Cross-Sell and Up-Sell to Increase Sales

Have you ever come across online shopping portals which say “frequently bought together”, “customers are also viewing” or “customers who bought this item also bought”? These strategies are called as Up-selling and cross-selling. Many companies adopt these sales strategies to increase their revenues by promoting products that you are currently viewing on their website.

Research by Forrester group said that 30% of Retail revenue is the result of up-selling & cross-selling efforts. Up-selling and cross-selling strategies can both be used in Brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Up-selling encourages a customer to purchase a more expensive model in the same product family or to make add-ons to the original model with additional features. The intent of Up-selling is to make the primary purchase more expensive with an upgrade. For example, if a customer is looking at a camera then up-sell that item with more expensive models with better features. This will add more value to the primary purchase.

Cross-selling is a technique that entices a customer to add an extra product that complements the initial purchase. For example, if a customer is looking at a camera then cross-sell that item with a lens, battery or a data card. Amazon attributes up to 35% of its revenue to cross-selling – both the “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” sections promote products related to the item that you are currently viewing on the site.


Both Up-sell and cross-sell if used effectively and on the right time can generate revenues to the company. Carrying out both these strategies effectively is an art to be mastered!

So, how can you go about doing that?

Know which is more effective: Find out what works better for your company – up-selling or cross-selling? For example say in an electronics store, the customer searches for a camera, the possibility of buying a phone is slim as he has already made up his mind to buy a camera. Here up-selling would be more beneficiary. Instead of showing the customer different range products, it would be a smart choice to show him upgraded versions of the same product he is looking at.

On the other hand, in a fashion portal- if a customer is looking for trousers, we can cross sell that purchase with a bag, shoes or top by showing relevant pictures in “complete your look” section. Find out what works best for your company.

Understanding your customers: Next crucial step would be to understand your customers. Start analyzing the database for the customer demographics and behavior data. Map out the customer journey for a better understanding on customer preferences.

Offer relevant products: You don’t want to flood your customer with irrelevant product suggestions! Once the buyer has a product in mind, they don’t really want to be distracted by something else. Suggesting products that would make their product or service better is something they can usually get on board with. Undoubtedly getting someone to upgrade their purchase will benefit you, but providing value deals to the customer is also important. This is where your customers will turn into the loyal ones.

Ratify on the following before suggesting alternate products:

  • Does the product compliment the item that the customer is buying?
  • Do they want to spend more?
  • Would the product benefit the customer?

Let’s say a customer in your Brick-and-mortar store picks up a black evening dress, you can show her similar black dresses or may be a pair of high heels or waist belt to go along with the black dress. This way the customer not only envisions her black dress look but is also enticed to buy add-on products for the complete look.

Be Reasonable:  When making your product recommendations you need to make sure they’re reasonable for the customer. For example, Coffee beans would be a reasonable recommendation for someone purchasing a coffee machine. The customer would buy a £10 coffee beans with a £200 coffee machine since it is at the right price point.

However, trying to cross sell a coffee machine to a customer who is purchasing beans isn’t reasonable. The customer with the intent of buying just coffee beans wouldn’t shell out an extra of £200. Whilst the pairings definitely are related, the suggestion is not reasonable. The right Price point should be kept in mind while giving product recommendations.

Reward Customers for added purchase: Many online portals have free shipping if your shopping cart value exceeds a certain limitation – this encourages people to buy more. For example, In Brick-and-mortar, purchases above a certain value are entitled for a free gift or if you buy 1 t-shirt you get another for $10 only. Customers get attracted to Convenience and savings.

Present it well: It is not about what you offer but also how you present it. You need to re-engineer the way you suggest additional products to customers so that he doesn’t feel pushed or forced for the purchase. With the correct product even the timing needs to be right. For example, in an online store, the customer should not be shown products to up-sell after he has paid up and made a purchase! By showing him multiple choices of the variations of the product that he just bought could lead to product cancellations and also losing of a loyal customer.

There is a lot more into cross selling and up-selling rather than just the right product. Carefully tracking of customer data along with fine tuning sales plan can help achieve effective cross-selling and up-selling initiatives that can increase your company’s revenue.