Would you like fries with that? How to Use Cross Sell & Upsell

fries Would you like fries with that? How to Use Cross Sell & UpsellThe most famous cross-sell comes courtesy of McDonalds: “Would you like fries with that?”. The next time you go to any fast food restaurant I’d be shocked if they didn’t try cross-sell or upsell techniques on you. Others you’ve probably heard countless times include “Would you like to make that into a combo?” (cross sell) and “Would you like to upsize your meal?” (upsell). But what’s the difference and how can you put them to use on your website to increase your profits?

The bad news is the majority of eCommerce websites convert on average at 2%. Sad isn’t it? When you compare that with the average physical retail store conversion rate of 30% or more, it leaves a lot to be desired. The good news is there are lots of techniques for increasing your website conversion rate. Two conversion methods you can put to good use on your site are upsell and cross sell.

Amazon reported that cross sell is responsible for 35% of its sales – and that was way back in 2006 – just imagine what that is worth to them today!

The terms upsell and cross sell are usually talked about together but are not the same thing.

Here’s my plain language version of how to define upsell versus cross sell:


Suggesting your customer buys the more expensive model of the same product or service; or that they add a feature that would make it more expensive. With upsell you’re suggesting they pay more in exchange for a better product or service.

For example:

  • Buying a 42” TV instead of a 40”
  • Upgrading from economy to business class for a flight
  • Adding an extended warranty


Also called an add on, cross sell is when you suggest your customer buys additional products or services from a category that is different to the product or service they are viewing / purchasing.

For example:

  • Purchasing a DVD player to go with your TV
  • Purchasing paper to go with a printer
  • Buying a hands free car kit to go with a mobile phone
  • Adding a vase to your purchase of a bunch of flowers

For the purists, there’s also down sell. Some examples of down sell include:

  • Presenting customers with 3 levels of membership but showing the most expensive option first, making the middle but cheaper option more appealing than if you showed then the cheapest level of membership first (which might otherwise make the middle plan seem more expensive).
  • Walking onto a car yard hoping to buy a BMW, finding you can’t afford it, and having the salesman show you lower cost cars.

Down-selling is not used as often as upsell or cross sell on most eCommerce websites, as you can’t get feedback from the customer on whether they can afford the more expensive option or not to know if you should present a cheaper option to avoid losing the sale.

Occasionally you’ll find the product you’re recommending is border-line between upsell and cross-sell (some consider warrantees cross-sell not upsell for example even though it fits firmly in how most define upsell in my opinion), hence the common confusion with telling the difference.

Too many eCommerce websites lack upsell or cross sell which is a real shame, and often it’s their platform that’s to blame (or their website company for not being addicted to conversion!). That’s one of the many reasons we love Magento, the eCommerce platform Orchid specialises in (more about that in another article).

Tips for using upsell to improve conversion

You know best

It’s rare to have upsell that’s decided for you by your website be anywhere near as successful as you setting upsell manually. When your product range doesn’t make this a herculean task, it’s worth spending the time getting it right. Think about the difference a great salesperson can make to not only the total value of a sale, but also how many items are purchased on average per sale. Often it’s their product knowledge that makes that difference.

A little not a lot

Upsell works better when there’s only a small difference in price between the item that you’re suggesting your customer purchases and the product they’re looking at. Otherwise it can be as successful as convincing someone who’s taken a second hand Toyota Carolla for a test drive that they should purchase a Porsche instead.

Match key features

Upsell works best when the key features of the product are kept the same. Upselling from $50 pair of black flat shoes to $100 red high heels is unlikely to get you very far.

When deciding which products to list with an item for upsell, always keep in mind those key features that made your customer consider the item in the first place.

Be brand aware

For some products, a customer considering a particular brand is more likely to upsell to products by the same brand. This is relevant for cross sell as well. Sure, that Canon lens does fit the model of Sony camera your customer’s looking at, but they are much more likely to purchase a Sony lens for their Sony camera. If they’re considering a Nokia phone you’ll probably have more luck upselling them to the next model up also by Nokia.

Benefits count

When trying to persuade your customer to spend more, make sure you clearly spell out the benefits of upgrading from what they were originally considering.

Tips for using cross sell to improve conversion

Choose carefully

Certain products work better than others for cross sell. Don’t leave it to your website to randomly pick your cross sell for you. Think like your local supermarket. You’ve done your shopping and you’re ready to complete your purchase but, ooo, what’s that? Chocolate bars, magazines, chewing gum, mints. Mmm, tempting. If they presented you with a cutlery, flowers and frozen peas it would be a different story.

Watch the price

Cross-sell works better when the suggested items are half price or lower than the item being purchased. You’ll have more success convincing a customer to add a $200 DVD player to a $1,500 TV, compared to trying to cross sell using an $800 surround sound speaker system.


Products that naturally go together work better for cross sell. Such as adding a protective case and a car charger to the purchase of a mobile phone, or paint brushes and wall paste to the purchase of wallpaper.

Higher price, higher effectiveness

Cross sell tends to be more effective when the original product is higher priced or requires more thought. Cross sell is less successful when trying to convince a customer to spend extra when they were going to buy a lower cost item.

High Low versus Low High

Using higher priced items as cross sell for lower priced products if not the way to make cross sell work for you, even when the products are closely related. For example, suggesting a $300 pair of sneakers when your customer is spending $10 on socks is pretty unlikely to get traction.

Who’s doing it well? Examples from high-converting websites

Following are screenshots from a couple of the highest converting websites in the world, Office Depot and ProFlowers.

Where they’ve used upsell you’ll see an arrow, and where cross sell has been used is marked with a cross.

Office Depot

While viewing this $99.99 black and white lazer printer, Office Depot gives the visitor 5 suggestions:

  • Ink, toner and paper (cross sell).
  • Free express next-day delivery if you spend $50 more (upsell or cross sell as it depends on what the customer buys to spend that extra $50).
  • Extended warranty (upsell).
  • ‘Customers who viewed this item also viewed’ (upsell – all items shown are more expensive printers).
  • ‘Popular products in black and white laser printers’ (upsell – all items shown are more expensive printers).

Just click the image below to see a larger version:

office products upsell cross sell small1 237x300 Would you like fries with that? How to Use Cross Sell & Upsell

Pro Flowers

While viewing this $39.98 bunch of flowers, Pro Flowers suggest to their visitors:

  • Products available for next day delivery (upsell or cross sell as the products shown vary).
  • Bouquet upgrade (upsell – same flowers but a bigger bunch).
  • Select a vase (upsell).
  • Other items that can be delivered tomorrow  (upsell or cross sell as the products shown vary).
  • You may also like (cross sell).

Again, just click the image below to see a larger version:

proflowers upsell cross sell smll1 300x287 Would you like fries with that? How to Use Cross Sell & Upsell

So now you’re an upsell and cross sell expert, take another look at your website and put these two powerful conversion techniques to work for you.

Free conversion review

Wondering what you could do to boost your conversion rate? Add a comment below with a link to one of your products on your site and I’ll reply with a quick free review with some conversion recommendations you can implement :)

PS: Want a high converting eCommerce website on the world’s most popular eCommerce platform Magento? Get in touch today for a chat or find out more about Magento on Orchid’s website here



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