Upsells and Cross-sells: How to effortlessly boost your e-commerce sales

Did you know that in 2006 Amazon attributed 35% of its revenues directly to upsells and cross-sells present on the merchant site?

I’m talking about the recommendations that Amazon gives you for each product you want to buy.

These innocent suggestions allowed Amazon to generate 35% of its revenue in 2006.

Sales reps have been using these sales techniques over the phone for ages …

The same questions that the innocent young saleswoman in a shoe store will always ask you before or after your purchase: “Would you also take one of our cleaning products to take care of your new shoes?” “

Or that question that every employee who works at McDonald’s asks all day long: “Do you want the extra fries?” “

In this article, you will learn how to consciously use these sales techniques on your e-commerce site.

We will first define and differentiate between upselling and cross-selling techniques. Next, I’ll give you 5 common e-commerce use cases and how to apply them to your site.

Definition of upselling

In its most basic definition, upsell is a sales technique that involves encouraging a consumer to buy more than they originally planned!

Salespeople and traders love to use this sales technique because it increases the average shopping basket, the overall value of a customer, and ultimately their income.

I fully agree that this technique might sound a bit manipulative to you defined that way, but it isn’t at all as long as you consider that upscaling (or upselling) as something that adds value. to your customer.

This added value can be presented in many forms:

  • Superior quality
  • Better comfort
  • Time-saving
  • Faster results
  • Additional protection

Do you want some examples?

Among the best known, we find the menu in all fast-food restaurants. You come initially to buy a hamburger and you leave with the menu which contains the drink and the fries also.

The menu is the perfect representation of the move upmarket. You eat more than you originally planned, but you are happy because you ate more for a few euros more (gluttony)!

Another example that often comes to mind is buying a car from your dealership.

You may have already gone to your dealership to purchase a specific model of car.

For example, the Audi A3.

And you finally leave with the Audi A4 which is a little bigger (and a little more expensive), but ultimately better meets your needs.

For the car, adding additional options (eg: leather seats, sunroof, more powerful engine, etc.) or choosing a sporty model (eg: Audi S3) would also constitute an upsell!

Warning: always keep your customer’s needs in mind. Even being the world’s best-seller, you won’t be able to sell a sports car (€ 50,000) to someone looking for an entry-level sedan (€ 25,000).

I will give you one last example of upselling before moving on to the definition of cross-sells: warranty extensions and consumer protection plans.

Apple is well known for offering extended warranties with privileged customer support for both businesses and individuals.

As an individual, you are entitled to a 2-year warranty on electronic products.

On the other hand, companies are only entitled to a one-year warranty on electronic products such as those offered by Apple.

This is why Apple offers AppleCare to offer you additional protection in the form of an extended warranty as well as privileged support in the event of a problem.

A good physical store salesperson will offer you AppleCare the moment you buy. On an e-commerce site, it’s the same principle but executed differently.

In summary, keep in mind that an upsell can be in the form of a more expensive version of the same product (e.g .: the iPhone 11 Pro with a capacity of 64 GB vs the iPhone 11 Pro with a capacity of 256 GB), an additional product to the product purchased (e.g .: an extended warranty for the iPhone), or another product comparable to the one sold, but which costs more and offers more value (e.g .: the iPhone 11 Pro Max).

No matter how you upselling, upselling is always about increasing the average shopping cart.

Also, note that upsells occur during or after the purchase process.

You can buy an extended warranty the moment you buy your iPhone because the seller convinced you, or you can buy it a week later because Apple offered it to you with an automatic email.

What is a cross-sell and what is the difference from an upsell?

Read carefully what follows because the difference between upselling and cross-selling is subtle.

While an upsell is selling a more expensive version of the original product or an additional sale that increases the value of the product purchased, cross-selling is selling a product that is complementary to the product purchased, but different.

In other words, cross-selling consists of selling different, but complementary products, while upsell focuses on moving upmarket or a more expensive version of the same product. 

A few examples would not harm to better understand the border between upselling and cross-selling.

Let’s go back to my example of fast-food restaurants.

Offering fries in addition to a hamburger is akin to a cross-sell.

The fries are a complement to the hamburger, but it is not necessarily a move upmarket.

Fries are not part of a menu and are not a bigger burger (upsell).

If I take the example of buying a car, an effective cross-sell would be a maintenance kit to allow you to maintain your car with better quality products than those found at the carwash.

For phones, cross-sells are the accessories that retailers offer you: covers, screen protectors, headphones, etc.

Even though upsell and cross-sell are 2 distinct selling techniques (although the difference is subtle), they both increase the average shopping cart, a customer’s lifetime value, and revenue.

I encourage you to put your product line on paper and see how you could fit your products together.

It’s no coincidence that Amazon and Apple (to name a few) sell so much to their customers. This is because they find additional or complementary sales opportunities for each offer.

Regarding Apple, the entire range is a real ecosystem.

The products are complementary and go well together.

They all have a “high-end” version and options to increase their value (eg: better processor, higher storage capacity, larger screen size, etc.).

How can you replicate this strategy for your business? Let’s take a few examples:

  • If you are selling clothes, what items would go well together to create a matching outfit?
  • If you sell dietary supplements (think protein powders), can you sell higher amounts or other supplements that go along with your flagship offerings?
  • If you are selling hotel rooms, can you offer the suite, extra lunch, or other additional services (eg tour guide, taxi service) through business partners?

Like any commercial offer, you will have to position your upsells and cross-sells as a solution that meets a need, while presenting the advantages and benefits for your client.

Why else would he give you more money?

4 ways to increase your e-commerce store sales with upsells and cross-sells 

Now that you know what upsells and cross-sells are, you will learn how to use these 2 selling techniques on your e-commerce site.

The ultimate goal is to make the customer experience fluid, but also to automate this sales process.

Imagine if you had to contact each new customer individually to come up with an upsell or cross-sell offer, it would take you way too long.

That’s why you need to find a way to present your upsells and cross-sells in the right place on your website at the right time.

1.Add upsells and cross-sells to your product pages 

One of the most obvious places to add upsells and cross-sells is of course the product page.

Depending on the e-commerce sites and the offers, you can position your upsell and cross-sell offers differently.

It is precisely how you will position your offer that will make the person want to add it to the basket, in addition to the product in which they were initially interested.

Take the example of a camera.

You have a camera model in mind. You search Amazon and you come across this page.

You notice that Amazon offers you different versions of the product:

  • The basic version
  • The basic version + 32 GB memory card
  • The basic version + 64 GB memory card

The casual photographer will tend to take the basic version, while a more experienced and demanded photographer will tend to take the camera with the larger memory to store more photos.

It all depends on the person and their need.

You also notice that Amazon offers complimentary offers to the camera (cross-sell), such as photo editing software and gift options.

It is not finished!

If you scroll down, Amazon will offer to compare your choice with other “similar items”.

When it comes to recommended products, a study by PredictiveIntent observes that upselling is 20 times more effective than cross-selling when you offer similar products, but at a more expensive price than what the Internet user is looking at. 

This graph shows us that more expensive products generate 4% more sales, while cross-sells (cheaper recommended products – as defined in the study) generate only 0.2% more sales. These results are counter-intuitive, but prove that some customers are more sophisticated and demanding. They are willing to pay more for a product that offers higher (perceived) value. The study also suggests adding customer reviews (in the form of ratings) just below the price of recommended products, to increase conversion rates.

2.Add upsells and cross-sells on the “cart” and payment pages

Once a person adds a product to the cart and initiates a purchase, adding more products to the cart becomes easier and easier.

That’s why when someone is getting ready to make a purchase, it’s a great time to pitch your upsell and cross-sell offers.

The good news is that you have several opportunities to position your offers  :

  • Immediately after clicking on the “add to cart” button
  • On the shopping cart page
  • On the payment page

The cart page is where you rate added products, sizes, and prices.

The payment page is the page where you add your mailing address and payment information before pressing the “confirm order” button!

3.Add upsells and cross-sells to your purchase confirmation pages

Every time we make a purchase we get a little adrenaline rush and that feeling makes us more likely to make more purchases on the same or different website.

You have surely already known that.

As an e-merchant, it is therefore a good time to offer upsell or cross-sell offers.

This is what Vistaprint does. By the time you complete a purchase, the company offers you to buy MORE business cards at an unusually low price (upsell). Only the offer is valid for 10 minutes.

It must be recognized that this is an aggressive way of offering upsells and cross-sells.

If you don’t feel comfortable offering these kinds of offers at this time, that’s okay. You can offer them in the order confirmation email as Amazon does.

4.Offer upsells and cross-sells in a post-purchase email sequence

Along the same lines, you can revive your new customers a few days (or weeks) later with additional offers, as Amazon does.

I must admit that this email seems very automated and not very human, but I really liked this email that I received from MVMT.

After I bought a watch from the online store, I received this email with the subject line “One good decision deserves another”.

Curious, I click and I see different watches scrolling for different occasions. I could very well have bought a second watch, but there wasn’t a discount or discount that made me do so.


In my opinion, this type of email becomes very effective if the proposed offer has a real utility or an important functionality for the product that I bought (eg: a protective cover for a smartphone).

Otherwise, it is better to offer a discount to encourage the person to consume a second-time product similar to the one already purchased.


Hope this article made you realize that upselling and cross-selling are powerful tools to deliver more value to your customers while increasing your profits.

Also, if your average shopping carts are higher than those of your competitors, you can pay more to acquire a new customer, which represents a significant competitive advantage.

These days, e-consumers are smart and know when you are just trying to take their money.

Everything I have told you in this article can therefore be summed up in one word: value.

The products you offer (as an upsell or cross-sell) should help your customer get what they want:

  • Faster
  • Easier
  • By taking less risk

We also talked about delivering a better customer experience with a product of a better quality or offering better comfort of use, but more expensive.

This means that you must offer relevant recommendations (about a need) and personalized (about a product already purchased).

As long as you position your upsell and cross-sell offerings as an added value to your customers, you can be sure that they will see an interest in offering them.

Categories: Digital Marketing, E-commerce, Marketing

Tags: , ,

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