eCommerce Upsells: The Ultimate Guide (With Examples)

eCommerce has fundamentally changed the way we buy and sell. Just a few decades ago we would never have dreamt about buying items online with digital currency. Yet, despite the complexities of modern eCommerce, some selling strategies — like upselling — haven’t changed a bit.

Upselling is a selling technique that has been leveraged by merchants and major retailers for centuries, and there’s no sign of the art of upselling going away any time soon. The only question is, how can you incorporate and automate eCommerce upselling on your website?

In this post, we'll show you what eCommerce upselling is, and how it can help you drive revenue growth. Let’s dive in.

In a hurry? Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

What is eCommerce upselling?

Let's keep it simple: upselling means getting the customer to spend more money than they had initially planned to during the sale process.

There are a few ways to do this.

For example, on your checkout page, you could offer your customer add-ons to the item they’re purchasing. So if they’re buying a subwoofer, you could offer two subwoofers at a 20% discount. Alternatively, you could offer to gift wrap the item for an additional fee. At the end of the day, it's all about increasing the average order value, baby.

Here’s an example of upselling courtesy of Amazon. As you can see, they’re offering some higher quality (and higher priced) socks to shoppers considering a large pack of socks.

Amazon upselling strategy


Upselling vs. cross-selling: What is the difference?

Upselling and cross-selling are both crucial to eCommerce sales. Using both together can lower your cost of acquiring customers (CAC), and grow your average order value.

Here is the core difference between the two:

Upselling gets customers to purchase a more expensive version of a product, while cross-selling gets them to buy related products.

Examples of cross-selling can be seen during every Amazon purchase. In fact, in 2006, Jeff Bezos revealed that 35% of Amazon’s revenue came through cross-selling.

If you wanted to buy a laptop on Amazon, you’ll find that Amazon recommends similarly prices laptops, or laptops that are popular, on the product pages you visit. Also, they’ll engage in upselling when you finally decide on a laptop, offering you screen protectors, cases, and gift wrapping.


How to upsell: 6 things to keep in mind

Upselling is effective, but if you want results it's essential you approach it the right way. The following image shows an example of upselling that uses all the techniques we're about to show you.

How Gillette upsells their products on Amazon

Gillette doubles the purchase size, keeps the premium offer subtle and relevant, upsells a product with existing success, and only provides two options. Let’s take a closer look at the techniques Gillette uses to successfully upsell its razors.

1. Keep it subtle!

You have to be realistic with your upsells and cross-sells. If you go overboard, your sales tactics might get on the nerves of your customers and leave a bad taste in their mouth. No one likes a pushy salesman.

If someone wants to buy a disposable razor, it’s okay to offer a non-disposable razor, but don’t pitch a $200 electric shaver, as the price difference is substantial. On a similar note, offering shaving cream to go along with a shaver would be a good idea, but trying to cross-sell the latest iPhone would not.

The key is keeping your upsells subtle and relevant so that your customers don’t feel like you’re trying to swindle them out of their hard-earned cash at every opportunity.

2. Upsell products that already sell well

Upselling products can be very time-consuming. It could take a while to decide which products are relevant and whether the pricing gap is narrow enough. That's why you should only upsell products that are already doing well.

You should look at your platform's metrics and sales numbers to see which products are worth upselling. You could upsell products that have had consistently high sales or products that are trending. And think about upselling items based on the time of year like suggesting heavier coats during the winter, or offering sportier watches selections during summer.

3. Don’t overwhelm customers with too many options

As Henry Ford said: "You can have your car in any color you want, as long as it's black."

Now, you don’t what to go to that extreme, but forcing your customers to choose from too many products could make them put the decision off until later, or never. Start by offering two or three upselling options, and see which number works best for your audience.

4. Upsell in receipts

Most major retailers have started sending digital receipts with shipping details, an itemized invoice, and a thank you note. But if you include only these essentials, you're missing a prime opportunity to upsell.

Many customers read these receipts because they've purchased the item and the company already interest them. Recent customers are also likely on a "purchase high" after buying, so it's a great time for you to convince them to spend more. You could, for example, include a limited-time discount coupon on a receipt to get the customer to buy before the purchase high wears off.

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5. Upsell during checkout

The checkout process is another good time to suggest related or upgraded products.

You could configure your eCommerce software to recommend products based on the value of your customer’s cart value. So, if a customer adds an expensive razor to their cart, you might show them an additional shaving mirror and a leather travel bag during the checkout process. Whereas, if they’ve only added disposal blades to their cart, you’ll only offer the mirror and other similarly priced items. This feature is supported by Core dna’s eCommerce platform.

However, as we mentioned in point one, you want to keep your recommendations subtle and in line with the value of their order.


6. Upsell items that are on special or excess

Finally, you could use upselling to move items that are either on sale or overstocked.

On the other hand, you’ll want to be cautious with this approach, as limiting products to sale items or overstocked items may negatively impact the customer experience and work against your eCommerce personalization strategy. For instance, you don’t want to be recommending your line of overstocked gloves when customers are attempting to purchase headphones.


4 upsell strategies you can use right now: Lessons from Apple marketing strategy

Bear in mind that no one knows your products and customers like you do, so the packages you put together need to fit with your business model, customer profile, and type of product/service.

Apple upsell strategies

The iPhone homepage is a good representation of solid upselling and cross-selling. However, we’ve decided to provide a few more examples of upselling and cross-selling to get you started.

1. Offer larger sizes

One of the easiest ways to entice your customers with an upsell is by offering a larger option. Bigger items give the impression of increased value and make it easier for you to justify the extra cost.

Just like how McDonald's offers upgrades, it's easy for electronics companies to upsell on size. We're not talking about coffee machines or toasters — though, by all means, attempt to upsell those too — but rather screen-based electronics like flat-screen TVs and computer monitors.

If you're selling gadgets or electronics, the easiest way for customers to visualize added value may be the size.

For example, if a customer wants to buy an 18" computer monitor, offering a 19.5" monitor for $40 more may be hard for the customer to resist. It's especially useful to suggest the offer is temporarily marked down to give the customer further incentive to buy immediately.

2. Increased performance

If you can't upsell on size, you can try a different approach - performance. Everyone wants the products they buy to perform better, so if you can promise — and deliver — increased performance, then customers will have no issue with shelling out some extra cash.

For example, if a customer wants a 4GB graphics card, upsell them to an 8GB with a limited-time discount and slightly higher price than their previous choice. Or if they're going to buy an 8GB stick of RAM, upsell them to a 16GB stick of RAM.

3. Added features

If you're selling a gadget, smartphone, external hard drive, or any similar electronics, you can also upsell with added features. Customers will pay a lot more if they feel that they're getting premium features.

Smartphones are a great example of this type of upselling. Ever since Steve Jobs released the iPhone 4S — the first to feature the Siri add-on — Pandora's box of upselling was opened and could never again be closed.

If someone wants to buy an iPhone X, why not offer an XS or XS Plus at a slightly higher price? People are less likely to care about adding in another $100 when buying a $1,000 smartphone. The steep cost of smartphones makes it easy to upsell at larger margins that you wouldn't usually be able to pull off.

4. More storage

Another way to upsell is through increased data storage. People love hoarding data whether it's pictures, videos, or apps. Your customers will have no issue spending an extra 10% or 20% if it means they can store more data on their device. Apple also upsells on storage with its MacBooks.

It’s time to leverage upselling to grow your eCommerce company

Major corporations like Amazon and Apple have been using upselling sales techniques for decades, so why aren’t you?

We have touched on a few upselling techniques in this post, but the possibilities are nearly endless. Ultimately, it's up to you to experiment with your products to find what works. After some trial and error—as well as some statistical review—you'll be able to get a sense of which upselling technique works best for your company.

If you increase your profit margins through the tactics mentioned in this article, pay it forward by sharing this article with your friends. Happy selling!

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Dennis, whose legal name happens to be just Dennis (it's quite common from where he came from), is a content and digital marketing addict.

When he's not too busy coming up with content ideas and promoting content, you can find him at 5.30am at the gym. Yeap, he's that guy.

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