Upsell Best Practices: Optimize Your Upsell Marketing Strategy

Ana Rukavina

Upsell marketing can dramatically boost the lifetime value of your customers. Get started with this primer on upsell best practices and examples.

The value of upsell marketing

An upselling marketing strategy aims to increase the average sales value of a customer by inspiring individual customers to purchase related, but higher-value items – or the same item, but at a higher volume.

It enables companies to boost revenue figures and increase customer lifetime value, maximizing profit margins, with minimum costs and additional investment.

Far more than a sales technique, upsell marketing is a crucial part of a customer engagement strategy that prioritizes customer satisfaction and retention.

We’ve already talked at length about the the power of customer retention and the value of personalized customer engagement, but it’s worth reminding ourselves of the facts:

The upsell opportunity is abundantly clear, but marketers must tread carefully.

Impersonal messages annoy 54% of people and can drive your customers to competitor brands, so a poorly conceived strategy can make your brand appear pushy and self-serving.

8 upsell best practices

Use these eight upsell best practices to provide relevant, personalized, and timely upsell recommendations to your customers and optimize your omnichannel customer engagement:

1. Map your upsell strategy to the customer journey

Upsell marketing messages must align with your customers’ real-time needs and where they are in their purchase decision and the customer journey – from awareness and consideration, through to purchase, retention, and advocacy.

A “bestsellers” product recommendation might be a useful thing to include in an automated welcome email for newly registered customers – but it could be intrusive, unhelpful, or irritating to someone shopping with strong intent, who’s already midway through the checkout process.

Understanding your users’ needs and context is everything. Use empathy mapping to identify what your customers are thinking, feeling, and doing at different points in the customer journey.

Ensure that your upsell marketing strategy focuses on adding value and addressing different customer needs, at different stages in the customer journey.

2. Use two-way messaging

Conversational, two-way communication is hugely valuable when it comes to helping customers understand the value add of a higher-value related item or service.

Take volunteering platform Goodera, for example. The CSR company implemented WhatsApp Business as a communication channel to engage its volunteer network – together with a WhatsApp chatbot.

By enabling two-way communication with volunteers, Goodera was able to successfully upsell 20% of its clients through relevant, engaging communication.

3. Use the right channels

Always use the communication channels that lend themselves well to upsell opportunities – and connect with customers where they want to interact with you.

RCS messages provide a great way to improve the success of upsell activities by promoting your products and services in visually appealing, actionable messages. But if the majority of your customer base are iPhone users, RCS is not going to be the best way to reach them (for now, at least).

Different customer segments and demographics have very different expectations on what should be communicated – and on which channels.  

Your upsell strategy must cater to these different expectations, using a customer’s behaviors and channel preferences to deliver valuable brand moments – at each stage in the customer journey.

4. Personalize and add value

Upsell messaging should be accessible and personalized, but not intrusive. It should position you as a trusted advisor, here to add value, rather than to squeeze more from your customers’ wallets.

Unify your various data sources – from customer behavior and events, to demographics – to identify the most relevant upsell offers. Always provide upsell recommendations with a human touch, using a customer’s name, for example.

Artificial intelligence (AI) – already implemented by 37% of organizations – allows you to get even smarter with your personalization. In the past, your upsell messaging may have focused on a customer’s previous actions and purchases.

Now, AI-powered recommendation engines provide the tools for a predictive, proactive approach. With AI, you can base your upsell suggestions on the steps a customer is likely to take next, based on their behaviors, preferences, location, and other types of customer segmentation.

5. Keep it simple

You don’t want to overload your customers with too many options, so use clear messaging and a limited amount of well-targeted recommendations.

Offering a premium version of your product or service is one of the most common upselling methods, and allows you to help customers directly compare plans, products, or services on a feature-by-feature level.

Music streaming service Spotify combines a “keep it simple” approach with a premium offering. Its single upsell – Spotify Premium – focuses on the value add of its premium service, versus the limitations of its free service (*those* incessant ads).

6. Test, measure, learn

Testing and validating you upsell communication flows is key to optimizing your strategy, boosting results, and providing the best possible customer experience.

A/B testing is a really useful way to compare how two slightly different upsell messages perform at a particular point in the customer journey, for a particular segment of customers.

7. Automate your customer service

A positive customer service is key to the success of your upsell strategy. Automating aspects of customer support – for instance, using a keyword chatbot or AI chatbot to handle frequently asked questions (FAQs) – frees up agents to focus on upsell opportunities.

Paired with a cloud contact center, these automated customer service tools give agents a full contextual view of customer data and conversation history, making it far easier to identify the most appropriate upsell offers.

8. Automate your omnichannel customer engagement

Automation is also critical for providing personalized upsell opportunities at scale.

Unlike multichannel marketing automation – where you use different technology providers to communicate across different channels, with no integration between those channels – omnichannel marketing automation allows you communicate over integrated channels, with a joint strategy that centers around the individual customer.

Omnichannel marketing automation enables you to centralize customer data, segment and target messages, and provide a consistent customer experience, even as your customer moves across different digital channels.

This is absolutely key to an upsell marketing strategy that’s relevant, personalized, and timely.

Tip: learn how to deliver personalized, proactive, event-triggered communication with our guide to omnichannel marketing automation.

Upsell marketing examples

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of upsell marketing at different stages in the customer journey.

Awareness and consideration

Sending a welcome message to customers when they register or create an account with you is key to building relationships with new customers. Implemented properly, even this stage in the customer journey can be an opportunity to start seeding a soft upsell message.

As well as using a call API to communicate with your CRM, you can use a web or mobile SDK to pull events information – for example to identify whether a purchase has been made – adjusting the customer journey based on that information.

Where a customer is yet to make a purchase, you can send an automated welcome message with some product suggestions, emphasizing the benefits that come with the higher-value items, together with the benefits of shopping with you (perhaps you offer free delivery for products over a certain value, or flexible payment options).

Illustration of an upsell marketing flow that uses a call API to generate relevant welcome messages

Product pages are a great opportunity for upselling at the consideration stage, where customers are still making decisions. This can be a great moment to showcase different versions of your products and the value add that comes with investing in a higher-value option.

Purchase stage

Once a customer has added an item to their cart, you might think they’re too far along in their purchase decision to be swayed. Far from it.

Checkout pages are a great opportunity to make the most of a customer’s high purchase intent. The likes of AI chatbots can create a sense of urgency by alerting customers to related product or service bundles, or time-sensitive offers.

As an example, you could offer a customer with a car insurance package in their basket an offer that bundles car and home insurance together – an upsell that provides cost savings and convenience, while helping increase average order value.

Post purchase and advocacy

The post purchase phase is ripe with opportunity for re-engagement. Use the likes of emails and push notifications to keep your brand top of mind and create upsell opportunities, using the likes of a carefully curated “You may also like” list based on the unified data you have about a customer’s preferences and behaviors.

Your loyalty program is a great way to reward desirable behaviors, while encouraging customers to spend more during their next purchase.

As an example, you might offer a customer 40% off their next purchase as a reward for referring a friend, but perhaps they can only redeem this against certain higher-value items.

It’s important to create a sense of additional value for your loyal shoppers, so experiment with upsell recommendations that are based on social proof – for example higher-value products that come highly reviewed – or exclusivity upsells – for example, early access to a luxury range you’re launching.

Refining your upsell marketing strategy

Employing these upsell best practices will ensure you add value for your customers, improve customer acquisition, and help build satisfaction and long-term loyalty.

It’s not about short-term profit games – it’s about long-term customer lifetime value gains.

But the success of your strategy ultimately hinges on your ability to unify customer data across multiple channels.

Omnichannel marketing automation is key to providing valuable, contextual communications that match your customers’ needs, expectations, and intent in real time.

Check out our guide to omnichannel marketing automation to learn more about how to deliver personalized customer engagement at scale.

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Dec 1st, 2020
7 min read

Ana Rukavina