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Art of the Upsell, Science of the Cross-Sell 

Posted on 10.18.2015

There are many similarities between selling online and offline, and the e-commerce experience that shoppers have grown accustom to in the "real" world can actually translate quite nicely to the digital realm.

More often than not though, retailers just don't put the same emphasis on the nuances of the buying experience the same way brick-and-mortar retailers do. The main reason for this is likely that online sellers and shoppers never really have genuine interactions with one another and sellers ultimately become somewhat lazy about the need to 'actively' sell to shoppers.

Fortunately, technology (and the tactics online retailers have available) can provide some relief.

Many retailers have successfully implemented and integrated techniques (and technologies) which make the online shopping experience, if not identical, pretty darn close to what is expected and seen offline. Some of the methods and means by which this is accomplished, and arguably two of the most effective techniques, are upselling and cross-selling (there are some key differences between the two as you will see).

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Last week Website Magazine covered an interesting report from Optimove which showed that initial order volume could reveal future behavior of shoppers. According to the study, the more users purchased during their first visit, the more likely they were to purchase a second order in the future. If merchants can find opportunities to increase order value/volume, the better off they will be in the long run. And upselling and cross-selling provide such an opportunity.

Upselling is simply a technique where customers are offered the chance to purchase upgrades (better features/options, greater volume) or to get more expensive alternative versions of what they are browsing or buying so merchants can maximize the value of their purchase. The secret to upselling is to offer products that add value and improve the experience of the customer, getting the customer to spend more in the processes and ultimately increase the average order value (AOV).

Not all of a retailers products, of course, are really going to improve a customer's life (or are suited to upselling) so it's best to only target a few products or focus more on cross-selling.

The aim of cross-selling is to get the customer to spend more money by adding other products (not alternatives) from the same or related categories. Product reccomendations are one of the most common ways to execuite a cross-selling initiative, and there is a whole science and strategy dedicated to doing so - and there are plenty of recommendation solutions ready and willing to support online retailers.

In a perfect world, sellers would only sell to those most likely to purchase. Since that's not a reality, merchants must focus their attention on the products most likely to sell to any potential buyer. That means focusing upsell and cross-sell efforts on the products that are most reviewed, sold most often, or are the most relevant products in the moment.

Most e-commerce solutions such as Magento, Shopify, Prestashop and others have plugins/modules/extensions/add-on's which do a lot of the heavy lifting automatically for merchants interested in engaging in upselling and cross-selling some of their products. Take a moment to see what's possible in your e-commerce deployment before the holidays and you'll be on the fast track to greater revenue in no time.


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