Upselling is an uber-powerful strategy that can add more revenue to your store and pump-up profits.
But it’s also a little misunderstood.
The word ‘upsell’ often conjures thoughts of shady salesmen trying to coerce us into buying things we don’t want.
The thing is, upselling doesn’t have to be that way. Popular brands like Amazon and McDonald’s combine upselling techniques with their strategies every day to increase their bottom lines.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to upsell the right way.
You’ll discover simple strategies you can use to start upselling on your eCommerce store today – without your customers feeling like they’ve been jibbed.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Sounds good? Let’s jump in!
What is Upselling? Everything You Need to Know
Upselling is a sales tactic that offers potential customers an upgraded or premium version(and more expensive) of a product than the one they’ve chosen.
An upselling sales technique can also involve offering the customer add-ons (think extended warranties, premium support, etc.) to bring in more profit from each sale.
In eCommerce, upselling often goes hand-in-hand with cross-selling to boost average order value, improve the customer experience, and maximize profit.
What’s the Difference Between Upselling and Cross Selling?
Both upselling and cross-selling aim to generate more profit from each sale, and as a result, marketers often lump them together as one strategy.
But there is a distinction between the two.
To illustrate the differences, think about the last time you visited McDonald’s:
When the teller asked you, “Would you like fries with that?” – that was a cross-sell.
Cross-selling involves recommending a relevant product from another category that complements a customer’s existing purchase (fries go well with a burger, for example.)
So in your eCommerce store, if a new customer adds a pair of trainers to their cart, you could recommend a pair of running socks.
Makes sense, right?
Here’s another example from oral health brand Quip – when buying a new toothbrush, they recommend adding a ‘refresh bag‘ to go along with it;
Ok. Back to McDonald’s…
When the teller asked you, “Would you like to supersize for $1.75?” – that was an upsell, because they’re recommending a more expensive version of your current order.
In eCommerce, if a customer adds a pair of last season’s trainers to their cart, you could offer them the current season’s version for $25 more.
Here’s another example from Tesla, where they give you the option to upgrade from a dual-motor Model-S to a Tri-motor version on the product page:
See the distinction now? Awesome!
To re-cap: upselling is about offering an upgraded (and more expensive) product, while cross-selling is about offering additional items that complement the original order.
Let’s keep going.
Why is Upselling Important for eCommerce Brands?
In 2006, Amazon started upselling. At the time, the tactic made up a whopping 35% of Amazon’s sales!
So, how can something so seemingly simple have such an impact on revenue?
Well, it all comes down to psychology.
See, upsells are delivered at the moment when your customer is most likely to convert.
Think about it, shoppers have taken the time to:
- Research the product
- Discover your brand
- Peruse your site
- View your product page/ add the product to cart/checkout
In other words, they’re in peak buying-mode.
And here’s the thing: while most customers only want what they came for, some are prepared to pay more for an upgrade if you offer it to them. It’s that specific sub-section we’re after.
Plus, upsells are also uber-convenient for shoppers too – usually, all it takes to accept an offer is a single-click. Which can make it an effective customer happiness tactic, too.
So how does upselling impact your bottom line? Well, a study from PredictiveIntent found that offering a more expensive product boosted revenue by 10-30% on average for eCommerce stores that implement it.
That’s over 20 times more revenue than simply recommending ‘related products’ as most eCommerce stores do.
But if that isn’t convincing enough, there’s more…
The True Benefits of Upselling for Merchants (& Customers)
We’ve all been duped into buying something we didn’t need.
As a result, we’re suspicious of manipulative sales tactics. So, naturally, the idea of upselling can invoke a slew of negative feelings.
But upselling doesn’t have to be something shady, slimy, or dishonest. In fact, when done correctly, it can enhance your customer satisfaction significantly.
Here’s why upselling needs to be an indispensable part of your conversion strategy:
1. Upselling Helps Your Customers Succeed.
Great upsells are focused on recommending products that more accurately meet your customers’ needs.
For example, if a customer wants to make music on their laptop, there’s no point in selling them a $700 laptop if it doesn’t have the processing power they need.
Your upsell to a $900 machine will allow them to ‘win’ in the long run.
Here’s a real-life example from travel gear brand Away – notice how they’re not forcing a sale here. They’re simply allowing customers to compare options and choose the one that’s best for them (more on this tactic in a minute).
2. It’s Easier to Sell to Existing Customers than New Customers:
Ads are getting expensive.
It’s much easier and cheaper to maximize revenue from customers who already know you and trust you.
With studies showing you’ve got a 60-70% probability of selling to an existing customer (vs. 5% for new customers), upselling is a no-brainer to accelerate your growth.
3. Upselling Boosts Average Order Values:
It seems obvious, but upselling increases the average revenue generated from each sale.
A bigger AOV means you can spend more money on customer acquisition while staying profitable.
That’s a sure-fire way to get your competitors quaking in their boots.
Successful Upselling Example: How ProFlowers Turn $28 into $50 With 2 Simple Upsell Techniques
To illustrate the power of upselling techniques, here’s a quick example from ProFlowers.
Let’s suppose you log onto their homepage to order a bouquet for a friend’s birthday.
You see a bouquet called ‘Smiles & sunshine’ for $28 and click it.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that after all costs (marketing, order fulfillment, etc.), ProFlowers make a $5 profit from this sale.
On the product page, you’re presented with three upsell options.
You’re not sure if your friend has a vessel to keep the flowers, so you choose to spend $7 extra on for the upsell that includes the vase.
Let’s estimate that the vase costs ProFlowers $2, which means they’ve added another $5 profit to this sale.
You hit ‘add to cart’ and out pops the sidebar. Just then, you remember your friend works evenings, so you’re delighted to see that guaranteed morning delivery is available for $14.99.
Let’s imagine ProFlowers pays an extra $10 for expedited order delivery. This means they’ve now added another $5 to their profit margin.
At checkout, that original $28 flower bouquet you selected now comes to a total of $50. You’re happy to pay it because the upgrades are worth it to make your gift special.
Meanwhile, ProFlowers is happy to almost double your cart value. What’s more, they’ve tripled their hypothetical profit margin from $5 (10%) to $15 (30%).
And this is before we account for cross selling (look at that teddy bear), thank-you-page offers, or post-purchase email marketing.
Hopefully, this quick upselling example illustrates just how powerful upselling can be in boosting your average order value while also delivering a better experience for your customers.
Upselling Ground Rules: 5 Simple Practices to Increase Sales
Ok, so you understand why upselling & cross selling work and why they matters for your business.
Let’s get down to business and talk about best practices with upselling for today. These five key principles apply no matter what type of upselling you choose to use.
1. Don’t Be Pushy
There’s nothing worse than having an offer you don’t want repeatedly rammed down your throat.
Remember: upselling is supposed to enhance your customer experience – not detract from it.
For that reason, make it easy to say ‘no’ if the customer isn’t interested.
The goal is to make your customer feel like they snapped up a great deal, not like they’re getting squeezed. Using upselling should help you build customer relationships, not ruin them.
The satisfied customers will come back for more, while unhappy customers will likely churn.
2. Choose Closely Related & Relevant Products
Your upsell offer needs to be closely related to the product your shopper is thinking about buying.
For example, there’s no point in recommending a better pair of skis to someone who’s in the market for a snowboard.
So, limit each upsell offer to the ‘older sibling’ improved version of lower-priced counterparts. The more closely related your upsell is to the original product, the better results you’ll get.
3. Use The 25% Pricing Rule.
Customers typically have a budget in mind when shopping. That’s why offering upsells that are considerably more expensive than the product your customer is looking at doesn’t work.
When presented with a massive jump in price, most of us hesitate, choose safety and go with the cheaper product we intended to buy.
A good rule of thumb is to choose upsells that don’t increase the cart value by more than around 25%.
Hovering around a 10-25% price increase will maximize both conversions and potential revenue.
4. Limit Offers to the Transaction
Great upsells give customers something special in return for the extra cash. For best results, ensure that customers can’t claim your offer just anytime.
Because adding exclusivity and urgency to the upsell offer makes it more attractive to potential customers.
For example, if you can upgrade now and save 15% off the regular retail price, it feels like you’re missing out if you don’t accept the offer.
5. Use Customer Data to Personalize Your Upsell Pitch
Personalized upsells with relevant products will always outperform generic ones.
Accenture showed that 75% of customers are more likely to purchase if you recommend products based on their purchase history.
And that just makes sense: as humans, we’re inclined to buy the same brands and products again and again.
Take advantage of this with hyper-relevant upsell offers your shoppers can’t refuse.
6. Test, Test, Test
As with anything in eCommerce, testing is the key to optimization.
It’s rare to nail your upsell offer first time round – running A/B tests will allow you to fine tune your upsell until it’s pumping out money.
Test different aspects like:
- Where you place your upsell (product page, cart page, thank-you page etc)
- The percentage discount or incentive included
- The wording or copy you use to present your offer
- The product image used in the offer
- How your offer is laid out & more
With A/B testing always remember to change just one element at a time to avoid confounding variables in your results.
7 Time-Tested Product Upsell Strategies (With Examples)
With the ground rules in place, you’re ready to start upselling!
But first, it’s important to understand that upsells can be used at three stages of the buying process:
- Pre-purchase Upsell: These upsells take the form of product recommendations at the bottom of your category or product pages.
- Mid-Purchase Upsell: Such upsells appear via cart page pop-ups, checkout add-ons, or additional offers in abandoned cart emails.
- Post-purchase Upsell: Think about thank-you page offers and email autoresponder sequences that upsell customers after they’ve completed their purchase.
We’ve included at least one tactic for each stage below. So, let’s dive right in!
1. Side by Side Comparisons
Let’s begin with the most basic of all upsell tactics – the comparison.
The comparison upsell subtly lets customers know that there’s a more premium option available. For example, check out how Apple display their iPads side-by-side:
The goal is to highlight the additional benefits customers can enjoy if they decide to opt for the more expensive product.
If you’ve shopped on Amazon, you’ll know that they use this tactic on just about every product page:
Notice how Amazon curates a selection of products in a similar price range (refer back to the 25% rule above!).
They don’t present high-end pro cameras because that’s not a reasonable upsell.
Overall, comparisons are a brilliant way to get started upselling because they’re the opposite of pushy.
They allow customers to make up their mind about what’s right for them.
One tip for comparison-based upselling is to direct customers towards your best products by highlighting the star review rating for each product alternative.
2. Upsell into a Subscription
While upselling usually involves recommending a higher-priced version of a product, you can upsell customers by offering a cheaper product too.
How? Well, if you nudge customers to an offer where their customer lifetime value increases, like a subscription, they’ll generate more revenue for your business over time.
It’s an upsell in disguise. Check out how food-replacement company Huel offers customer’s 10% off if they sign up to have products delivered regularly:
This approach isn’t for every company, but if you’re selling replenishable products like coffee, toothbrushes, or supplements, it’s worth a shot.
You get predictable, reliable revenue, and your customers receive their products without having to think about going to the store or manually re-order them.
3. Upsell with Incentives
Incentives can be a brilliant way to get your customers to spend more cash.
If the upsell comes with things like free shipping or a bigger percentage off, then you’ll tempt more people to opt for it.
Here’s an example from subscription box Beachly. They upsell customers by giving them the option to save money by paying one year’s subscription fee in advance.
This tactic nets Beachly $340 from a single transaction instead of collecting just $99 and hoping that customers won’t cancel their subscription.
Here’s another example of incentivized up-selling from cosmetics company Art of Sport. Look at how they’re using a custom cart drawer to encourage customers to get discounted items by adding more of them to their cart.
Art of Sport also uses a free shipping threshold to encourage customers to add multiple products to their cart.
By giving higher-spending customers little perks like this, you can entice more people to checkout with bigger carts while also making them feel like they’re getting a better deal.
Other incentives you can try to boost your AOV are things like:
- Free returns
- Priority shipping & handling
- VIP support
4. Strategically Display Alternative Products
Let’s suppose you’re in the market for a new blazer. You log onto Nordstrom and pick one that catches your eye.
On the product page, something else catches your eye. On the right side of the page, you spot another jacket that looks great for $30 (300 SEK) more.
This is the virtual equivalent of a shop assistant picking out a few different pieces for you to try at slightly varying price points.
Offering variety in both price and style increases the chances of successfully upselling. However, be careful not to offer too many options.
This can lead to buyers becoming overwhelmed with choice and simply putting off their buying decision until another time.
Offering two to three upsell options is generally a safe bet to keep customers interested without bewildering them.
5. Upsell into a Bundle
Bundling is an age-old tactic that’s technically a blend of upselling and cross-selling. However, it’s worth including because it’s super-effective.
Bundling involves encouraging customers to spend more by gathering up related items and selling them as a single collection of related products.
For example, instead of offering add-ons as cross-sells, GoPro creates a ‘Hero9 Bundle’ that works out cheaper for customers than purchasing all the parts separately.
This upsell gives the customer a better product experience, saves them money, and increases your average order value – a great win for everybody involved.
6. Upsell Pre-Cart With a Pop-up
Shoppers who hit ‘add to cart’ are ripe for an upsell offer.
That’s because customers who do that are one step closer to purchasing than those on the product page. These folks are high-intent shoppers.
Take a leaf out of cosmetics brand Native’s playbook and test a pre-cart pop-up like this:
When customers add a single deodorant to their cart, they’re hit with this clever pop-up that offers them to upgrade to a pack of three.
Plus, notice how Native also utilize the subscription-based upsell outlined in step 2 to maximize their revenue and profits.
7. Upsell on the Thank-You Page
So far, we’ve discussed pre-purchase upsells. While these are awesome, post-purchase upsells are arguably even more powerful.
The reason? Customers who land on your thank-you page have already bought from you and are highly likely to do it again.
What’s more, 100% of your customers see your thank you page, making it a more valuable piece of real estate than any post-purchase email.
Add to that the fact that customers typically return to your thank you page multiple times post-purchase for shipping updates, and it’s easy to see why thank-you page upselling is key.
Data from ReConvert shows that the average Shopify store can upsell 2% of their customers and increase customer returning rate by 10% with a simple post-purchase offer.
In other words, if you’re not currently upselling on your thank-you page, you’re probably leaving money on the table with every sale you make.
The 6 Best Shopify Upsell Apps (Upsell on Auto-pilot)
Ok, right now, you’re probably thinking, “I’ve got lost of wisdom about upselling tactics…but how do I actually implement these strategies in my Shopify store?”
Thankfully, there are several excellent upsell apps to help you do this.
Not only will these apps save your buckets of time spent manually configuring each upsell, but they’ll help you deliver personalized offers based on your customer’s behavior.
Choose the apps you need based on the type of upselling you’re trying to accomplish.
Wiser is a powerful recommendation app that uses your customer’s activity history to suggest items while they browse your store.
It can also recommend products at other stages in the buyer’s journey, like on the cart page, on the thank you page, in follow up emails, and more.
Wiser is essential for good upselling because it’ll allow you to move past generic product recommendations and suggest products that your customer’s actually want to buy.
- Best Upsell App For: Personalizing Upsell offers
- Pricing: 15-day free trial and paid plans start at $9.99/mo
With a product recommendations app installed, you’re all set up to personalize your upsells. Now you just have to figure out where to place them.
For post-purchase upsells, you can’t go wrong with ReConvert.
ReConvert integrates seamlessly with Wiser to allow you to display hyper-relevant upsells and cross-sells on your thank-you page.
If you’re going to do any type of upselling, using Wiser and ReConvert is the easiest (and probably the most profitable) way to start.
- Best Upsell App For: Thank-you page upsells
- Pricing: Free up to 50 orders per month. Paid plans start at $7.99/mo.
Bold Product Upsell allows you to offer customers upsells right on the product page. It’s an easy way to start upselling customers to bigger and better orders.
It’s simple to set-up, highly customizable, and provides you with several triggers you can use to dial in your pre-purchase offer for maximum conversion.
- Best Upsell App For: Product page upsells
- Pricing: $9.99/mo for up to 200 upsells. $19.99-59.99/mo thereafter, depending on how many upsells you make.
If you want to offer pre-purchase upsells, the cart drawer is a great place to do it. Similar to the pop-up, the cart drawer is perfect for tempting customers right before they initiate checkout.
Slide Cart makes it easy to add upsells, announcements, incentives to your cart drawer thanks to its seamless integration and intuitive design.
- Best Upsell App For: Cart drawer upsells
- Pricing: Free plan available. The premium paid plan has a free trial and costs $12.99/mo.
A well-timed pop-up on the product page or cart page is another powerful delivery option for your upsell offer.
Privy lets you choose proven pop-up templates and customize them to fit your brand.
It’s also got lots of powerful triggers and targeting capabilities that’ll let you deliver the right upsell at the right time.
Plus, it’s also got email marketing capabilities that’ll allow you to market to existing customers and offer them post-purchase upsells and cross-sells too.
- Best Upsell App For: Pop-up Upsells
- Pricing: Free up to 5,000 pageviews/mo. Paid plans start at $20/mo.
Upselling doesn’t have to be a completely automated affair.
In these socially distant times, lots of consumers are missing the in-store staff interactions of years gone by.
If a customer isn’t sure about which product they should buy, providing a click-to-call widget could be just the ticket.
With EasyCall, your service team can talk them through product options and guide them towards the product that’s best suited to their needs.
- Best Upsell App For: Customer support upsells
- Pricing: Free to install. Calls from $0.02/min
Using Upsell Tactics to Improve Your Customer Experience
Upselling is one of the most underrated sales tactics in eCommerce.
Too often, it’s viewed as a dirty strategy employed by companies that are trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting customers.
But in reality, it’s nothing like that. The majority of modern customers are smart enough to know when you’re trying to fleece them.
Good upselling is about helping your customers find the products that’ll make them most successful in the long-run.
That means you need to personalize the experience and recommend products that are actually worth the extra investment.
When done right, your customer will feel like they got a great deal – and you’ll maximize revenue at the same time.
Now over to you! Have you got any product upsell strategies of your own? Do you plan to implement upselling in your store?