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Five Simple Ways to Upsell
Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen
Friday, October 2, 2015

What’s the best way to improve your average order value and profitability potential? Try to upsell—to everyone, on every sale. Here are five simple ways to do it.

Be strategic. Successful upselling starts with understanding which products or services will add value for your customers based on their specific purchase. The most effective upsell strategies incorporate offers that are a natural extension of the customer’s original need. A customer who buys soap, for example, is far more likely to take advantage of an upsell opportunity like a customized soap dish—than an unrelated product, like lip balm. 

Timing is everything. Upsells are typically more successful when they’re treated as a casual afterthought, rather than a hard sell. Fast food establishments are masters of upselling for a simple reason: They wait for the perfect time. Just as you’re more likely to “supersize it” or “add a salad” when you’ve already ordered your meal, your customers are more likely to bite on an upsell once they’re certain they’ll make a purchase.

Price it right. Upselling requires that you price and package products in such a way that customers can instantly recognize the opportunity to add more value—without being asked to stray too far from the cost of their intended purchase. Make upsells an easy decision for the customer. At Starbucks, for example, there are four coffee sizes, and they are priced in fifty cent increments. As a result, it’s an easier decision for the customer to “upgrade” from a small coffee to medium-sized one, than if the option were to choose between a small or a large coffee. Upsells are intended to improve your average order value, but you can’t be too aggressive with their price. Limit the additional amount you ask the customer to spend to no more than 20% of their “main” purchase.

Leverage seasonality. Special events and seasonal occasions present perfect opportunities to upsell, both at craft shows, and in your email and online promotions. During holiday seasons, create smaller stocking and Easter basket-sized versions of your most popular products, available for a fraction of the price. Likewise, create giftable “kits” for the people likely to be on your customer’s holiday shopping lists—like a child’s teacher, babysitters and co-workers. The more your seasonal upsell solves a problem the customer has (by being easy to gift and appropriately priced based on the likely recipient), the more likely your customer is to buy it on impulse. 

Get in their line of vision. Successful upselling requires asking the customer for the sale—but doing so in a way that feels more like their idea than yours. Merchandise upsell items near the point of sale at craft shows and retail locations, and present them as a suggested item on your ecommerce site during checkout. Merchandise the item in a way that quickly communicates its use, value and benefit. In a retail or show environment, that may mean displaying samples the customer can touch and smell. Online, that may mean showcasing the upsell product with complementary merchandise. Mark the item’s price clearly so the customer can quickly decide if they’re willing to add it to their purchase.

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