three different products individually, bundles make it convenient to get everything at once. 

Plus, when done right, bundles can create a higher sense of perceived value which in turn boosts conversions.

One great bundling strategy is to make your bundle cheaper than ordering the items separately to entice customers to buy.

For example, If you order a Big Mac, fries, and drink separately in McDonald’s, it’ll cost you much more than if you opt for one of their meals.

This same principle applies in eCommerce, here's a great example from GoPro:

eCommerce example from GoPro

With this bundle customers spend $100 more compared with just buying the camera alone, but for that they get a spare battery, a swivel clip, a hand grip, a memory card and a camera case too.

But you don’t have to offer a discount - especially if margins are tight. For example, Amazon simply uses the power of its algorithms to suggest appropriate product pairings.

Amazon cross selling example

Non-discounted bundles work because they save shoppers time and energy from independently researching all of the products. Plus, they work particularly well in gifting scenarios because buyers want to make sure the gift recipient gets everything they need to use the product successfully.

🔥Pro Tip: Got slow-moving stock? Think about ways you can incorporate it into a bundle to get it moving out the door faster.

🔑Key Takeaway: Bundling complimentary items into one package helps customers get the most from your product while also boosting your AOV.

4. The Pop-Up

Pop-ups have been a weapon of choice in eCommerce marketing for years now, and with good reason - they work.

According to Sumo, the average pop-up conversion rate is around 3%. However, the best pop-ups perform at a conversion rate closer to 10% - and a large part of that success comes down to timing.

The good news when it comes to cross-selling with pop-ups is that it’s much easier to convert customers who are already interested in spending money.

Shave brand Harry’s uses a cart page pop-up to temp me to ‘Round out my Harry’s experience’ by adding a bottle of their post-shave balm to my cart.

pop up selling offer by Harry's

Unfortunately, I don’t know the actual conversion rate on this pop-up, but I’d estimate it’s sky-high.

That’s because Harry’s understands three hard and fast rules for up-selling with pop-ups here:

  • The product isn’t random. This is a targeted cross-sell based on the items in my cart. Therefore it adds value to my shopping experience.
  • The timing is spot on. I haven’t been blasted with pop-ups while browsing Harry’s site. Instead, they’ve waited until I’ve shown real intent by getting to the cart page before interrupting the shopping experience.
  • It’s beautifully designed. Harry’s pop-up uses plenty of white space, short on-brand copy, an eye-catching product image, and a clear CTA to tempt me to say yes. Plus, if I don’t want the product, it’s easy to say no, which doesn’t feel spammy.

Use these principles to design your own cross sell pop ups, then sit back and watch those sweet conversions roll in.

🔑Key Takeaway: Use carefully triggered pop-ups to display your cross-sell offers to customers when they click add to cart or on the cart page.

5. The Cart Drawer Page

The cart drawer is a seriously underutilized piece of cross-selling real estate on most stores.

Think about it - when a customer adds a product to cart, they’re sticking their hand up and saying ‘I’m a qualified shopper’ - meaning they’ll be highly susceptible to your cross-sell and upsell offers.

Deodorant brand Native uses cart drawer cross-sells to encourage shoppers to add more products to the cart.

cart drawer page technique

This approach is very similar to using pop-ups because, in essence, the cart drawer is a kind of a pop-up.

What’s interesting here is that Native has already upsold me into a deodorant subscription by using a product page pop-up. 

So, rather than bombard me with another pop-up (and run the risk I’ll bounce), they’ve subtly moved this cross-sell to the cart drawer to keep the shopping experience as smooth as possible.

🔑Key Takeaway: Don’t just settle for one cross-sell tactic. Use multiple cross-selling and upselling techniques together in a non-spammy way to increase the chances shoppers will convert on your offers.

6. The Cart Page Cross-Sell

Just like the cart drawer, your cart page also represents a unique opportunity to cross-sell and upsell customers to higher cart values.

Again, people on your cart page are one-step conversion event closer to a purchase, so with a subtle cross-sell offer, you should see encouraging results.

To return to grooming brand Harry’s, here’s what their cart page looks like:

Cart page offer

Notice how they’ve neatly positioned four personalized products beneath the contents of my cart. They’ve also built a quick-view button that allows me to get the details of each suggested product.

Plus, the bold CTA makes it incredibly easy to add them to my order and see the subtotal updated in real-time.

What’s especially clever about Harry’s is that they’re using a free shipping threshold in conjunction with their cart page cross-sell to supercharge conversions.

As you can see, if I spend another £2 in the above scenario, I unlock free shipping. Such an approach makes choosing one of the £5-6 products a no-brainer for the customer while likely adding £1-3 extra profit for Harry’s too.

🔑Key Takeaway: Using free shipping thresholds in conjunction with personalized cross-sales can skyrocket your conversion rate and power up your average order value.

7. The Thank You Page Offer

We’ve covered both pre-purchase, and mid-purchase upsells so far, but post-purchase cross-selling is another beast entirely.

Specifically, thank you page cross-selling is often overlooked on ecommerce websites.

There are a couple of reasons why thank you page cross-sells rock:

  • Pretty much 100% of customers see your thank you page. Plus, customers visit the thank you page on average of 2.2 times (more impressions = more conversions)
  • Thank you page offers capitalize on the principle of consistency. This dictates that people who’ve just bought from you are more likely to do it again.
  • Thank you page cross sales don’t interrupt the buying experience or run the risk of distracting buyers before you’ve made a sale.
  • They’re super easy to set up. Your thank you page already exists; you just need a few small tweaks to put it to work.

With some of the world’s biggest ecommerce companies like Amazon making full use of "frequently bought together" offers, you have to ask why your store doesn't do the same.

🔑Key Takeaway: Thank you pages are the most underutilized landing pages in eCommerce. Transform your thank you page into a revenue-generating asset by adding personalized cross-sells and upsells that customers can’t resist.

🤖Best App For Thank You Page Upsells: ReConvert - post purchase upsell & cross sell

8. The Post-Purchase Email Cross-Sell

As a merchant, you likely already know how powerful email marketing is. However, you may not be actively using emails to promote cross-sells to customers.

One of the easiest ways to tempt customers to buy more is by sending personalized recommendations in your order confirmation email as Crate & Barrel does:

email cross selling

Just like thank you page offers, this works so well because 

  1. Almost everyone opens order confirmation emails
  2. When they do, they’re in money-spending mode.

However, don’t just limit your post-purchase cross-sells to your order confirmation email - add cross-sells to shipping emails too to increase conversions like Nike does here:

Cross selling example

In this example, it seems a bit daft to use three of your four product recommendation slots to offer another pair of shoes to a customer who just bought a pair.

So, make sure you’re using data or triggers to create dynamic and relevant cross-sell offers that your customers will actually want.

🔑Key Takeaway: Post-purchase emails are a brilliant and non-intrusive way to offer additional products that customers might have otherwise missed.

Cross-Selling Campaign Best Practices (Courtesy of McDonald’s)

Hopefully, the above cross-selling examples have sparked the inspiration to build your own campaign.

While we’ve covered a lot, there are still some best practices to know to ensure you get the best results from your efforts. 

Let’s use McDonald’s classic ‘would you like fries with that?’ to illustrate how to construct the perfect cross-sell.

1. Identify the Best Products for Cross-Selling Promotions

In other words, identify your ‘Fries.’

The best cross-sell offers are no-brainers for customers. That’s because they make the product your shopper is buying more attractive.

For example, crispy fries enhance the experience of eating a burger. In the same way, you need to distinguish which products in your store enhance each other’s offerings.

2. Price Your Product Appropriately to Increase Sales

The beauty of McDonald’s fries cross-sell is that the fries are relatively inexpensive compared to the burger. The lower price reduces the risk and mental energy required to accept the offer.

When designing cross-sells, choose a complimentary item that’s below 50% of the price of your core product. This will keep your conversion rates nice and high.

3. Avoid Overloading Your Cross-Selling Efforts

Imagine, in McDonald’s, if they asked, “Would you like fries, nuggets, a baked apple pie, a salad, a happy meal, or possibly a Mcflurry with that?”

Customers would be pretty confused, right? See, as more options stack up, the decision to accept one becomes more difficult. So keep things simple by offering only essential complimentary cross-sells.

4. Don’t Be Pushy During While Offering Complimentary Products

You’ll never hear a Mcdonald’s server say, “Wait, are you sure you don’t want fries? They’re really good, and they’re only $1 extra!”

That’s because they’re specifically trained not to. See, being too pushy or salesy has the potential to actually harm your customer relationships. 

In a similar vein, it should be easy for your customer to decline your offer and not be subsequently harassed to reconsider their decision. They didn’t ask to be cross-sold, so don’t force it.

5. Test, Test, And Test Some More

As with most things in eCommerce, success is often reserved for those who are prepared to test most. Leverage your backend analytics to gain insights into your customer’s behavior and compare how different offers perform.

By testing your cross-sell offers (the timing of the offer, what products you pair together etc.), you’ll be able to identify the most profitable cross-sell opportunities and maximize your revenue.

Wrapping Up: Effective Cross-Selling Initiatives Lead to Increased Customer Lifetime Value

Acquiring customers is becoming more and more expensive. The glory days of super-low CPMs and dirt cheap traffic are dead and gone.

In order to offset these increasing costs and maintain a healthy bottom line, increasing the number of money customers are spending in each transaction is vital.

Some quick tips before we close off:

  1. Use Cross-Selling and Upselling to increase your profit from existing customers.
  2. Emulate practices from industry giants like Amazon and Mcdonald's to skyrocket your own revenue.
  3. Avoid overloading customers with choices while cross-selling.
  4. Continue testing every sales technique to optimize your offers.

No matter if you're building a make-up brand or an electronics retailer, cross-selling is proven to boost cart values. More than that, though, cross-selling can help deliver a better customer journey by enhancing your customer’s original order.

So, if you haven’t implemented cross-selling in your store yet, now is the perfect time to start.

Now over to you - how do you ask customers if they’d ‘like fries with that?’ Have you any upselling tips for other merchants? Let us know in the comments section below!

(And if you found this guide helpful, make sure to check out some of the other content on our blog!)

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