user experience & design

eCommerce Revenue Boosters: Cross Selling and Upselling

December 2nd, 2016

Have you ever been asked to upgrade your burger and fries to a meal?

When you ask for something, and the vendor instead offers you something else, it’s usually an example of either a cross sell or an upsell.

The more risk-conservative alternative is the cross sale. If the vendor were to offer you a meal deal as an alternative to your current order, that would be considered a cross sale. Cross sale offers aren’t necessarily more or less spendy than the original offer, and are usually very similar in price to the original item.

Richard Lazzazera of Shopify Blogs writes that “upselling performs 20 times better than cross-selling” on product landing pages. However, once the buyer reaches the conversion funnel, cross-selling outperforms up selling by 3%.

Good Upsell Example

In this instance, we have three radio buttons up selling (marginally) faster processors. According to Shopify, a good rule of thumb is to never try to upsell more than 25% of the original product retail price.

The laptop default price (before add-ons) is $1,200, so for Intel to charge $300 for the quickest version of their processor is a certainly an aggressive markup, but it isn’t outrageous.

Poor Upsell Example

It’s never a good idea to impede the user’s path to the checkout with multiple upsell offers.

Count on web domain retailers GoDaddy to do the opposite of wise upsell protocol. Graham Charleton of Econsultancy writes that in his quest to purchase a domain name, he was hit with 10 upsell/cross sell offers. This is definitely not the way to appeal to your customers and create a loyal clientele base:

Notice how the “Continue to checkout” link is much smaller and less visible than the “Add to Cart” buttons.

Good Cross Sell Example

This cross sell pane is a product of the Shopify extension Linkcious.

Based on this collection of related items, do you think you could figure out what was being sold?

If you guessed “Dress Pants”, you would be correct. Linkcious did a good job here of displaying relevant products to the feature item. Based on the prices of the belts, we can reasonably infer that the object in question is a relatively expensive pair of dress pants.

The $25 dollar difference between the belts and the toothpicks is a little extreme, all of the prices are really in the same ballpark.

Perhaps the most aesthetic aspect of this example is the minimalist design that we see in the panel itself. The panel isn’t distracting, and therefore it won’t overshadow the main product of the landing page.

Poor Cross Sell Example

In this example, courtesy of GetElastic the format and layout isn’t at fault, but the items being displayed aren’t plausibly connected to the featured product.

In-Ear Headphones for a purchaser of a RipStick Caster Skateboard? That one’s plausible.

But marketing a leg shaving kit and a neck pillow doesn’t make much sense, and is likely the result of a poorly thought out cross sale scheme or formula.

The page area could have been used to market ceramic bearings, WD-40, or alternate skateboard choices. It’s likely that the cross sale items were determined by some sort of formula. Product query “RipStik Caster Board” has certainly exposed a flaw in the cross sale formula.


One of the best apps on the market for Cross and Up sales is Linkcious. The basic plan is completely free.

Linkcious adds a panel of related products below the featured product of each landing page. However, there’s no guarantee that the related product will be from your merchandise inventory.

If the panel shows a product from your site, Linkcious refers to this as an “Internal Impression”. The basic (free) Linkcious plan caps the user at 1,500 internal expressions.

When the panel shows a product from an external site on your landing page, this is called an “External Impression”. Under the basic plan, Linkcious offers 10,000 external expressions for your products on other sites that use Linkcious.

The new potential for traffic from external impressions is part of what makes Linkcious so intriguing. Even under the free plan you’re guaranteed 10,000 external expressions.

Product Upsell

Product Upsell is the type of app that could be very effective in both up and cross selling when used correctly, but has the potential to be impeding to the user if not used in moderation.

This Shopify app allows the user to create additional offers that will can be presented to customers just before checkout. You can preset the the app to suggest products based on the items currently in the cart.

For example, you could preset Product Upsell to offer the user a discount offer on memory sticks if they are buying a camera worth more than $75.

Product Upsell comes with a free 30 day trial, followed by an entry level price of $9.99 per month.

Conclusion: Don’t Get Carried Away

A well thought out up sale/cross sale offer can increase revenue instantly.

However, it’s a precise art, and most of the time up sale and cross sale offers simply come off as being obnoxious, especially when offer windows interrupt the user’s progression towards purchase.

There’s nothing wrong with using Linkcious to get some extra marketing through external impressions, but just remember that users came to the landing page for the featured product. Be careful not to detract from the subject of the landing page with lesser quality items.

Jenna Erickson


Jenna is the Marketing Manager at Codal, blogger, and technology + startup enthusiast. With a responsibility of Codal's marketing programs and brand management, she is always strategizing new ways to reach clients through content and inbound marketing tactics. In her free time, Jenna enjoys traveling, cooking and reading.


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