Differences between Cross-selling and Upselling

The Difference Between Cross Selling and Upselling

Customers will usually browse your ecommerce site on the hunt for a particular product. But identifying and purchasing a given product doesn’t have to represent the end of the buying journey. There’s possibility in the sale and a chance for a wily ecommerce site owner to increase revenue opportunity. This arrives as cross-selling and upselling.

Find out what cross-selling and upselling are and the difference between the two below.

In this guide to cross-selling and upselling, you’ll learn:

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is the process of encouraging customers to purchase products or services in addition to the original items they intended to purchase. Oftentimes the cross-sold items are complementary to one another, so customers have more of a reason to purchase both.

After a customer has added an item to their cart or initiated the checkout process, they are implicitly telling the business they are an active customer and have the intent to purchase. At this point of the buyer’s cycle, businesses will often implement a cross-sell by recommending a complimentary item or by providing a discount if both are purchased together.

As most customers are ready to make a purchase at this step anyway, they have already gotten over a major hurdle and are more likely to make a last-minute impulse purchase.

For example, if a customer is about to buy a smartphone, there’s a much higher chance they’ll be willing to also buy a pair of headphones or a phone case to go with it if they’re a good deal. In fact, Amazon estimates up to 35% of its revenue comes from these types of cross-selling practices.

What is upselling?

Upselling is the process of encouraging customers to upgrade or include add-ons to the product or service they’re buying. The product or service being promoted is typically a more expensive product or add-ons that can increase the overall order value.

Similar to cross-selling, upselling typically occurs in the part of the buyers’ journey where they have added something to their cart or initiated checkout and are more receptive to final sales efforts. As the customer has likely already researched the product, they may have considered the upgrade or add-on which should increase the likelihood they ultimately decide to make the switch at the last minute.

Take, for instance, the previous example of a smartphone sale. When a customer begins the purchase process, the business can offer them an upgrade to a model with more memory, a bigger screen, a faster processor, and so on. They can also offer things like warranties or purchase protection, which are affordable protections for the customer but are highly profitable to the company.

Cross-selling versus upselling

Cross-selling and upselling are both typically performed in the mid-to-late stages of the conversion funnel where a customer has already indicated they’re likely to make a purchase. Additionally, both strategies promote products or services known to be like the original item the customer planned to purchase.

Both cross-selling and upselling are essential to improving average order value (AOV) and profitability, and they can often be used together. However, they can have slightly different impacts on the business.

A company’s business model will ultimately dictate whether cross-selling or upselling is more valuable. For example, in an ecommerce business where customer acquisition or shipping adds a high fixed cost to orders, businesses will often want to maximize the average order value to minimize the effect of these costs.

Cross-selling and upselling examples

Say you’re selling a $20 product with a 50% gross margin, $5 flat shipping cost, and $2 cost of acquiring customers through marketing. When selling a single unit, the net profit will be only $3. If you can cross-sell them to add a $5 item at a similar margin, you can likely package them together so that the shipping cost is barely affected and increase your net profit to about $5.50.

So, by getting the customer to add just a small complementary product, you would be able to nearly double your profit on the order.

On the other hand, some businesses find it more valuable to prioritize upselling to get customers to upgrade to a higher end model or add add-ons. For example, businesses selling high-end electronics may find shipping and other flat costs are relatively negligible compared to the price of the item.

Getting a customer to upgrade to a more expensive version of the product can impact profitability more than adding another small item.

Upselling and cross-selling are used in all different types of businesses and industries. Here are three examples of ecommerce sites that have applied these sales strategies:

Sleep Outfitters cross-sells bed base with mattress

Sleep Outfitters is a leading mattress retailer. When a customer purchases a mattress, the website immediately displays a cross-sell by offering a bed base or foundation during the process of adding to the cart. Since they know what size bed the customer is shopping for, they can even recommend the correct size.

Graham and Green cross-sells home accessories with furniture

Graham and Green is a British home lifestyle merchandiser. When a customer purchases large furniture items from them and begins to check out, the website shows a cross-sell and suggests small interior accessories such as candles or lamps which complement the larger furniture the customer is purchasing.

Upsells warranties and protection plans with computers

HP is a leading international PC manufacturer. When a customer begins purchasing a computer from them, the website shows upsells through various warranty and protection plans. They even include visual indicators to nudge customers toward more comprehensive plans.

Finding a platform

Upselling and cross-selling are invaluable strategies for expanding your customers’ carts and boosting revenue. For these approaches to work, you’ll need an ecommerce platform with the functionality to get them into play. Adobe Commerce provides the necessary tools to generate cross-sell and upsell campaigns that convert.

Frequently asked cross selling vs upselling questions

What are some ways to upsell products?

You can upsell in a variety of ways:

1. Offering product recommendations before the point of sale.

2. Advertising new product lines or focus products to customers via tailored email marketing strategies.

3. Educating your customers on specific products through focused, optimized blog content that showcases how your chosen product alleviates customer pain points.

Why is cross-selling important?

Cross-selling is a great technique for increasing your revenue potential. By selling in related products to customers at the point of sale, you’re raising your AOV.