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How Upselling and Cross-Selling Can Work for Your Business

Igor Cerjan
Igor Cerjan, CEO of Outsmart and Perceptiv Digital
15 Jun 2021 4 min read

There’s a big difference between defining something and doing something, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of ecommerce, digital sales, online business etc. I want to quickly and definitively shine a light on lessons learned regarding the actual execution, and successful execution at that, of the whole upsell/cross-sell phenomenon that has rapidly become a must have for online businesses.

Where did it begin?

The short answer is, it was always there. We humans have been up-selling and cross-selling for as long we’ve been trying to trade, barter, buy and sell – only now, like most things, we can do it or at least replicate it, online. Staring back through the mists of time, before computers, upsells and cross-sells were executed with varying degrees of success by merchants displaying varying degrees of skill. Through trial and error it came to be that:

o Upsells were a great way of increasing profits, purchases, market share because offering the perfectly-timed opportunity to purchase a better version of that product or service, enhanced (literal) basket size and reputation. From “ye olde category management” standpoint it also meant the purchasers had less money to spend on competitor products. A win for the ages.

o Cross-selling magically managed to achieve some of the same things for vendors throughout time: profits up, basket-size up, reputation… you get the point. The difference being that this was the opportunity that once again, if perfectly timed, could result in selling a horse, plus a saddle and you know… um… saddle polish or reins… Point being, that’s another win for the vendor – and for the buyer who can then forget about heading to the market for a while because their needs have been satisfied.

I know, “thanks for the history lesson but where are we going with this and what’s in it for me?” Okay.

That was then, this is now, let’s make up-sells and cross-sells work for you

Now more than ever, there are two words that can help you win or, conversely, hold you back when it comes to the upsell/cross-sell game. They are relevance and timing.

These critically important words take on even higher significance in the world of ecommerce (as most things do) because they are, both, concentrated and amplified online – but let’s stay on track. Those ancient people we spoke about had to learn this the hard way. That’s what separated the rich from the poor, the successful from the unsuccessful and of course, the haves and the have-nots. Some knew when to try and make more profit and they knew what to offer when they took the plunge, while others would either simply accept the single line-item purchase or bombard the shopper with multiple, nonsensical offers.

So, let’s focus on these two vital keys in isolation:

1. Timing – there are no absolutes here but as a guide, understand that putting all your eggs in one basket (i.e. the upsell pitch as the customer hits checkout should not be your only play) is risky. Showing the shopper comparable but superior products at the time of selection offers immediacy and the ability to compare and contrast before minds are made up. This also depends on the type of purchase. If the buyer is painstakingly designing a T-shirt or assessing gift ideas, finally completes the task and then, exhausted, heads for the checkout – here’s the tip (whispering) they’ve already checked out – you’re too late! Timing is everything.

2. Relevance – well timing is almost everything. Relevance is um… relevant too. This point adheres to the premise that if I’m shopping for workout gear, I’m not super-interested in offers of flatscreens, horticultural pruning implements or truck parts – not yet anyway. These offers become, at best a distraction and at worst, a brand-damaging nuisance… that I will absolutely tell 10 people about. Relevance means that the shopper should feel understood, assisted and ultimately, satisfied that this is indeed the place to shop.

3 actions that will help immediately accelerate profits using upsells/cross-sells

If you’ve heard that old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” you’d be forgiven for thinking the following actions are simply common sense – but you know what they say about common sense. Okay, it’s time to finish up so let’s get started:

1. Understand the shopper journey – especially when it comes to the products and/or services you’re selling. Translated – that means, knowing when to offer and what to offer. This reinforces the importance of timing and relevance.

2. Make it easy for your shoppers – the design of upsell / cross-sell functionality should be elegant and unobtrusive – even if you’re selling combat sports gear. Bundle your offers where possible, strive for single click solutions, don’t get in the way of a shopper trying to spend. Summary, design isn’t just about the colours and shapes – think experience and outcome.

3. Automate everything – obviously (there’s that common sense thing). Find an addon that takes the sweat, angst and human error out of the process of helping your shoppers get the best outcome for themselves – and yes, for yourself as well. Once you’ve mapped out your optimal shopper journey (you may want to lean on some expert advice here), turn your attention to apps that can and will complement their experience and benefit your business.

Exploring Neto is one of the best options open to you if you want to master upsell and cross-sell opportunities. This would leave you free to work on your products and services while reaping the rewards. It’s a good idea, it’s good business and it’s a great way to increase your profits.

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