As an ecommerce merchant, you don’t have a salesperson or cashier there to offer shoppers products to add to their purchase, so you have to find digital ways to help customers make their orders bigger and better.
Here at Bold, we pioneered upselling on Shopify with our Bold Upsell app — which helps merchants sell more every day — so over the years we’ve seen virtually every type of upsell and cross-sell.
We're proud to share that some merchants get an ROI of 1,000% out of Bold Upsell which sounds unreal, but it's true. That's because a well-placed offer can help customers find everything they need, bringing them more value and you more revenue.
Recently, we examined dozens of power users and categorized every offer we could find into about a dozen types of upsell and cross-sell offers.
We'll list them all in this article so you can get inspired to create offers that work for your store.
The golden rule of upselling
No matter what type upsell technique you use, always ask yourself this important question: is it making the customer’s experience better? You want shoppers to feel like you’re using upsells to add value to their purchases, not trying to get more out of their pockets.
Be tactful and only offer products when you genuinely think they'll make customers happier.
As you read through these offers, keep in mind that you can combine elements of each to create something unique.
Hopefully this will help you create offers that bring a better experience to your customers and more revenue to your store.
Before we dive in, let’s get some definitions straight, chiefly, upsell vs cross-sell:
This offer gets the customer to buy something more expensive. It usually involves upgrading a shopper’s selection to a better and more valuable version of the product they just selected. Think “would you like to supersize that?”
This offer persuades customers to buy something additional. Usually something complementary to a product they already have in their cart. Think “would you like fries with that?”
This chart can help explain the difference as well.
Terms we'll use
You’ll often hear the term upsell used interchangeably to refer to both 'true' upsells with cross-sells.
To avoid confusion, this article will only use upsell to describe a ‘true’ upsell: a situation where the offered product replaces the less-valuable customer selection.
That means that in this aricle cross-sell will always describe a situation where the offer is adding something additional to the customer’s purchase.
Types of upsells offers
Remember, this is getting a customer to buy something more expensive or valuable. Here's list of all the types of ecommerce upsells we've encountered.
1. Upsell to an upgraded version of the same product
We’ve probably all experienced this before, like wanting to buy a phone and getting offered the same model but with additional memory (at an additional cost).
You could do this with socks with extra heel padding, lotion with a premium additive, water purifiers with more advanced filtration, supplements with added nutritional value — the list goes on. If you have a premium version of any of your products, why not offer them up?
For the more serious and active archer, Bulldog Archery Targets offer a PLUS series designed to be tougher and longer-lasting for powerful bows and crossbows. It’s offered as an upsell when shoppers add the standard version to their cart.
2. Upsell to an increased quantity or size
This kind of upsell offer is especially effective for consumable goods, certain kinds of apparel, or anything that runs out, wears out, or needs refilling. The idea is you offer more of the product they just added to their cart with some sort of built-in discount.
When people add one high-tech lighter to their cart, Survival Frog offers an upgrade to a pack of three. They also make the offer more appealing by throwing in a free pocket stove that hikers can use for small pots and pans.
3. Upsell to a package, kit, or bundle
For certain products, you might have the opportunity to swap out one product for a whole kit or bundle. If you’re selling something that has some sort of refillable component, an offer like this is something your customers might genuinely want and appreciate.
Even though you’re technically getting them to buy additional products, this is still an upsell because their original product would be replaced with an item made of multiple products but with its own SKU.
4. Upsell to a subscription
This is a great way to turn a one-time purchase into recurring revenue. If you sell any kind of consumable product it’s likely customers will be interested in automating orders, especially if they get a discount, since it saves the trouble of placing orders themselves every periodically.
This can work for a variety of products and subscription models, but especially if you have a product that needs to be replenished like makeup, snacks, or toiletries.
Using Bold Subscriptions, you can basically build an upsell offer right into the product page by having a subscription option in the quantity drop down. You could even set the default selection to a subscription.
Edgy water brand Liquid Death offers a subscription tot their 12-pack of sparkling water right on their product page by giving shoppers a chance to subscribe.
Don’t be afraid to give an even bigger discount the longer a customer commits to a subscription. Even though they’re paying less per item, they’ll spend more money in the long run and locking in long term income for you.
You can also make your subscription even more enticing by including exclusive perks, like members-only discounts, content, and more. There are a lot of options when it come to subscriptions.
Key: Build cross-sell and upsell offers in the shopping experience
The key is to remember that if you have a bigger or better version of a products that will bring your customers more value, you should try offering it. If they decline the offer, the original selection will be added to their cart anyway.
While most upsells can fit into the categories above, you have a lot more options with cross-sells. Remember that you can combine almost any of the offers above and below into the same shopping experience. A typical example is offering an upsell at the products page and a cross-sell at the cart page to increase order value and help customers make their purchase bigger and better.
Types of cross-sell offers
“Would you like fries with that” has become an almost iconic phrase. Cross-sells help customers get more out of their shopping experience and help merchants make more revenue.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to come up with a phrase that’s just as successful in your own industry — or at least help you make a little more money.
1. Cross-sell complementary products
So this really is the classic “would you like fries with that” example. You’re offering shoppers an additional product that (usually) helps them get more out of the primary item they’re buying. Other examples would be polish to go with a pair of boots, filters to go with a blend of coffee, or fertilizer to go with a new houseplant.
When people go to the pet store in real life they’ll probably end up buying some treats at the checkout counter. V-dog mimicked this online with a simple cross-sell.
That being said, you don’t always have to cross-sell something perfectly matched. As long as it fits with the shopping experience and is a natural or easy yes, you could offer anything you want. Sometimes the cross-sell item can be more expensive than the original product, especially if the cart total remains relatively low.
You can also trigger certain product offers based on specific conditions like cart value or what products they already in their cart.
2. Cross-sell with a buy one get one
Make your cross-sell item into BOGO (buy one get one) to give shoppers an incentive to accept the offer. You could do a buy one get for one free, get one at a percentage off, or get one at a fixed dollar amount off. Whatever you think will work for your store.
3. Cross-sell services
This is another offer we’ve all probably experienced. Who hasn’t purchased a protection plan, or been offered a personal training session after buying a gym membership?
Again, these are the kind of offers that will genuinely improve customers’ experiences with your brand while bringing you more revenue and an increase in average order value.
Here are a few different kinds of services you can cross-sell your customers.
3A. Service: Warranties
These can be especially tempting for shoppers — and profitable for you. Think of warranties like insurance. Insurance companies collect money from many customers knowing that only a few of them will actually end up making a claim. Collect warranty payments from as many customers as you can but set aside a certain percentage to cover any customers who actually end up claiming the coverage.
Customers who want to do some body sculpting get the chance to buy a two year warranty to protect their investment in DB Method’s leg resistance machine.
We usually associate warranties with more expensive products like electronics and furniture, but they can be profitable for lower-priced products too. For example, a store that sells a thousand phone cases every month could offer a warranty for an additional $5. Even if only 15% of customers accept it, it would add $750 to their monthly revenue — but it’s probably unlikely that they’ll ever have to replace $750 worth of products in a month.
3B. Service: Instructional sessions and coaching
If you’re selling equipment — like baking, crafting, fitness, or even woodworking — you could offer customers a personal lesson to give them your tips and tricks. For example, if you’re selling a pair of specialty crochet needles, why not cross-sell a lesson on how to use them?
Peloton sells a digital membership that includes a variety of cycle workouts plus other fitness classes for a monthly fee.
The best part about an offer like this is that it can be highly profitable: it’ll only cost you your time. These days it’s relatively easy to hop on a video call, so you don’t have to worry as much about organizing a platform. It could also help you build a personal connection with your customers.
3C. Service: Gift wrapping
Offering to wrap presents for you customers can be a profitable cross-sell during the holidays. When people are in a rush to buy gits, they might be willing to pay a premium to get their gifts delivered already wrapped, and it’s likely your expenses for gift wrapping would be pretty minimal.
4. Cross-sell paid options
Show customers they can get their product with some nice little extras. Car dealerships do this all the time by offering with heated seats, sun roofs, and other premium add-ons.
Proline Tailgating gives customers premium customization options for their game boards for an added cost.
To be clear, these offers are still a cross-sell and not a true upsell. This is because you’re adding an additional purchase to their order, not replacing a product with an upgraded one even though that paid option might be physically part of the product.
Typical examples include engravings and customizations to clothing — like personalized names and numbers on jerseys, or embroidery on other apparel.
It could also apply to adding a premium varnish to dresser or bluetooth for an aroma therapy device.
5. Cross-sell a Loyalty program membership
In brick and mortar store this is common cross-sell. Cashier will offer shoppers membership or store affiliated credit card as they check out. You can do this too, but with your online membership program.
Even though you might not charge for it, getting a customer to join your program can be the first step in building a long-term relationship with a customer, reducing churn and increasing LTV.
You can even offer bonus points for signing up to give customers an incentive to join. you can use Bold Loyalty Points (https://boldcommerce.com/loyalty-points) to offer a rewards program, and learn more about winning programs here.
6. Cross-sell a subscription
If you sell anything that has a refillable component, cross-selling a subscription could be great way to offer customer more value. Customers might like the convenience a teeth whitening, aroma therapy, or food and beverage subscription can bring them. It will save your customers from having to worry about ordering refills every time they run out, while also cutting their costs if you offer a subscribe and save type of program. This can also put revenue on autopilot, and save you from having to persuade customers to buy from you again.
But it doesn’t have to be a physical product. You can also cross-sell a subscription that gives subscribers members-only perks. This could include things like exclusive discounts, lower shipping rates, early access to new products, personal coaching sessions, or content like instructional videos, ebooks, and more. Peloton's app, above, is a great example, as well as Amazon Prime and its multiple benefits.
7. Cross-sell one-time items with a subscription
When people add a subscription to their cart, cross-sell them a one-time purchase they can use with their subscription product. For example, when somebody buys a protein powder subscription, offer them a shaker bottle. Giving them a subscriber only discount on these items can give them an incentive to buy, and also make them feel like they're getting more value.
There are lots of ancillary items for subscriptions that you should only need to buy on a one-time basis; if someone is willing to give you money for the subscription, give them the best possible experience by upselling them on complementary items. Other examples could be a tea infuser for a tea subscription, or an easel for a paint subscription.
8. Cross-sell free samples
While you're not actually selling anything here, you're still using the cross-sell technique to eventually help you earn more revenue or test responses to products.
This is a great way to hook people on new products or introduce them to other products they might like. For example, if you know that certain products get purchased together frequently, you could cross-sell a free sample to first-time shoppers.
You could also put free samples of new products into recommendation widgets.
This tactic can be especially effective with consumable products like food, beverages, makeup, and toiletries. You can give your loyal customers the chance to try before they buy.
Keep in mind these don’t have to be completely free, you can also give them a sample version for a dollar or a cent.
9. Cross-sell with recommendation widgets
Having related items displayed on your product pages is another way you can cross-sell. You’re probably familiar with the most well-known version of this: Amazon’s “frequently bought together” panes. They’re a great way to show customers other products they might like in a non-intrusive way.
Recommendation widgets also provide social proof. Having a product recommended as “top rated” is like having an endorsement from other customers.
You could think about using a number of different widget types, including:
- Top-Rated Products
- Related Products
- People also bought
- Most popular products
- Recently viewed products
- Recently added products
You could code these widgets yourself or with a developer, but if you’re on platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce you can use apps or plug ins to get this functionality.
Keep in mind that you’ll only see results from this method if you have a big enough inventory to show multiple products on each page.
10. Cross-sell Donations and tips
If you’re supporting any causes, using cross-sells could be an excellent way to collect donations. Just make sure you’re following any regulations around donations in your country or region.
Everything The Shop Forward sells already goes toward supporting various causes, but they also cross-sell donations to give their customers the option to help out a little bit more with their purchase.
Give people an incentive to donate by offering them a little gift in exchange for their charity. Products like tote bags, stickers, badges, or posters can be a low-cost way to show customers your appreciation. You could also take it even further and send an update package about whatever cause the donor is supporting, like World Vision and WWF do.
Learn how to make more money with upselling
Bottom line is that there is an upsell or cross-sell offer that can work to help you increase your bottom line. A simple upsell or cross-sell offer can really work wonders for your bottom line, while improving customer experiences.
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