What Is Cross-Selling: A Complete Guide

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Once you’ve got your ecommerce store up and running, you might start thinking about ways to boost your profits and make even more money. 

It’s important to study your customer lifecycle and identify any areas you could create an even better experience. If you want to boos conversions, then one way to generate more revenue for your online business is to start cross-selling, giving you the chance to greatly increase the revenue potential from every single customer. 

But what is cross-selling? To find out more, keep reading this guide to discover the cross-selling definition and how you can implement it within your business. 

What Is Cross-Selling?

Cross-selling is a sales and marketing tactic that encourages a customer to buy additional products or services from your online store. Online brands can utilize cross-selling to convince a buyer to purchase a relevant or supplementary product to what they are already buying. 

Cross-selling is an ideal way of boosting your revenue and increasing the spending of individual customers, with little investment needed from you. 

For example, a company may sell kitchenware to customers. When a customer is buying a set of plates, cross-selling would see the company recommend matching mugs to complement the purchase. 

The mugs aren’t what the customer intended to purchase originally, but since they complement and match the plates, it makes sense for them to buy them too. Everyone’s a winner.

Similarly, when you take out a new cell phone contract, phone salespeople will often try to cross-sell you additional add-ons that will complement your contract, such as streaming subscriptions or data roaming. 

Advice from the Experts

Top tip! If you’re struggling to decide what to sell online, be sure to look out for trending products that are likely to prove popular with your target market. 

Cross-Selling & Upselling: The Differences

Now you know the answer to your question: What is cross-selling? But you may have heard of upselling too – what’s the difference? Cross-selling and upselling are often confused as the same thing but in reality, they are two different sales tactics, and it’s worth considering both. 

While cross-selling focuses on selling customers items that complement their existing purchase, upselling refers to the idea of encouraging customers to opt for a more expensive version of what they intended to buy.

Let’s go back to our kitchenware company. A customer may be planning on purchasing a set of plain white plates for $40. Upselling would see the company encourage the customer to instead purchase a more high-quality set that costs $75. 

Or our cell phone salesperson may upsell a phone contract by recommending that the customer purchases a newer model of the phone or a phone with more storage that’s more expensive than their original choice. 

There’s nothing to stop you from cross-selling and upselling, as long as you do it with the customer in mind – don’t bombard them with extras, for example, or you’ll come across pushy and overly salesy!

Find Out More

Think you might want to learn more about How To Upsell? Our step-by-step guide walks you through our top tips for upselling. 

Why Cross-Selling Matters

Adopting a cross-selling strategy for your ecommerce business has a host of benefits including:

  • Increased customer lifetime value.
  • Increased customer satisfaction with your online business.
  • Increased overall revenue. 
  • Increased customer loyalty. 

Cross Selling Examples

When answering the question what is cross-selling, it’s helpful to look at real-life cross-selling from familiar brands. Below you’ll find two examples of ecommerce stores implementing a cross-selling strategy to encourage customers to purchase additional, relevant products.

Apple

Apple's sales page
Once you’ve added an iPhone to your basket on the Apple store, the brand will recommend additional extras for you including insurance and accessories.

When you purchase an iPhone from Apple, the brand will attempt to cross-sell you multiple items including AppleCare insurance and phone accessories such as cases, MagSafe wallets, and chargers. 

This is a great way for Apple to get relevant items, such as AppleCare or phone cases, in front of customers right at the very moment when they need to purchase them. 

Aesop

Aesop cross selling
Aesop has an “others also considered” section that allows them to recommend relevant products once a customer has viewed a product or added it to their basket.

Aesop has implemented a clever cross-selling strategy that encourages customers to purchase items in addition to the ones they originally intended to buy. 

For example, when you add a razor to your basket, the website will suggest relevant products such as shaving foam, a shaving brush, and replacement razor heads. 

This is a great way of presenting customers with products that they may not have thought about buying but that complement their existing purchase. It helps to make customers feel like they will be missing out or won’t get as good an experience if they don’t add the additional items to their basket too. 

Cross-Selling Best Practices & Tips

Cross-selling can be used as a strategy to improve the overall experience of shopping from your ecommerce store. 

Consider some of these tips when implementing cross-selling to ensure you’re enhancing a customer’s experience, not hindering it.

  • Recommend products that are essential or recommended for optimal performance of the existing product a customer is buying – for example a charging cable that customers need to charge the electronic item they’re purchasing. 
  • Bundle relevant products together and present them to users. You should be doing the cross-selling, you can’t expect users to go looking for complementary items. Good ecommerce website builders make it easy to group related products.
  • Consider offering a discount on the additional items to encourage customers to add them to their order.
  • Use phrases such as “other customers also bought” and “you might like” to create a relevant and personalized online shopping experience. Customers will be more likely to purchase the additional items if they feel personalized to them or if they can see that other people have benefited from that specific product combination. 

Find Out More

Our best practice Digital Marketing Tips, such as creating a personalized experience and staying flexible, can help you market your store online.

What Is Cross Selling: Summary

Cross-selling is a tactic that can be applied to almost every ecommerce business out there. 

Utilizing cross-selling and implementing it as a significant part of your marketing and sales strategies can lead to a major boost in revenue for your online business as well as an increase in the lifetime value of each individual customer who visits your store. 

With that in mind, all that’s left for you to do is take the tips and examples in this article and implement them within your own business, offering customers relevant additional products and add-ons every time they make a purchase. 

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, why not check out more of Website Builder Expert’s guides including our helpful email marketing guide? 

Frequently Asked Questions

No, while cross-selling and upselling are often confused as being the same thing, they are in fact two different tactics. Cross-selling refers to suggesting relevant and complementary items for customers to buy in addition to the item they were already purchasing. Upselling is where you convince a customer to purchase a more expensive, and often better quality, version of the original product. 
The best time to try to cross-sell to your customers is when they have landed on a product page or added an item to their basket. Once they have begun the purchasing process and viewed an item, you can presume they are interested in making a purchase. Once the item has been added to their cart, it’s the perfect time to present them with more relevant items before they complete the checkout process. 
There are various examples of cross-selling that you have likely come across many times. For example, when you visit a restaurant and they offer you fries with your burger, they are technically cross-selling you the fries! Or if you purchase an electronic device, such as a new cell phone, being offered additional items such as insurance and a protective case is cross-selling in action. 
Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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