The cross-sell is an essential sales technique for ecommerce stores that can increase your average order value and, ultimately, improve your ratio of LTV:CAC (lifetime value to customer acquisition cost).

We'll cover cross-selling strategies below, along with some best practices for implementing them. But first, we want to clarify: Cross-selling and upselling are not the same.

Both are designed to boost cart value, but there's a subtle difference. Upselling encourages existing customers to purchase a more expensive version of the same product, whereas cross-selling is about suggesting an additional item that's related to the original product.

For example, say you're a health and wellness store that sells supplements, and a customer puts a 50-count bottle of B12 vitamins in their cart. If you're upselling, you might suggest that the 100-count bottle, while more expensive, is a better value. If you're cross-selling, you might recommend they add a bottle of your top-selling probiotic formula.

You’ll want to implement both depending on your product selection and customer buying habits.

In this guide, we’ll cover cross-selling strategies. Now, let’s get into it.

1. Cross-selling at checkout

One of the most popular cross-selling strategies is suggesting complementary products at checkout. After all, this is the moment when customers are already in a purchasing mindset. Think of it like the gum offered at the checkout in a brick-and-mortar store.

Some ecommerce brands do this with a carousel of similar or complementary items with a header like "Related products" or "People also bought" that shoppers can click on for details.

2. In-cart cross-sells

In-cart cross-selling is also product suggesting, but the shopper doesn't have to click away from the cart page to learn more about the recommended item.

Instead, the complementary products are listed within the cart or next to it with a button that enables shoppers to add them to their cart with just a click. It's a win-win: In addition to increasing revenue, you've made the shopping experience seamless, which can improve customer satisfaction.

In-cart cross-sells can be particularly effective when paired with free shipping thresholds. For example, say your a beauty brand offering free shipping for orders of $25 or more.

A customer adds eyeshadow and eyeliner to their cart for a total of $20. Given what’s in their cart and the price needed to reach the free shipping threshold, you might offer a $10 mascara to encourage the customer to buy more.

3. Bundling

Another cross-selling strategy is bundling. Bundles are when you offer several products together at a discount, making it more enticing for customers to purchase multiple items that complement each other.

For example, a photography store might sell a digital camera for $2,100 and a macro lens separately for $800. To encourage shoppers to buy both, they might bundle the camera and lens into one package for $2,600.

You can promote the bundle on its own, but you can also show the special offer directly on the digital camera page.

4. Pop-ups

Cross-selling can also take the form of pop-ups or banners. Pop-ups are an efficient cross-selling tactic because they appear at key moments in the customer journey, such as when customers add something to their cart or click the checkout button.

This gives you another chance to recommend related items that could complete a customer's purchase.

At this point, you could offer limited-time deals for adding more products to their cart.

5. Confirmation page offers

You can also cross-sell shoppers after they've made a purchase by making product recommendations immediately after purchase.

Brands who use this cross-selling strategy often offer limited-time deals that encourage impulse purchases on low-cost items that are easy to say yes to like a set of boxers or mini face oils.

6. Retargeting

Retargeting ads are an effective way to bring cart abandoners back to your website, but they can also be used for pre-and post-purchase cross-selling.

For example, if customers leave items in their cart without completing their purchase, you can serve them retargeting ads as they browse other websites. But instead of showing them just what's already in their cart, you feature a product related to what they have in their cart with a discount to encourage them to come back and buy both items.

7. Follow-up cross-sells

Email and SMS/MMS marketing are also powerful cross-selling tools. After an existing customer makes a purchase, consider sending them a follow-up email or text to thank the customer for their purchase and offer a discount on complementary products.

For example, if someone buys shoes from your store, you could send them cross-selling promotions for socks or a matching belt.

Cross-selling best practices for ecommerce

Cross-selling can boost average order value and increase profits by as much as 30% when done well. But if it diminishes customer experience, it can backfire. Follow these best practices for cross-selling to ensure you're benefiting your customers and not just your bottom line.

Pick the right products

Don't just throw random products at your customers. Suggest items related to what they're purchasing--even better, products that will help them get more enjoyment out of what's already in their cart. Cross-sell offers that aren't relevant can turn an existing customer into a lost opportunity.

If you have multiple products you could cross-sell to customers, look at your customer data to see what items are frequently purchased together.

Cross-sell lower priced items

One essential principle to cross-selling, is to promote products at a lower price point than the one the customer is currently interested in.

One of the reasons cross-selling is effective is that you’re just asking the customer to spend a little more. Except for low priced items, you’re usually not asking a customer to more than double their purchase. So it’s easier to convince shoppers to add on items.

Keep your suggestions simple

If you're selling cell phones, chargers are a helpful recommendation your customers can decide on without having to put much thought into it. But if you also suggest earbuds, a protective case, a stand, and a ring light, you might overwhelm your shopper with decision fatigue or scare them away by coming off as too salesy.

Instead, offer just 1-3 items that shoppers are most likely to buy.

Don't be pushy

Cross-selling should feel natural, not pushy. One—maybe two—cross-sell offers per purchase probably won't bother your customer. More than that and shoppers may decide that the product they're buying isn't worth slogging through pop-up after pop-up.

Experiment to see what works

There's no one-size-fits-all cross-selling strategy—your customers all have different needs and preferences. Try a variety of cross-selling tactics and see which ones work best for your store. Continually monitor performance and A/B test your offers to ensure you get the most out of every transaction.

Add SMS marketing to your cross-selling strategy

Remember, your cross-selling opportunities don't end just because someone leaves your website. Bring shoppers back to your store with text messages recommending other products that can enhance their enjoyment of what they've already purchased.

Text messages reach your customers where they are—on their smartphones. And they reach them instantly, so you can capture their attention while they're still in the mood to shop. The average estimated open rate of SMS messages is 95% within three minutes of receipt.

Ready to start cross-selling with SMS messages? Sign up for a demo of Emotive, the SMS marketing platform designed specially for ecommerce brands.