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Cross Selling and Up Selling: two techniques that will improve sales on your website

There is an unwritten rule for those who try to boost the sales in their online store: if a marketing tool gets a name that defines it, then it works.

Reading “This exploits the Cross Selling method” rather then “Combines the sale of several related products in order to increase the average cart value” sounds indeed better and more professional.

This doesn’t mean that other methods don’t work, but seeing the same results come up in our “How to increase sales on my e-commerce store” researches time and time again increases our trust in a specific method.

But if a marketing tool got its own specific name that defines it, then it might be too complex for inexperienced users, making the first approach to it harder.

And this is the case for Cross Selling and Up Selling.

If like me, you searched the internet for miracle ways to boost the sales in your store before, then I’m sure this isn’t the first time you hear these words, so why not shed some light on how these two marketing tools work? And why not see how to use them on your e-commerce store?

Cross selling: sell more items to the same customer

Of the many variables that affect the income in an online store, one of them is more important than the others: the average customer value.

While it’s important for any store to increase the number of customers and the overall conversion rate, if we manage to also boost the average amount of money spent by each single customer, we would greatly improve the average value of every single transaction.

These two methods are directly involved in this point: meaning how to increase the value of each single customer.

Their effectiveness is easily explained: imagine having 100 customers who spend an average of $50 on your website, your gross income would amount to $5000.

If you’d manage to increase their expenses from $50 to $70 each, you would gain $2000 with the very same number of customers.

So how does Cross Selling work?

Cross selling has the goal of encouraging customers to purchase several products at the same time, thus increasing your average purchase value.

It’s generally more effective in case of products that you can sell as bundles, such as a camera and its casing, memory card, lenses, etc etc. But it may also be used in different fields such as clothing (shirt + trousers) videogames (game + expansion or related game), food (meal + dips + sides), so it can basically apply to any kind of product.

This marketing tool owes its effectiveness to proposing these items to customers who would be interested to purchase those accessories anyway but didn’t consider getting them from your store, such as the camera and its casing.

Customers often don’t realize they are going to need other products as well as the one they are buying and their interest might be raised by offering them similar products to the one they are after (which they are more likely to appreciate).

So, now that this technique’s effectiveness has been established, how can we apply a Cross Selling system to our store?

WooCommerce itself comes in handy in this, offering us the opportunity to link a product to others, that are going to be displayed at the bottom of a product’s landing page.

This function, however useful, is also imperfect and less than functional, given that very few customers reach down to that section and even less are going to be interested in clicking related products (so just immagine how many of them will actually reach the checkout page).

So how should we do this? Well, we can get inspired by the big names in the field, such as Amazon!

If you ever purchased from Amazon you must have noticed how related products are constantly proposed, as well as the “Frequently Bought Together”

They are displayed underneath any product, showing a sort of product bundle which encourages customers to purchase more items at the same time!


It’s a working system, both thanks to the reasons I have listed so far, and because it uses a weakness into our customers’ psychology. Neuromarketing uses an unconscious process called “Principle os Social Proof” which states that, in short, if a product or action is purchased/done by many people, that product/action acquires value.

So just stating two items are “Frequently Bought Together” brings our customers to purchase more products, since unconsciously it’s as if they were reading “Others bought these items togher, I should do the same thing”.

Pro tip: if you use WooCommerce for your online store, you can easily introduce this function thanks to the WooCommerce Frequently Bought Together plugin.

Clearly this is one of the most effective ways to incentivate Cross Selling, but you don’t have to necessarily display your products so bluntly. For instance, during the purchase proces, it could be interesting to display related products to the one that was added to the cart, in a pop-up window, making them look as a friendly advice rather than an attempt to sell more products.


Pro tip: you can integrate this function to your WooCommerce store thanks to the YITH WooCommerce Added to Cart Pop-up plugin.

So, for short, Cross Selling is the ideal technique for those who sell many different related items…  But what if instead of selling several products, we want to bring the customer to purchase the most expensive ones?

This is when Up Selling comes into play.

Up Selling: let your customers pick your most expensive service

Despite Cross Selling is indeed effective, it may not apply to just any store, especially in case of stores which sell few very expensive products (such as a car shop, a jewelry shop, a digital products store etc…).

How is it different from the first tool? While Cross Selling brings customers to increase their average expense by adding more products to the cart, Up Selling aims for the single purchase, but with a higher value.

For this reason Up Selling is the ideal technique for those who own a store in which multiple purchase are rare.

Let’s take for instance a jewelry store: the vendors are offering a pendant, they could try to push customers towards a more expensive pendant, maybe including a more rare and valuable stone in it, so that if that works, they would have significantly increased the value and the expenses of a given customer.

Let’s consider some more extreme cases: a car shop. Or a website that rents flats: customers will clearly purchase/rent a single product, Cross Selling cannot apply here. But what if we managed to bring them to take interest in a more expensive car or in renting a flat with higher fees? We would increase the value of each single customer, increasing profits from day one.

Ok, so it’s a working technique… but how can we apply it to an online store?

Up Selling can be a rather tricky technique and it shouldn’t become too obvious (you can’t just go “Hey, people aren’t buying this, you should buy this one instead”) but you can disguise it as a feature you are offering.

Consider a case as this one:

I’m looking to buy a new laptop. Given this isn’t a regular everyday expense (such as buying the newspaper or having a coffee) I will weigh my purchase carefully, considering the years that will follow.

In this case I’m already keen on spending more than I anticipated, in order to get a product that will not only satisfy me for the time being but also be a durable one.

A most effective way of bringing customers towards more expensive product is to offer a tool to compare items: such as having to choose between two computers, one of which is more expensive than the other.

When faced with all the better features included in the higher price computer, since I’m already keen on spending a high amount of money, I might as well go for the most expensive one.


Clearly this can apply to all sorts of products, for instance by comparing brands for clothes, smartphones, fragrances etc…

Pro tip: if you wish to offer an easy way to compare products on your WooCommerce based store, you can use the WooCommerce Compare plugin.

In the end I should point out that while these tools are effective on their own, they might as well be combined.

Let’s get back to out computer shop example: Cross Selling is good to sell users a mouse and keyboard together with the pc they’re buying, Up selling will make them choose the most powerful (and expensive) computer.

Try it out yourself and apply these two techniques that will turn every single customer in a little gold mine.

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