Retail Cross-Selling and Upselling – 4 Tips to Do It Right


Upselling and cross-selling are two of the most important marketing tools that retailers can employ. Together, they’ll increase your average transaction value and significantly improve your bottom line. No matter what industry you sell in, proper implementation of upselling and cross-selling will mean a boost in revenue.

Though the concept is simple, its practice can be difficult. Smart customers can read right through poor salespeople, losing you reliable shoppers. Instead, it’s important to keep in mind how upselling can help both your store and your shoppers. So let’s go over the difference between the two and then look at 4 easy ways to improve your business’s upselling and cross-selling. You’ll see results immediately and grow your business in remarkable ways.

an infographic showing '4 easy ways to cross and up sell'

What’s the Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling?

Though there are slight differences between the two, they share the same goal: improve shopper satisfaction and raise the average value that each customer spends at your store.

Cross-Selling in Retail

This looks at products that offer additional, similar needs to the original item being purchased. Think about it as an accessory.

For instance, a liquor store might sell sodas to complement the liquor that someone purchased. Or a shoe store might sell socks and laces to complement a pair of shoes a shopper bought. These simple examples of cross-selling illustrate how a consumer benefits from getting each item they need and the store benefits from a slight increase in the transaction amount. You’ll see cross-selling everywhere you go, from purchasing a car to a sandwich.

Another good example of cross-selling is a gift set. Gift sets often feature an array of related items that the recipient can enjoy together, like the example below.

Retail Upselling

This strategy markets higher-end products that serve the same purpose as the products which the shopper originally shopped for. The idea here is that a customer will walk away with a better, more expensive product. The shopper wins because they receive a higher quality item and the retailer wins because they have a larger revenue.

Again, it’s important to remember that simply upselling for the sake of upselling is a short-term perspective – shoppers will catch on and you’ll eventually lose business. It’s important to provide value to the customer during the process.

For instance, you could upsell cellular data or storage space to a smartphone shopper. Or an apparel retailer could upsell a men’s suit with a nicer thread count or one that’s personally tailored. Though these will increase the prices, there is a clear direct benefit to the shopper, too.

1. Stay Honest and Sincere

Your customers aren’t idiots; they’ll know if you or your sales team are just trying to upsell or cross-sell for the sake of making an extra few bucks. Like everything else in life, honesty and transparency will go a long way.

Sure, there may be times when it really makes sense to add an item or two, or buy a higher quality product. In those cases, explain to the shopper exactly how they’d benefit from spending more money or adding a few extra items. If you honestly exhibit the benefits of spending more money, your shoppers will gladly spend it, walk out your doors satisfied, and return sooner rather than later. Both parties come away winners.

But there will be other cases where it doesn’t make sense for the shopper to buy additional products or spend more on a higher-end version. In this event, again be honest. Steer them in the right direction and they’ll be far likelier to come back and refer your business to others. Shoppers value honesty so this will go a long way.

And whatever you do, don’t trap people into unfavorable long-term deals. Businesses that sell subscriptions or contract services that seem good up front but end up costing the shopper money down the road will end up losing their reputation and customer base remarkably quickly. Ripping shoppers off is a great short-term solution to make a few extra dollars, but is no way to run a successful long-term business.

2. Be Targeted with Retail Cross-Selling and Upselling

You also want to upsell or cross-sell the right people at the right time. You want to offer items that make sense to the shopper rather than simply try to pry more out of them.

It’s also worth noting that upselling and cross-selling can easily be done on a smaller scale. It’s not necessary to change the ticket price by a lot. Rather, you can simply upsell relevant products that add value to the shopper’s purchase and increase the amount spent, even if it’s just by a small amount.

Below are some common examples of simple upsells and cross-sells:

Cufflinks with a new dress shirt: The retailer can add a small item that is just a fraction of the amount of the original purchase price.

Adding complementary items to a bundled deal: This brings savings to the total purchase and requires no salesmanship from any staff members. Leave the cross-selling to the marketing instead of your team.

Retarget past shoppers with special offers: Another type of passive cross-selling, retargeting campaigns allow you to reach past shoppers to remind them that they might benefit from buying more from you.

Add dessert at a restaurant: One of the most classic forms of cross-selling or upselling, asking if someone would like dessert, coffee, tea, or a digestif is a great way to get them to leave happy and spend a few extra dollars. This is similar to the “Would you like fries with that?” tactic.

There are endless examples of cross-selling and upselling that retailers can use to improve the shopping experience and turn a bigger profit. Think about how your store can implement a few similar strategies and try them out.

3. Show the Customer Value

The bottom line is that you want to give your shoppers more value. You need to approach the process by upselling and cross-selling in their best interests.

For upselling, it’s important to adequately educate the shopper on their options and explain why it’s worth spending more money on a certain item over another. You want to focus on the benefits of the product rather than the additional cost.

Focusing on educating rather than selling also benefits shoppers that come in not quite knowing what they want. Use this as an opportunity to explain the various options your store has and why certain products are more expensive than others. You don’t need try to actively convince anyone to buy the most expensive item, but can instead show them why one thing costs more than another. If it’s within their budget, a shopper is likely to pay for added value if you do a great job educating them on the products.

  • Start by addressing the customer and striking up a conversation. Ask them questions and narrow down what they’re looking for and what motivates them to make a purchase. Focus on building rapport and showing genuine interest in the matter.
  • Listen well. Build trust by listening to their needs and concerns so that you can make a sincere suggestion about what they would like from their purchase. Again, you want to be clear that you’re there to help, not just take their money.
  • Finally, explain the value of the purchase. Show them how the purchase will improve their lives and provide them with added value. Don’t be pushy or try to force them into something they’re on the fence about.

4. Reward Your Loyal Shoppers

Upselling and cross-selling don’t necessarily come in the form of actual selling. Sometimes, instead, they can be rewards for your most loyal shoppers.

A great loyalty program is essential for most retailers. It adds incentive to purchase more, keeps shoppers returning often, and gives your regular customers a few nice perks. There are many different ways of structuring your loyalty program, but adding commonly upsold or cross-sold items is a great way to get started.

Instead of giving a discount or giving shoppers something for free that they would have otherwise purchased, retailers should consider adding a related product or two to their order instead.

First of all, this adds value to their experience and initial purchase. Adding a related item shows them that you care about their experience and further personalizes the interaction. Demonstrating these will make a big difference.

On the retailer’s side, this also doesn’t take away from a sale. If a shopper has the intent to purchase the same item repeatedly, discount or not, allow them to do so. Instead, reward them with an unexpected item. This means that your store still makes the same initial profit, though sacrificing the wholesale cost of the item that you gave away. But it also introduces the shopper to the new item, perhaps bringing them back to your store more frequently and for different products.

Again, it’s important to approach cross-selling and upselling in non-traditional ways. It’s not simply about lining your pockets more.

Improve Your Upselling and Cross-Selling with KORONA POS

When all is said and done, you need a retail point of sale solution that allows you to seamlessly offer product upsells and cross-sells. This includes features like price changes, discounts, bundled deals, BOGO promotions, loyalty discounts or freebies, and much more. Any change should be immediately and accurately reflected in your inventory and sales reporting.

To learn more, click below to start a free trial. We’ll walk you through each of the features that can help your store improve your cross-selling and upselling.

About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.

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