In this post, you'll learn a detailed guide of upselling, why the upsell can be better than a pre-purchase upsell, and some critical upsell tactics you can easily apply to increase your average order value (AOV).
To make life easier, we’ve broken the guide down to 8 sections. Click a link to jump to the section you want to know.
“Thank you for your purchase. And, because you’re interested in this course, I want to give you a special offer. If you act right now, you can get the Advanced Blogging Masterclass and access to our exclusive Facebook group for VIP members! Would you like to consider an upgrade at just $40 extra?”
Yes, it’s an upsell—one of the most common tricks in e-commerce and digital marketing.
The idea of upselling is simple: you prompt a customer to spend more by buying an upgraded or premium version of what’s being purchased. You can offer them an add-on item with a higher or lower price than the price of the product they’ve just bought. Anytime you give customers an opportunity to spend more money (especially when they're at or near the checkout counter), that's an upsell.
For example, Old Navy offers an upsell in the form of free shipping. The customer just needs to spend an extra $7 to get this offer.
The upsell offer can be anything. It can be a VIP membership with frequent discounts, joining the secret Facebook group with 24/7 support, full access to +10,000 high-quality photos, or whatever you think will best benefit customers and your bottom line. The more useful the upsell item is and the more closely it's related to the initial order, the more likely that customers will make an additional purchase.
Let’s say someone buys a Leadpages course from you. Right after they finish payment, you offer them your personalized digital marketing service for $49.99/mo. It’s natural then for them to want these services.
Many businesses depend on upsells to increase their LTV. Sometimes the profit margin for the initial sale isn't considerable, but that for the upsell can be substantially greater. Take Best Buy, for example—they make more than half of their profits from their warranties.
Why you should use upsell right now
Hopefully, by now you're aware of the compelling reasons why it’s time for you to add upsell to your marketing strategy.
First, it’s deeply rooted in a psychological principle called commitment & consistency, which says that people have a desire to stay consistent with their decisions and behaviors.
An upsell taps into this psychology bias by offering an upgraded product that will deliver more value. It promises a better buying experience for customers.
When appropriately positioned in the sales funnel, an upsell is convincing on both a rational and emotional level.
Second, it’s five times easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones.
Upsells and renewals can contribute up to 70-95% of revenue.
Third, upsell strategies eventually help improve the relationship between your customers and you. You give them more values, so they want to come back from you again and again. As a result, your customer lifetime value increases. Win-win!
There can’t be denying the power of implementing product upsells towards customers and your business.
Pre-purchase vs. post-purchase upsell
There are two types of upsell: pre-purchase and post-purchase. They indicate two different moments in the online sales process where you might want to show an upsell offer.
A pre-purchase upsell typically appears on the product page, cart page, or within the checkout process. You can even show this offer on the checkout page before the customer enters their payment information. For example:
Spotify offers three plans for users with different benefits and prices. Source: Spotify
Spotify offers three plans for users with different benefits and prices. Source: Spotify
Spotify offers three plans for users with different benefits and prices.
With a post-purchase upsell, the upsell offer is presented after the customer has already checked out. It can be shown on a pop-up, but typically, it's done on a thank you page, or an upsell landing page that your new buyers only see after they've purchased the initial offer.
Why pre-purchase upsells can hurt your sales
A lot of online stores go for sales too fast. They pitch an upsell even when the shopper hasn't yet made up their mind about what they want.
Take a look at this upsell popup on the cart page:
The upsell offer in this case is a different product with a higher price, which runs the risk of distracting shoppers at the point of conversion.
And that's where the problem comes.
The poorly-timed upsell may not work because when a shopper already selects a product, that's what they want, not the offer you're trying to convince them to buy.
Your upsell interrupts the checkout flow and spoils the shopping experience. It makes customers question their choice and ends up confusing. So, they probably decide to ignore your offer and continue with the product they've selected, or even worse, they may leave your site without buying anything at all.
"The number one reason that customers abandon shopping carts is because of added or increased prices. Upsells before checkout are risky at best."
Unless a customer completes their purchase, your product is still in their consideration stage. You haven't sealed the deal yet!
Use upsells to create an irresistible offer
You need to upsell products if you want to increase your AOV, but you should be cautious about using pre-purchase offers.
To make sure your upselling works, try post-purchase upsells instead.
Unlike pre-purchase upsells, post-purchase upsells are perfectly timed, that is when customers complete the checkout. You already sealed the deal, and now you have the second chance to persuade them to buy more from you.
Think about these two approaches:
When you don't show an upsell, a customer adds a product to their cart, reaches checkout, makes a payment, and sees the thank you page. Nothing further.
But when you show an upsell, the customer adds a product to their cart, reaches checkout, makes a payment, sees an offer shown up in the thank you page, accepts it, and clicks to get the extra value at a great price.
Do you see what just happened?
With only one customer, you made more money in the blink of an eye. Boom!
Upsells have now been widely used by several brands. Using them is effective in making every sale in your store the next one(s).
Where to show upsell offers
You can show your upsell offers on a thank you page or create a separate page for your upsell.
Upsell on a thank you page
A thank you page is the page your customer lands on after they complete a purchase from your store. Usually, this page is used to show a thank you note and possibly order information.
Customers usually do expect to see this page so that they know they've successfully ordered their selected product.
However, there is a lot more you can do with a thank you page, apart from just saying, "thank you for buying from us."
Create a separate one-click upsell page
An upsell landing page acts as an optional sales step after your customer bought your product. It opens automatically once a customer finishes the checkout and appears before the thank you page.
After the customer sees the upsell page and decides to buy the upsell product, they're automatically redirected to the thank you/order confirmation page with a summary of all the products they've purchased or another upsell page (if you have more than one).
If the customer declines to buy the upsell product, they'll be automatically taken to the thank you page with a summary of the initial product they've bought.
Elements of an effective upsell
A successful upsell, no matter if it's shown on the thank you page or a separate upsell page should include the following elements.
Relevance: The upsell was perfectly aligned with the initial purchase. Upselling from a base hair treatment to a $70 facial cleanser won’t help you drive your sales. However, upselling from a base hair treatment to a top-shelf version will increase your sales.
Compelling, short, and clear description: The headline, subheadline, and description of the offer should be straightforward. Use the right words to help your customers understand what they’ll get and focus on the benefits of the upgrade to catch their attention.
Timed perfectly: The upsell offer appears after customers place their initial order. Not sooner and not too late in the process.
A minimum viable commitment: If the difference in the price of the initial product and the upsell product is too large, your upsell may scare customers away. Hence, you should choose the upsell product strategically. Also, focus on the difference, for example, “just $20 extra more”, to make it even easier for customers to say yes!
Upsell tactics to boost your sales
By now, you’ve realized the power of upsells and how they can bump up your AOV and the amount a customer spends on your store.
But perhaps you’re not sure how you can use them in your business and don’t have ideas about what you should upsell after checkout.
Don’t worry, we've put together a top 6 upsell ideas that you can copy and apply to your business:
1. Upsell more of what customers just bought
The most traditional upsell offer of all time. You offer your customers more about what they've just bought, at a higher (and sweeter) price.
Take a look at this example from Cotton.on. Let's say you, as a customer, just bought a tee for $19.99. How would you like to get 2 more tees for only $30 (which is much cheaper than when you buy them separately)?
That's one hell of an offer.
This tactic works well if you're selling products that have a tendency for repeat purchases. Consumable products like supplements, ointments, toys, gift cards are great examples.
2. Change the format
The idea here is that you offer customers the same item they've just bought in a different format. Why does this work? Because the existing format of delivery may limit the value customers can get out of your product.
If you're selling a yoga mat, you can upsell a 100 best yoga poses ebook.
If you're selling a hardcover book upfront, you can upsell its audio version!
If you're selling a WordPress theme, you can upsell plugins to help optimize the theme.
The key is to keep the relevance between the initial purchase of the customer and your upsell product. Try to help them see the better benefits if they buy that upsell product from you.
3. Boost the process with your upsell
Your customer just purchased a product from you with the hope of hitting their goal.
That's why if you can offer something else that helps them achieve their goal faster and easier, make it an upsell.
If the initial purchase is a 90-day workout plan, upsell a meal planning calendar or a bottle of supplements.
If the initial purchase is a writing course, upsell a 30-day writing challenge tracking.
If the initial purchase is a cooking course, upsell a collection of recipes.
If the initial purchase is a web design service package, upsell three-round revisions and easy-to-follow video tutorials.
4. Upsell continuity programs
You don't want customers to buy from you today and never come back to your store again. You want them to stay with you forever, and buy from you over and over again.
For customers, they want to feel like someone is there to help if they need it. They want to get their expectations to be fulfilled.
That's why continuity programs, membership plans, or on-going support are great to upsell offers you should think about.
If the initial purchase is software, upsell premium support with an expert at any time.
If the initial purchase is a consulting service, upsell email support so clients can contact you whenever they need help, even after the service is done.
If the initial purchase is a Facebook Ads course, upsell a VIP member's Facebook group where members can get inspired, learn tips and tricks, and connect directly with you.
Death Wish Coffee sells the best coffee in the world. Their upselling tactic is simple—more coffee. But they upsell customers to a subscription instead of a one-time purchase, which is a great way to increase elusive monthly recurring revenue.
5. Upsell purchase protection
Do you sell electronic items that need to purchase protection or damage care?
If yes, tell your customers the cost of a single repair and upsell them a protection plan.
Below is an example from Best Buy:
You can apply this one click upsell strategy for many types of products such as computers, insurance, cell phones, appliances, cars, and cameras. Your customers will be likely more than happy to take the upsell to protect whatever they've just bought.
6. Upsell that complete the set
If your customers are purchasing a video editing tool, they may want to create or edit videos.
In this case, you can upsell a collection of advanced effects, filters, sounds, and high-quality images. Note that these items aren't critical components for the main product to work, but they enhance the usability of the main purchase.
Ready to implement an upsell?
If you're reluctant to upsell out of a fear of sounding overly salesy, or you don't want to do it because you think "people aren’t willing to pay extra money", you should think again.
Big names like Amazon, McDonald, and Apple have been using upselling sales techniques for decades. They've made a lot of profit.
So, why don't you?
It’s time to create an upsell. And when we say upsell, we mean a well-timed one-click upsell, not pre-purchase upsell. If you’re stuck with designing your upsell, check out our template gallery for inspiration!