“For a Dollar More, You Can Get a Large”- Upselling 101

We’ve covered selling in a general sense and gone into detail about cross-selling, the next item on the list is upselling.

With upselling, you’re selling a person a better, more expensive version of whatever they were initially planning on buying. If you’ve ever been to a movie theater or fast food restaurant, you’ve probably experienced upselling in the form of “For a dollar (or so) more, you can get a large.” You were already thinking of getting this meal anyway- the upsell increases the quantity of popcorn you were planning to get, and the movie theater makes more money.

Back to the baby registry example I used in the cross-selling post, Amazon also has a subtle upselling option. You can see “Customers Also Viewed…” which will offer a similar product from different brands at different price points (I say subtle because some options are cheaper and some are more expensive). Another potential upsell on Amazon is the comparison chart that appears with some products. I definitely poured over these, and the reviews, when creating my registry.

Again, just like with the cross-selling example, you can offer upselling options on your own website in a similar way.

General Facts/Tips for Upselling

While the whole concept of “For a dollar more you can get a large” may feel weird or gross to offer customers, it’s been argued that it can actually increase customer loyalty/retention. But how?? You’re just tricking them into spending more money, right? Not really. This article gives an example of upselling a service (car insurance). While the customer was calling their insurance company for a tow truck, the company mentioned “Hey, you’ve been a customer for X number of years and are now eligible to upgrade to a better insurance plan”. Since the person had been a customer for such a long time, and they had to wait for the tow truck anyway, they said “Yeah, why not.”

How does this create customer loyalty/retention? Knowing that you are eligible for greater benefits as time progresses increases the chances someone will stay on as a customer for longer (provided there’s already a value in the service/product). Additionally,  the same article suggests upselling should be a win-win- your customer should feel like they are “winning” (but not in the Charlie Sheen sense).

An example of upselling where the customer doesn’t feel like they are winning: when a cable company tells you you’re eligible for a month long trial for 100 extra channels (yes, please!) but you unknowingly stay signed on and have to pay additional fees the next month. Not cool, don’t do this to people.

How to Upsell

Unlike cross-selling, it’s a little trickier to upsell after the sale has happened (unless the customer decides to return their purchase for something more expensive, which is pretty inconvenient when you think about it).

Here are a few ways you can help make the upsell happen.

Educate your customer.
 Comparison charts, videos, blog posts, and other methods to educate them about the difference between different products/services (and subtle justification of price differences) allows the customer to be open to be upsold.

Be ready to bundle.
If you want to upsell your kayak tour consumers with optional $10 Otterbox rental and $15 gourmet lunch, it makes sense to bundle products together for a lower price point when it makes financial sense.

Show your bestsellers.
Kissmetrics has pointed out that upselling happens fairly infrequently (4% of sales), but one of the ways to increase your odds is by recommending the most-sold items in your store. It’s probably a social thing- I will second guess my purchase if I see that the majority of people are buying this other thing. Even if I end up sticking to my guns, I’ll at least check it out.

Start with current customers.
Upsells work much better for existing customers. A recent example of this is me getting up-sold on for Beachbody Coaching. I had been using their on-demand workouts anyway as a result of not being able to run, but when asked if I wanted to become a coach at a greater cost to get some additional perks, I agreed. Why? Because I already knew the value of the stuff I was paying for, so I was okay with paying a little extra a month for things I was already going to use anyway. To me, it was a win-win.

Offer packages, including one very high end one.
An example of this is from a pinup photographer in Texas who offers four packages from $450 to $2250. Her most popular package is $850, which people feel much less bad spending money on when they see they could be spending more than double that. Most consumers buy the mid-tiered price item so give them options.

Setting Up Upselling Online

Use Your Existing Ecommerce Software
To implement upselling on your own ecommerce site, Woocommerce has a pretty straightforward interface for upselling (very similar to what they use for cross-selling, actually). Check with your ecommerce software’s FAQ section with how it is set up in your software.

Use Your Website Content To Help People Choose
If you have a list of services on your website at higher price points that people hem and haw at (and opt for the cheaper option), you can educate people in a few ways:

  1. Set up an FAQ page to make sure people know exactly what they’re getting and can determine what is beneficial to them.
  2. Create a multiple choice “Should I choose X or Y?” Some websites do this with a quiz, others with a features comparison chart. This allows a side by side comparison of two (or more) options.

Going through this process shows that you are invested in what the customer actually wants and what would work best for them: “Sell the benefit, not the product.” In other words, you may see the benefit for a person to buy the higher priced item but you may have to help them realize the value your product/service will add to their life.

Make It Exclusive
If you feel like creating a little mystery, allowing only certain people to buy a higher level item (think credit card companies with certain credit cards only a very exclusive group of people can apply for) can add to its mystery.

Think About Your Website Design/Copy
There are certain ways to make your website work better for upselling. One way is to run A/B tests with different designs/copy and see which give more sales. This is called working smarter, not harder! Learn more about A/B testing here.

In short, upselling is not a sleazy practice but one that builds customer loyalty in addition to benefiting your business.  

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
Kassandra Strout
Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.