How to Upsell: 10 Great Techniques for Your Online Store

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Ecommerce is a crowded space. It’s estimated that between 12 million and 24 million ecommerce stores exist across the web* – so there’s plenty of competition!

What does that mean for your ecommerce store, though? That you need to optimize every part of your customer lifecycle in order to encourage sales and long-term loyalty.

Upselling can be a handy tool to boost conversions when handled correctly. But what is upselling, and why is it important? Moreover, how to upsell?

Below, we answer all three questions – with 10 of our top tips about how to upsell a product.

We’ll show you how to pick the right services to upsell, how to personalize your product recommendations, and how to use reviews, urgency, and email marketing to entice your customers to buy – again.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!

What Is Upselling?

Upselling is a tried and tested sales technique.

When you upsell, you try to persuade your customer to purchase a more expensive – or upgraded – version of the product or service you’re already selling them. Essentially, you’re convincing them to add more items to their basket – increasing the sale’s total value, and boosting your revenue in the process.

Ever been asked, at a fast food restaurant, if “you want fries with that?” Offered to super-size your meal, or agreed to add a milkshake to your meal for just one more dollar?

If so, you’ve been upsold to! So why is it important?

Why Upsell?

Upselling, of course, means the customer ends up spending more – meaning more revenue for you. But upselling has a wealth of benefits for your online store that go beyond simply your bottom line. These include:

  • A better customer experience: when you upsell, you’re providing customers with extra options – that they may not have previously known about – which can meet their needs in a more comprehensive way.
  • More loyal customers: by offering customers personalized product recommendations to go with their existing order, you show you’re genuinely invested in their success. This builds trust and loyalty – and ensures they’ll be recommending you to their friends!
  • Slick inventory management: by upselling items you have too many of, you can combat issues of overstocking – or focus instead on upselling the premium, high-end products in your catalog.

10 Upselling Tips and Techniques

With the “what” and “why” of upselling ticked off, let’s take a look at the “how”.

Which specific upselling tips, tricks, and techniques can you use to boost customer loyalty, improve their experience, move your stock, and – most importantly – increase your revenue?

Below are our top 10. Let’s dive in!

1. Pick the Right Products to Upsell On

Tip #1? Don’t just upsell. Upsell intelligently.

That means choosing the right products to upsell to your customer – not just any product. It means picking a product that’s either relevant to (or complements) your customer’s existing order, or is a more expensive version of the product they’re looking at. You can also think about upselling trending products to your customer – and capitalizing on what’s hot now.

Let’s go back to the fast food example. When you order a quarter pounder with cheese, you’ll be asked if you want fries – or maybe a soft drink – with your order. It’s upselling – but only with products that fit with what you’re already buying. The person behind the counter isn’t trying to “upsell” you a cookbook, or a saucepan – only something relevant to your order!

2. Use Reviews

As anyone who’s ever shopped online before will know, customer reviews are powerful things. They’re social proof – evidence that people before you have purchased the very product you’re looking at. (And that it didn’t fall apart within seconds of them taking it out of its box!)

The trick for you, as a seller? Harness the persuasive power of this customer feedback to upsell. It’s something Amazon, in particular, does well.

Amazon similar product recommendations
Amazon’s related products section places reviews front and center.

By clearly showcasing customer reviews – in the example here, you can instantly see each products’ star rating, and its number of reviewers – Amazon encourages the buyer to explore more options related to the product they’re already interested in.

Amazon customer reviews
Customer reviews are powerful social proof – proof you can build an upselling strategy around!

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3. Take a Consultative Approach (Don’t Be Pushy!)

When you upsell, you have to walk a fine line. You need to be forward enough to showcase relevant additional products – and get your customer interested in them – while never crossing into “pushy” territory.

Do that, and you’ll spook your customer. And suddenly, “upselling” will become “no selling”.

To walk the right side of that divide, make sure there are no distracting or annoying upselling pop-ups that might irritate the customer. They’ll see it, they’ll shirk it; then, they’ll skedaddle – straight onto the site of one of your competitors.

Another technique? To place any information related to upselling below the key information about the product the customer is interested in. This way, you’ll never come across as trying to place alternative products before the main one – and, in the process, will demonstrate to your customer that you’re prioritizing their needs before yours.

4. Connect the Right Products

When you upsell, connecting the right products – drawing thematic links between your catalog’s array of offerings – is vital.

Remember, upselling isn’t just about making a profit. It’s about making someone’s day better – providing your customer with a pleasant, personalized experience.

To do this, ensure you’re making the right connections between products. Selling coffee tables? Why not upsell some mugs? Selling seeds? Why not add some soil, and some plant pots, into the bargain?

Again (and unsurprisingly) this is something Amazon does well. Take the below screenshot – on the product page of a vinyl record by British band Arctic Monkeys. Amazon’s “Frequently bought together” section connects similar products – vinyl records from bands thematically similar to Arctic Monkeys, such as Lana Del Ray – and offers them in a bundle.

Meanwhile, the “Products related to this item” suggests similar products (for example a vinyl record shelf, a turntable, more records) of interest to the buyer. It’s upselling – done well!

And, if you don’t feel you have time to do all this, fear not. Many ecommerce platforms do it for you, by automatically generating related product recommendations based on which products your customers commonly buy together (or by linking your products via the similarity of their descriptions.) Go check out our list of the best ecommerce website builders to learn more!

Amazon frequently bought together
Amazon effectively upsells through offering related products, and showing which items are frequently bought together by other customers.

5. Leverage Urgency

Nothing gets us humans moving faster than a well-timed dose of urgency – so be sure to make it a key tenet of your upselling strategy.

How to upsell through leveraging urgency? Well, try adding a countdown timer to your site – offering a discount if the customer commits to a particular purchase within an (often tight!) timeframe.

Flash sale countdown timer
Countdown timers are an effective, established way of using urgency to upsell.

If an item is extremely popular, you can also highlight the number of people viewing and ordering that product in real time. Encouraging your customer to buy now – or risk missing out!

6. Offer a Deal

When it comes to upselling, there are few more effective strategies than offering your customer a deal.

This could be as simple as sending them a coupon for 10% or 20% off their next purchase after they’ve bought from your site. Or – in the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) world, it could be offering them a free trial of a more expensive plan than the one they’ve already selected.

However it looks, offering your customers a deal they can’t refuse is a surefire way to upsell – effectively!

7. Provide Free Shipping

No customer wants to pay for shipping – so offering to waive shipping fees on products you’ve upsold them can be a clever way to get the deal over the line.

Plus, it makes business – and logistical – sense. If a customer orders a pair of shoes – then you upsell them socks, shoe cleaner, and spare laces – those items can all be dispatched together.

The extra (upsold) items won’t incur any extra packing or shipping fees, saving your business money. You can then pass these savings on to the customer – increasing their loyalty and satisfaction toward your brand, and ensuring they’ll definitely be back for more.

THE ICONIC free shipping
Popular clothing provider THE ICONIC offers free shipping – an excellent upselling strategy.

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  • Learn How To Offer Free Shipping (without losing money!) in our full guide, which includes how to cover the cost and various free shipping options.

8. Use Email Marketing

Email marketing and upselling go together like cheese and wine.

Why? Because, with the right email marketing strategy, you can leverage every other tip on this list.

You can send an email to your customer, after they’ve purchased from your site, with a deal or discount tailored to their buying history and product preferences. You can leverage urgency, too, by sending your customer an email showing how low stock levels are on a product they’ve expressed an interest in.

Plus, the best part of email marketing? You can upsell – even when you’re not upselling.

By engaging your email database with regular, non-commercial content – here we mean emails designed to entertain, inform, and engage, rather than sell – you engender brand loyalty and trust. Meaning that, when your customer is ready to buy, your ecommerce store will be top of mind – and that your approach never comes across as pushy.

Want some tips about upselling via email? Check out our comprehensive guide to email marketing best practices.

9. The Power of Three

It’s one of the marketing world’s best-kept secrets. It’s used in the slogans of huge brands, including Nike and McDonald’s. It’s the rule of three – but what is it?

The rule of three is the idea that people find things that come in threes more satisfying; more persuasive; more effective; more relevant.

So have a think about how you can leverage the power of the rule of three – and make it a key part of your ecommerce store’s upselling efforts. Could that be through visually showcasing your products in rows of three? Adopting a three-word slogan? Grouping your catalog into three product categories, or providing three alternate product recommendations?

The world’s your oyster! (And for even more of the best digital marketing tips, explore our guide to just that.)

10. Personalize Recommended Products

Generally, your customers don’t mind being upsold to. The only exceptions?

When it feels pushy. When it feels irrelevant to their needs. And when it feels impersonal.

The solution? Personalize the product recommendations you’re making to your customers. Track their behavior on your site – you can do this through a tool like Brandwatch or Hotjar or, more basically, via Google Analytics – to find out which of your ecommerce site’s products and categories they’ve been interacting with.

Is there a product they viewed, or added to their cart – but didn’t buy? Have they bought from you in the past and, if so, what was it? What have customers in a similar demographic been buying?

With this information, you’ll be able to more accurately recommend products to your followers. Which means being more effective at attracting, engaging – and selling – to them, too. You can learn more about how to create a personalized shopping experience in our full guide!

How to Upsell a Product: Summary

As we’ve seen here, upselling doesn’t have to involve being pushy, or annoying your customers with incessant pop-ups and emails.

All it involves is keeping your customers’ needs at the heart of your approach – what they want, what they’re interested in – and being clever about doing it!

FAQs

Asking your customers for a review can be a tricky business – you don’t want to come across as annoying or too persistent, after all!

You can ask your customers for a review via social media, with an email, or through your website. For more key strategies, read our complete guide to how to ask your customers for reviews.

If you’re considering offering free shipping to your customers, well done! It’s a brilliant strategy for upselling to them, and is also a fantastic perk to be able to offer. (Meaning it’s ideal for boosting customer loyalty, and increasing positive perceptions of your brand.)

For a more detailed take, dive into our guide to how to offer free shipping.

Written by:
I’ve written for brands and businesses all over the world – empowering everyone from solopreneurs and micro-businesses to enterprises to some of the ecommerce industry’s best-known brands: including Yahoo!, Ecwid, and Entrepreneur. My commitment for the future is to empower my audience to make better, more effective decisions: whether that’s helping you pick the right platform to build your website with, the best hosting provider for your needs, or offering recommendations as to what – and how – to sell.

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