A sales technique where a seller invites the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons to generate more revenue. – Wikipedia
Relevance in CRO
Particularly relevant on transactional sites like e-commerce, the practice of upselling is designing UX that persuades a user to purchase additional, complementary items beyond their original purchase intent. Upselling is a technique as old as time immemorial: “Mmm… Grog want buy wheel? Grog have good eye. Grog also need axel for wheel spin around, and extended warranty to protect wheel from unexpected encounter with mammoth”.
Typically, the intent of upsells is to increase revenue by increasing Average Order Value (AOV). Sometimes it can cause a drop in order conversion rate, but may lift overall revenue if the AOV differential is high enough. Some common upsell techniques:
- Bundling – Putting multiple items into the cart at the same time; a nailgun + nails + air hose bundle on a home improvement retailer. Sometimes incentivized by a discount only available if the entire bundle is purchased, such as a combo meal at a fast-food joint.
- “You may also like” – Showing recommendations of complementary products; a “Complete the Look” feature on a clothing retailer. Typically manually merchandised.
- “Customers who bought this also bought” – Showing recommendations of products that were also purchased by other shoppers who bought the item being currently viewed. Merchandised algorithmically based on order data.
- “Don’t forget the…” – Showing recommendations of products that may be necessary to the function/use of the main product. Coffee filters and coffee grounds for a coffee maker. Grip tape and tennis balls for a tennis racquet.
- “Peace of Mind” – Alleviating doubt by offering warranty or insurance services at an additional cost.
Most upsell techniques can be mixed, matched, and peppered throughout a site. Bundling happens anywhere an item can be added to the cart. “Don’t forget the…” happens after a cart add event and can be shown as a modal, slide-in, interstitial page, on the cart page, etc. Experiment with it; figure out what the right approaches are for your brand/site/userbase. Don’t just copy what the big brands are doing.
There’s a lot of fuzziness between upsells, cross-sells, and add-on sales. One man’s upsell is another’s cross-sell. Here’s how I define them and the strategy:
- Upsell – additional items added beyond the first (increase AOV)
- Cross-sell – alternate items instead of the first (better profit margin)
- Add-ons – additional items after the sale of the first (return shoppers, order volume)
You (or your company) may have different definitions or contexts for the terms. Make sure you know what’s what within your org.« Back to Glossary Index