Almost every online shopper has experienced Amazon’s mastery of the upsell. With their endless product suggestions, “Frequently Bought Together” prompts, and bundled packages, it’s no surprise that upselling accounts for over 35% of their total revenue. Upselling doesn’t have to be reserved for huge companies with hundreds of thousands of products to push at their customers. In fact, you get upsold (or cross-sold) every time you say yes to the smiling waiter who offers you dessert at the end of your meal or to the phone company who convinces you to add additional data to your monthly plan. Upselling is about understanding and anticipating exactly what your customers will want and offering it to them at just the right moment.

All it takes to outfit your ecommerce site with effective, revenue-generating upsell offers is a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs combined with the ability to tap into those desires using automation software.

Upsells Are Testaments to Your Grasp on Your Customer’s Needs

Many businesses make the mistake of focusing all their marketing energy on generating new leads thereby neglecting their existing or repeat customers. On average, the probability of successfully selling to a new lead is 5-20%; that number triples when selling to existing customers: 60-70%. Upselling to customers who are inclined to or have recently bought from you has a huge potential for ROI — in particular ROI per customer. On top of that, a properly executed upsell can usher your customers into the next phase of the customer lifecycle: generating evangelistic supporters of your company and valuable testimonials (or social proof) for your product.

By definition, an upsell is a strategy or technique in which a company promotes a more expensive product, upgrade, or add-on in an attempt to prompt the customer to make a more profitable purchase.

Dollar Shave Club does an excellent job of upselling their monthly razor subscriptions, as they offer a $1, $6 and $9 option. The baseline, $1 product looks rather bare in comparison to the more luxurious blades offered, and the side-by-side product descriptions support this. The prices of the blades also contribute to the allure of the upsell, as they are all within a decent range of each other. A price increase from $1 to $6 is by no means a big leap. Similarly, a jump from $6 to $9 would hardly deter even the most frugal of prospects.

Dollar Shave Club has also mastered the cross-sell: an attempt to promote and add a supplemental but related product to the original purchase. In contrast to Dollar Shave Club’s “Blades” (upsell) page, their “Bundle” (cross-sell) page displays accessory products that complement the original razor. The products are intuitively related to the customer’s initial desire to purchase a razor, because they showcase products that are frequently bought together. The ingenuity doesn’t stop there: The page also displays how much money the customer potentially saves by purchasing the products bundled. Each of these factors play a role in creating an easy and time-saving buying decision for the customer.  

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Choice

The burden of choice is real. We all like having options, but flashing too many options in front of a committed prospect who is ready to purchase is a recipe for disaster. According to the famous jam study conducted by psychologist Sheena Iyengar in 2000, potential customers who sampled jam at a table that displayed 24 different jam varieties were one-tenth as likely to purchase as those who sampled the same jam at a table that only contained six varieties. The practical application of this study (from an upselling perspective) is to strategically limit the number of additional choices that you offer your customers upon check out. You already have the customers’ intent to purchase your product, so don’t deter the purchase by forcing them into a high-stress decision – they may even reconsider their original decision.

Upselling or cross-selling a product that prompts a natural and easy “yes” for the customer is key… which begs the question, “So what the heck should I be upselling?”

Guidelines for an Effective Upsell:

  1. Make it relevant.

A great upsell/cross sell product pairs well with or supplements a customer’s initial purchase. Let’s say your company sells bottled wine; an obvious auxiliary product would be something to drink the wine out of – wine glasses for instance. Relevancy in your post-purchase offer allows the customer to get the most out of your product.

Additional examples would be: a zoom lense if you’re selling cameras, technical support sessions if you’re promoting software, or a warranty if you’re selling hardware.

  1. Make it valuable.

Effective upsells highlight the benefits of the additional product, rather than showcasing the features. The image above fails to do this, giving customers no context as to how the product will improve their life.

Whereas a feature is merely a tangible component of your product or service, a benefit paints a picture of a better life. Connect your upsell to a very specific feature of the original product and extrapolate on how it will enhance the overall benefit of the product. If your company sells electric lawnmowers, an intuitive upsell would be an extra battery pack with five additional hours of power allowing you to mow your entire lawn without running out of juice.

  1. Make it a no-brainer.

As a rule of thumb, your upsell should not cost any more than 25% more than the original product and a cross-sell product should be approximately 60% cheaper than the original.

These closely related prices will help the customer make a snap decision, rather than lamenting over cost. Nasty Gal includes an enticing upsell on their order page, offering free shipping for adding an additional $7 to the shopping cart, a fraction of the intended purchase price of $68.00.  

When to Upsell

Upsells are time-sensitive! Prompting an upsell too early, for example, while the customers are initially browsing your website and adding items to their cart, can be interpreted as pushy or too aggressive. We’ve found that the sweet spot for upselling a product is either right before or right after they’ve submitted their credit card information on your order form.  

  1. On the Order Form.

Take the Nasty Gal example from above. As the customers scan their cart, they’re prompted to up their purchase by $7 to get free shipping. The customer is already primed to spend a larger amount of money, so adding a smaller amount at this point AND offering a great perceived value seems like a great deal right before they hit the “buy” button.

  1. After the purchase.

Once customers have entered their credit card and their information is cached, it’s very easy and quick to click “yes” on an upsell. By creating an upsell form or page that pops up immediately after the purchase, your customers can take advantage of your offer without having to enter their purchase information. The less effort the upsell takes on their part, the more likely the customer will participate. Check out this article to learn how to easily create an Upsell Form for your ecommerce site using ONTRAPORT.

How to Optimize Your Ecommerce Site With Revenue-Generating Upsell Offers
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How to Optimize Your Ecommerce Site With Revenue-Generating Upsell Offers
Learn to outfit your ecommerce site with effective, revenue-generating upsell and cross-sell offers with these simple strategies and guidelines.
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About Tatiana Doscher

Marketing Specialist Tatiana Doscher is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a dual B.A. in Communication and Global Studies. After working with several small and local businesses, Tatiana joined ONTRAPORT’s Marketing team. She loves running, hiking and enjoying Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches.