Upsell and cross-sell can seem like dirty words. Most of us think of sleazy salespeople trying to sell us stuff we don’t want or need.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, when they’re done well both upselling and cross-selling can improve your customer’s experience.

For a start, before you can sell them anything you have to really get to know them. Who are they? What motivates them? What is the problem they want to solve? Once you’ve cracked that, showing your customer complementary products or services should actually be benefit them.

In this guide, we take a look at upselling and cross-selling for eCommerce brands. We’ll guide you through the basics and show you how to up your game.

Upselling vs. cross-selling

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding upselling and cross-selling. How the two things really differ, for starters. To help you get it straight let’s start with the basic definitions.

Definition of upselling

Upselling is persuading a customer to buy a more expensive or upgraded version of the product they initially looked at. It’s a tactic that results in a more profitable sale from a single item.

Here’s a quick look at real-world example. The Dollar Shave Club sends the automated email below after people browse their razors online.

It upsells by showing upgraded and more expensive versions of the same item they had originally browsed. And it’s no surprise they’re all more than one dollar!

Dollar Shave Club upsell example

Definition of cross-selling

Cross-selling is inviting the customer to buy an additional item alongside the one that’s already being purchased. It’s a tactic that results in the customer adding more items to their basket.

And here’s the Dollar Shave Club again with another practical example. This time the brand is cross-selling by inviting the customer to buy an additional product as well as the one they’re already buying.

Dollar shave club cross sell example

Why should I upsell and cross-sell?

Put simply, if you upsell and cross-sell, you’ll make more money.

An estimated 35% of Amazon’s revenue comes from upselling and cross-selling. And that’s a conservative estimate. Amazon oftens undeplays its stats so its competitors don’t steal its secrets!

So, we know it’s good for business—but what about the claim that it improves a customer’s experience?

By upselling and cross-selling you can guide people through their online shop in a helpful way. Here are just a few examples of the customer benefits from upselling and cross-selling:

  • reassures customers by showing them what other people have chosen
  • alerts them to offers so they don’t miss out
  • allows customers to compare products against each other
  • ensures they don’t forget useful extra things they might need

And when you put all of these benefits together it makes a great customer experience in our books!

Where should I upsell and cross-sell?

There are lots of different opportunities to upsell and cross-sell in eCommerce. Here are just a few places you can feature both of these tactics:

  • product pages
  • checkout page
  • post-purchase emails
  • pop-up messages
  • carousels at the bottom of your site

Some of these places work better than others depending on whether you’re upselling or cross-selling.

According to research, upselling performs twenty times better when it’s on product pages. The same research claims that cross-selling is more effective than upselling when it’s on the checkout pages.

When you think about the customer’s mindset, this makes a lot of sense. At the product page they’re still choosing what to buy but are focused on that particular product. Whereas at the checkout they’ve already got what they came for, but might be open to adding extras.

Knowing when to upsell and cross-sell will undoubtedly improve your customer’s experience. By being choosy about when you upsell and cross-sell you won’t bombard or annoy customers with distracting sales messages.

The Essential Guide to eCommerce Revenue Growth

How should I upsell or cross-sell?

There are a few golden rules when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. These are things you should do to make sure you don’t annoy customers. We’ve gone through them below:

Be honest

Only suggest things that will genuinely add value to the customer. Not just your sale.

Make sense

Make sure what you’re suggesting makes sense! Always check that what you’re suggesting is in stock and available.

Don’t force it

Always take no for an answer. Don’t try to talk people into a sale, just make recommendations. If you come on too strong, you risk alienating your customers.

Get your timing right

It’s all about timing. Don’t bombard them with distracting messages every couple of minutes!

What language should I use to upsell and cross-sell?

Now’s the time to decide what to say. When it comes to language, you want to be natural. Add helpful suggestions to your customer journey that will increase your order values.

Here are a few common phrases we think make upselling and cross-selling a nice experience. You can incorporate any of these alongside your product suggestions into your emails, product pages, or at your checkout.

Popular phrases for upselling

  • popular alternatives include…
  • upgrade with…
  • see our bestsellers
  • pay £X extra and added features with…
  • see what other customers bought

Popular phrases for cross-selling

  • other customers also bought
  • complete the look with…
  • these items are often bought together
  • don’t forget to add…
  • we also recommend buying…

Presentation matters

Upselling and cross-selling isn’t just about what you say. How you present it matters too.

Customers like to see clear visuals, customer reviews and, when being upsold to, be able to compare features. If you don’t make it easy for them they’ll just dismiss your suggestions and check out.

Let’s take a look at some ways successful ecommerce sites upsell and cross-sell in a visually appealing way.

Upselling in action

We like the way Virgin Media makes it easy for its customers to compare their options. It’s helpful and often results in customers taking them up on an upgrade!

Virgin media upsell example
We also love the way Amazon invites customers to explore alternative items on its product pages…

Amazon upsell example

Cross-selling in action

Best Buy does a great job of providing helpful cues to customers so they don’t forget added extras.

Best Buy cross sell example

And kings of the cross-sell ASOS makes sure we always ‘complete the look’.



You’re now armed with everything you need to know about upselling and cross-selling effectively in eCommerce.

When it comes to doing it well, we can help. Our PureTargeting software uses machine learning to recommend relevant products as customers browse your website and emails.

By tracking the customer’s behaviour in real time our our technology can detect and present the most relevant product recommendations to cross-sell and upsell to each person. The software is easy to integrate, simple to use and allows you to track your results with the touch of a button.

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of upselling and cross-selling, book a demo to see our technology in action.

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