The Ultimate Guide to Upselling: 12 Best Practices that Actually Work

August 7, 2023

The concept of modern upselling can be traced back to the mid-20th century when companies began to experiment with offering higher-end or complementary products to customers. 

One notable example of this was McDonald's introduction of the "Supersize" option in the 1990s, which encouraged customers to upgrade their meals to a larger size for a small additional cost. 

Since then, upselling has become a common practice in many industries, including e-commerce, as a way to increase sales and provide a better customer experience.

Let’s deep dive into this concept.

So, what exactly are upsells? 

Upsells are higher-end products that businesses offer to customers to encourage them to spend more money and enhance their overall shopping experience. 

The psychology behind upselling is based on the principle of "cognitive biases," which refers to the ways in which our brains process information and make decisions. Specifically, businesses use a technique called "anchoring," where they present a product that is similar to the one the customer is already interested in, but at a higher price point. 

This urges the customer to perceive the original product as being of lower value, making the upsell appear more attractive. 

Upselling can result in a conversion rate of up to 20% and an increase in revenue by up to 10%. Additionally, businesses may use upsell as "social proof," where they show the customer that other customers have also purchased the upsell, making it seem like a popular and desirable choice. 

Ultimately, the goal of upselling is to increase the average order value and provide customers with a more satisfying shopping experience.

Upsells v/s cross-sells

When a business deploys upselling in e-commerce, they're essentially offering the customer an upgrade to the product they're already interested in. 

For example, if a customer is looking to buy a laptop, the business may offer an upsell to a higher-end model with better specs or features. The idea is to entice the customer to spend more money on an upgraded version of the product they already want.

On the other hand, cross-selling in e-commerce involves offering customers complementary products to the ones they're already interested in. 

For example, if a customer is purchasing a camera, the business may offer a cross-sell for accessories like a case or memory card. The idea is to enhance the customer's overall shopping experience by providing additional value.

Upsell Vs Cross-sell

Both techniques can be effective in increasing sales and customer satisfaction. Upselling can help businesses to boost their revenue per customer, while cross-selling can help to build customer loyalty and satisfaction by providing additional value. 

A survey found that 51% of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they contact the company, 

Now that we have an understanding of what upselling is and how it differs from cross-selling, let's delve into the best practices for designing an effective upsell strategy. 

12 Best Practices for Successful Upselling

12 tips & tricks to upsell products

1. Align upsells with customer needs

The key to successful upselling is understanding your customers and their needs. Analyze their purchase history and preferences to tailor your recommendations to their specific interests and goals. 

In fact, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.

For instance, if a customer has purchased several kitchen gadgets, suggest a high-end blender that performs a variety of tasks. 

Highlight the value of products rather than their price point to increase the chances of a successful upsell. If you offer a premium version of a product, explain how it provides additional benefits that justify the higher cost, such as better durability and increased functionality. 

2. Craft clear and compelling messaging

Using clear and compelling messaging is crucial for upselling. To encourage customers to consider an upsell, it is essential to communicate the benefits of the product or service in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to their needs. Here are some tips for creating clear and compelling messaging:

  • Instead of simply listing the features of the product or service, highlight the benefits that the customer will receive in alignment with their needs. For example, instead of saying, "This product has a longer battery life," say, "With a longer battery life, you can use this product for longer periods without needing to recharge."

  • Avoid using jargon or technical terms that the customer may not understand. 

  • Create a sense of urgency with your message by mentioning a special offer or promotion.

  • Use social proof, such as customer reviews or testimonials, to build trust with the customer. You may use or to showcase reviews on your Shopify store.

3. Figure the best time to pitch your upsell

It's important to wait for the right moment to offer an upsell. Timing is everything, so don't offer an upsell too early in the customer journey or when they are not in the right mindset. Wait for the right opportunity, such as when a customer is showing interest in a related product or has made a purchase. It is important to figure out if you would be offering a pre-purchase upsell or a post-purchase upsell.  

Note: Post-purchase upselling happens after a customer has already made a purchase, while pre-purchase upselling occurs before the customer completes their purchase. The goal of pre-purchase upselling is to increase the customer order value, while post-purchase upselling aims to increase the customer's lifetime value.

By tracking a customer's behavior and mindset, you can identify the right moment to present the upsell and increase the chances of a successful sale.

4. Keep upsells limited to a few products 

When it comes to upselling, less is often more. 

It's essential to keep your offers simple and limited to a few products to avoid overwhelming your customers and potentially losing their interest.

By limiting your upsell options, you can also make it easier for your customers to make a decision. Too many choices can lead to indecision and confusion, which can result in a lost sale.

Instead, focus on showcasing a few high-quality products that are relevant to the customer's needs and preferences. By highlighting these products and their benefits, you can increase the chances of a successful upsell and a satisfied customer.

5. Use tools that are suited for e-commerce 

Using the right tools is essential when it comes to upselling in e-commerce. If you’re a Shopify owner, there are a variety of tools available that can help streamline the upsell process and increase the chances of success. Here’s how you can offer upsells and the tools you need. 

  • Product Recommendations: Use tools to suggest products based on browsing and purchase history. Use the Rebuy app to offer recommendations for upselling and cross-selling your products. 

  • Exit-intent pop-ups: Offer an upsell or discount as a customer is about to leave the website or abandon their cart. You may use Privy or Optinmonster for your Shopify store.

A report found that upselling during checkout can lead to a 3-4% increase in conversion rates. 

  • Customer feedback: Gather information about customer preferences to personalize upsell offers. Tools like SurveyMonkey and Yotpo work wonders for Shopify stores.

  • Retargeting notifications: Use targeted messages to offer an upsell or discount to customers who have previously visited the website or abandoned their cart. Shop2App is a no-code app builder that enables Shopify stores to easily push targeted notifications to app users.

Also read, which push notifications should you send for retaining customers? 

Leveraging these tools can result in increased sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. When choosing tools, it's important to consider the specific needs of your business and customers and to select tools that are easy to use and integrate with your existing e-commerce platform.

6. Provide Incentives to Support Agents

Incentivizing support agents is a powerful approach when it comes to upselling. When support agents are incentivized to upsell, they are more likely to actively seek opportunities to do so, leading to increased sales and revenue for the business.

One way to incentivize support agents is to offer them a commission or bonus for each successful upsell they make. They would be motivated as the upsell would directly benefit their income.  

You can also create a friendly competition among support agents with rewards for top performers and encourage them to share upselling tips and techniques, creating a sense of camaraderie and motivation.

7. Upsell using proactive live chat

Proactive live chat is an effective technique for upselling. According to research, businesses that use proactive chat on their website see a 105% increase in conversion rates and a 20% increase in average order value compared to those that do not.

Proactive live chat involves initiating a conversation with website visitors to offer assistance, answer questions, and provide upsell recommendations. This can be done through a pop-up chat window or a chatbot. You may use Tidio for introducing live chat functionality on your Shopify store.  By being proactive, businesses can engage with potential customers who may not have otherwise reached out, and offer them personalized product recommendations based on their browsing history and interests. This can induce repeat purchases and revenue growth.


8. Optimize post-purchase experience 

Post-purchase experience is as important as the purchase decision. This is a key upselling practice that can help increase the chances of repeat purchases and foster customer loyalty. 

This involves- 

  • Focusing on delivering excellent customer service
  • Providing personalized recommendations based on the customer's purchase history
  • Offering incentives to encourage future purchases

By optimizing the post-purchase experience, businesses can create a positive impression on customers and increase the likelihood of them making additional purchases and indulging in upsell offers in the future.

Read: How to retain customers by optimizing your post-purchase experience. 

9. Create a sense of urgency 

When it comes to upselling, presenting a limited-time offer is a great way to create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to take action. 

People tend to procrastinate or hesitate when they feel like they have all the time in the world, but when they know that an offer is only available for a limited time, they are more likely to act quickly.  

This is because they don't want to miss out on a great deal or opportunity. To make the most of this technique, it's important to make the offer clear and compelling, so that customers understand the value of what they're getting. 

10. Persuade customers with visual aids

Using visual aids while upselling can be an effective way to engage customers and increase sales. 

Visual aids such as images, videos, and product demos can help customers better understand the product or service being offered and visualize themselves using it. This can help create a more emotional connection between the customer and the product, making them more likely to purchase. Visual aids can also help to highlight the unique features and benefits of a product or service in a way that is more engaging and memorable than simply listing them out. 

For example, a video demonstration of a product can show how it works in a real-life context and highlight its key features in a way that text or verbal descriptions may not be able to.

11. Enhance upsells with discounts and free shipping

When you're considering upselling techniques, it's important to remember that offering discounts or free shipping can be a great way to incentivize customers to make an upgraded purchase. 

If you're finding that customers are hesitant to buy a product because of the price or shipping costs, offering a discount or free shipping can help to remove those barriers and make the purchase more appealing.

Not only can offering discounts or free shipping help to increase sales in the short term, but it can also help to build long-term loyalty and repeat purchases.

12. Test and optimize your strategy using data

When it comes to upselling, it's not just about implementing the strategy and hoping for the best. To truly maximize your sales and deliver a positive customer experience, it's important to test and optimize your approach constantly.

A great way to do this is through A/B testing. This involves creating two versions of your upselling strategy and comparing them to see which one performs better. By analyzing the results, you can identify what works well and what needs to be improved.

Companies that are data-driven are 5-6% more profitable than their competitors who aren't.

Data analysis is also crucial in understanding customer behavior and preferences. By analyzing trends and patterns, you can identify which products are often purchased together or which offers are most popular. This information can then be used to refine and optimize your upselling strategy to better meet the needs of your customers.

Ace your upsell game 

There you have it! Proven best practices that actually work in designing an upsell strategy for your business. 

Upselling is like the icing on the cake of your sales strategy. It can sweeten your profits and add an extra layer of value for your customers. By following these best practices, you can make sure your upsell offers are not just a cherry on top, but a juicy, ripe, and delicious one. 

Upselling is much easier on a mobile app. If you’re looking at turning your Shopify store into a mobile app, look no further as Shop2App is a popular choice in the e-commerce industry. Sign up for a free trial today. 

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