7 Proven Upsell Strategies & Tactics on Shopify in 2019

It has been over 6 months since the launch of our first Shopify upsell app Candy Rack. During this journey, we have successfully onboarded over 250 active merchants and helped them to generate more than $180,000 in upsells and cross-sells. That’s around $700 per merchant. It goes without saying that the vast majority of this revenue is a pure uplift and likely wouldn’t happen without the use of our app.

During this time we also had a chance to review hundreds of different upsell strategies and tactics of our merchants. That helped us to get quite an extensive knowledge of what is working well and what is just a conversion blocker. We have put together this guide in order to help Shopify merchants be more effective in upselling and cross-selling, but also to help customers by improving the overall shopping UX.

Before we dive into specific tactics, let’s learn some basics of Shopify upselling.

Shopify Upselling 101 – What you need to understand

In fact, most of the merchants on Shopify are doing cross-selling
In fact, most of the merchants on Shopify are doing cross-selling

Difference between upselling, cross-selling and bundling

One of the weirdest things in the Shopify community is that everyone is doing upselling. But in fact, most of the merchants are selling cross-sells, not upsells. While all are typically done to increase the monetization per customer, technically they are different. What’s the difference?

  • Upselling – Is a strategy to drive average order value (i.e. customer spent) up by offering customers a higher tier/variation of the same product. For example, if you are selling an iPhone and customers selects 64 GB variant, you can offer a 128 GB one as an upsell. So the original product in the customer’s cart will be replaced for a higher/better version. On Shopify it’s sometimes referred to as a true upsell/upgrade.
  • Cross-selling – Is also a strategy to drive AOV up, but by offering other products which are typically somehow relevant to the original one. For example, if you are selling an iPhone and together with it, you can offer some extras like AirPods or protective case. That’s cross-selling because the original product stays in the cart and the other ones are added.
  • Bundling a.k.a. Frequently Bought Together – The last strategy to drive AOV up by combining more products into one for a discounted price. For example, if you are selling an iPhone together with other products (like AirPods and case) as a bundle for a discounted price. So the customer is motivated to get the bundle, because of the savings. Technically the bundle could be one combined product or more in the cart. Probably the most famous bundle approach is Amazon’s frequently bought together.
Amazon's frequently bought together bundle offer
Amazon’s frequently bought together bundle offer

Different types of upsells/cross-sells/bundles

  1. Soft – Is a very gentle way of offering an upsell/cross-sell or bundle on the product page, cart page or during the checkout. It doesn’t distract the customer and hurts overall conversion but the take rate is very low. For example, Amazon’s FBG is a soft approach because it’s not adding an extra step to the conversion funnel.
  2. Pop-up – Pop-up could be a quite aggressive approach, but also one of the most effective ones. Pop-up could be either displayed as a passive offer (i.e. customer doesn’t need to click to close it and continue) or active offer which requires a customer to accept/decline it in order to continue. This is the approach we are using in Candy Rack, but we believe we have found the right balance in terms of UX.
  3. One click – This term is also not understood correctly on the Shopify platform. In general e-commerce, the term 1-click upsell/cross-sell means customer can do the purchase via single click using the stored payment details. This approach is typically used on the order confirmation page when a customer already filled in all information including credit card. Amazon 1-Click order is also a good example. From the existing apps on Shopify, only Bold supports it.
  4. Agent/chat – The last type is when a customer is offered to upsell/cross-sell/bundle via agent or bot on the online chat or phone. This is a very effective approach, but its use is limited as not every store has a live chat feature.

Our recommended upsell approach for Shopify

Here are the seven strategies and tactics you should keep in mind when implementing upselling/cross-selling/bundling offers on your Shopify store.

1. Be relevant

This is probably the key one. The more relevant the upsell/cross-sell is, the higher take rate you will achieve. Your goal here is to think of a relevant/complementary product for every product in your store. We have seen many merchants simply skipping this and offer the same cross-sell product across the store.

Offering expansion pack for a card game is a great cross-sell (via theAwkwardStore.com)
Offering expansion pack for a card game is a great cross-sell (via theAwkwardStore.com)

In order to do this, you can use some external BI tool to analyze your existing orders and look for patterns (not sure if there is some for Shopify?) or common sense. For example, if your customer is buying shoes, offer him a matching shirt or shoelaces.

If your store is too big and has hundreds of products, we have just launched a new version of Candy Rack which supports Smart Auto-Upselling when offers are created automatically based on the Shopify smart recommendations API. Unfortunately, the API is available only for Shopify Plus merchants.

2. Be creative

When creating the upsell offer your goal is to attract customer’s attention. So be creative in the messaging (why he/she should consider taking it) but also in the offer. For example, gift packaging is something relatively simple which most of the merchants can offer an extra service for $5 – $10 extra. Or priority processing for $1 – $5 is also a great revenue booster for extremely low costs.

3. Offer a discount

One of the most effective tactics for getting your customer interested in upsells is discounting. Even if you offer a small discount compared to your regular price, the customer will feel this is something special and the likelihood to accept the offer increases.

Using time-limited discount immediately increases the upsell take rate
Using time-limited discount immediately increases the upsell take rate

4. Increase urgency

Besides the discount, another element which works great is an urgency. Position your upsell offer as something unique, limited, and not for every customer. Using words like “Only today“, “Time-limited offer” or “Only for first 100 customers” are good examples for increasing the urgency.

5. Test and iterate

Setting up the upsell offer is just a start. Test, iterate and continue improving it all the time. Try to offer a different product, change the messaging, pricing or design. Just anything and track how it impacts the upsell take rate. Do not change too many things at ones and do rather small steps.

6. Measure overall store conversion

Most of the upsell/cross-sell/bundle apps will show you how much they contributed to growing your store revenue. But they won’t show you how they affecting the overall store conversion.

Imagine you will implement several upsell offers using different apps. They will generate some “extra” revenue but what is the loss of customer because of increased drop-off? That’s something you need to monitor yourself via Google Analytics or similar web analytics tools.

7. Keep it simple

We have seen so many Shopify stores which had tens of different upsell/cross-sell, motivators, bars, spin wheels, social proof, security seals, etc. apps that overall it was a total pain to purchase anything on the shop.

Over-(up)selling is not cool and customers hate it
Over-(up)selling is not cool and customers hate it

Please, keep it simple and pick just one or two upsell tools and stick with them. The more apps your store have, the slower it is and the worse the UX is. Customer without an added upsell in the cart is still far more valuable than no customer at all.

Expected results from upselling

If you do everything right the upsell conversion (or take rate) should be around 5% (measured on the offer views). The overall uplift on your store revenues should be around +10% to +30%. When Amazon introduced upselling back in 2006, it boosted their revenues by a massive 35%.

Bonus – List of best upsell apps on Shopify

Being an upsell app developer we can also recommend some other good apps, besides our Candy Rack, which are worth testing.

  • Bold Upsell by Bold (from $9.99 per month) – Probably the most notorious upsell on the Shopify App Store. Allows you to offer upsells/cross-sells on the product page, cart page or post-purchase. Supports multiple offers, discounting, free gifts and other types.
  • SMAR7 Bundle Upsell by SMART ($47 per month) – One of the most expensive upsell apps on the market, but totally worth it. It’s super slick and clean. Supports in-cart pop-up upsell, discounting and incentivizes customers to spend more.
  • Discounted Upsells by Booster Apps (from $19.99 per month) – Allows you to create an in-cart pop-up to cross-sell additional products with discount. Simple UI and setup, effective way of upselling.

There are dozens of others, but they are either looking awful from the UX point of view or they are difficult to set up. But if you think we should add any other to the list, just let us know below in the comments and we will be happy to review. But our goal is to keep the list small and feature only the top-quality ones.

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