The Art of Upselling

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The Art of Upselling

Few sales techniques are as universal and effective as upselling. Upselling is used to get a customer to spend more by buying an upgraded version of what’s being purchased.

Upselling exist because customers will often pick the cheapest version of whatever they’re buying. They need to see a direct benefit to paying more.

It is a salesperson’s job to make the customer aware of options beyond what they intended to purchase. Doing so increases the value of the sale.

Usually, all that is required for a successful upsell is to present customers with options. Here are some tips to maximize the efficiency of your upselling techniques.

Emphasize Premium Benefits (Without Disparaging Your Standard Products)

If you want customers to buy the highest quality (and most expensive) version of your product, it’s important for them to understand why it’s worth the extra money.  That being said, you don’t want to build up the premium version in a way that makes the standard product seem inadequate by comparison.

For instance, one of the most common upsells people encounter on a regular basis is at fast-food restaurants. Combo meals are generally available in more than one size, and can be “upgraded” for a small fee.

In this case, the benefits of paying more for the meal are very clear: the customer gets more food. If the customer is particularly hungry, a medium meal could be a great deal, since it prevents them from having to buy an additional food at a greater cost. That being said, the restaurant doesn’t insult its small combos by saying “this isn’t enough food.” They simply present the customer with options and make the benefits of each size clear.

The same should be true when you upsell your customers. Make sure they see a direct benefit to paying more, without criticizing your main product.

For instance, if you offer a “premium membership” to your site, show the customer all of the benefits of going premium, without presenting your “standard membership” as sub-par.

One site that does this well is Hulu.  It offers two main versions of its service: a cheaper plan with ads, and a more expensive plan without ads.

Customers who want to save money can get the ad-enabled version, while those willing to pay more can skip the ads altogether. Either Hulu presents both plans as excellent options – they just satisfy different needs.

The same is true of car dealerships. While some people may want a premium feature like in-dash navigation, that feature isn’t important to everyone. The option is still presented, but no car dealer will lose a sale because “a car without in-dash navigation is worthless.”

The same thing applies to any product you can sell. Make a premium option available on the product page, and emphasize its features, but don’t make the standard version sound like a bad product. Rather, frame as an excellent product that suits a particular need.

Understand the Customer

Whether a customer has bought from you in the past or not, the data you collect from them can shed some light on their purchasing habits. For instance, if the customer has been consistently looking at up-to-date tech equipment, they’re likely looking for quality over value. Therefore, recommending newer or higher end products will be more effective than low-cost alternatives. This is your chance to upsell them to the latest and greatest.

The opposite can be true as well. Customers looking at lower end or older models are probably better candidates for cross-selling products like warranties and accessories.

You can also use this data to display more enticing results to “bargain hunters” who spend the majority of their time in the sale section. For instance, if customer X has been browsing shoes marked at a 50% off, showing them other discounted items will be more effective than trying to upsell them on a full price pair.

Consider a Recommendation Engine

Product recommendation engines are a fairly recent development in ecommerce, and they continue to advance. Essentially, they use an algorithm to study user’s purchases, browsing, and click history. It then uses the data to predict which products would be of the most interest to the customer, often leading to successful upsells.

Programs also allow stores to set custom parameters. Examples include: prioritizing seasonal merchandise, limiting recommendations to only full-price products, and even preventing low-stock items from being shown.

Research has shown that sites using such technology consistently have higher order values and greater conversion rates. While this technology does require an initial investment, it pays for itself quickly.


Upselling is a fantastic way to increase your average order value. However, like any tool, it must be used thoughtfully. By leveraging a combination of common sense, clever pairings, and technology, customer satisfaction can rise along with your AOV.

Looking for More Ways to Increase Your Conversions?

Check out UpSellit’s 27 Attributes of an Effective Email. This in-depth guide covers the ins-and-outs of crafting the perfect remarketing email. It’s a great resource and it’s totally free! Download it today and start writing awesome emails that convert.

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