Upselling is an effective sales technique for increasing average order value and boosting sales from customers who are already showing purchase intent with your brand.

Below we'll share some tried-and-true ecommerce upselling techniques, but first: It's important to know the difference between upselling and cross-selling.

While they share the same goal (higher cart values), they're not the same thing. Upselling involves scaling up the customer's current purchase with a higher-priced item. Cross-selling involves recommending a related product from your online store encourage the customer to spend more. In this post, we'll keep the focus on upselling.

Upselling techniques can be tricky--they can backfire if not followed correctly. Here are nine effective upselling strategies to help you increase cart values and customer retention.

1. Set a price margin

Setting a maximum price margin will help you upsell existing customers without making them feel like they're being manipulated into spending more than they can afford.

A good rule of thumb is to go no higher than 50% of their initial purchase.

Say, for example, that your ecommerce store sells apparel. If a customer has a $50 jacket in their cart, you wouldn't try to upsell them on a $100 jacket--that's a significant difference. Upselling them on a $75 jacket is more feasible.

The higher the price margin, the less likely you are to win the upsell.

2. Make buying easy

To increase average order value, make sure you provide your customers with easy buying options. If they have to work too hard to complete the purchase, they're more likely to walk away.

Feature the upsell item within or adjacent to the shopping cart, along with an "upgrade" button. That way, shoppers can click through for details about the more expensive product or simply replace the existing item in their cart with one click. (Just be sure to provide sufficient information about the higher-priced product to justify the jump in price.)

The goal is to make the process as simple as possible.

3. Offer a discount

Special offers are a great upsell strategy. They incentivize customers to spend more money because they feel like they're getting a better value.

For example, you could offer customers a 20% discount on a $90 jacket or offer free shipping on orders over $70 (or whatever your threshold is) to encourage them to buy the higher-priced product.

4. Add pop-up recommendations

Pop-ups are a great upselling and cross-selling tactic because they appear at critical moments in the customer journey, such as when the buyer adds something to their cart or clicks the checkout button. Love them or hate them, pop-ups work.

When a current customer is already in spending mode, show them a pop-up or banner of similar but higher-cost options. They might see something they missed while browsing and like it even more than the first product they found--a win-win.

5. Use powerful language

The words you use when upselling should be compelling, descriptive, and persuasive.

Focus on the benefits of the upsold product rather than features or specs. Why should they choose this option instead of what's already in their cart? Why does this specific item have more value than the customer's original choice? How will this item better meet their needs?

For example, to upsell the higher-end jacket, you might say something like, "silk lining provides enhanced comfort and a timeless look."

6. Create FOMO (fear of missing out)

Another effective sales tactic is to show your customer what they'll be missing if they don't agree to the upsell.

List the features of the higher-end product that don't come with the customer's original purchase.

Suddenly, details your customer never knew existed--like a silk lining-- become a must-have feature.

Leveraging scarcity and urgency is another sales technique to generate customer FOMO. Tell your customer how many customers have been looking at the item or that the offer ends soon. This can also indicate that the product is popular with other customers, which gives the buyer social proof that it's a good value.

7. Include social proof

Most customers read online reviews, which is why social proof is key for ecommerce stores. According to Nielsen research, 70% of consumers trust recommendations from people they don't know.

Including existing customer reviews and star ratings below upsell products can encourage your buyer to go for the higher-priced item. Reviews from past customers are great for convincing customers they're making the right choice and helping justify spending more money.

You can also capitalize on any influencer and affiliate marketing campaigns you have going or awards and accolades you’ve received from major publications.

8. Provide three options

Show your customer tiers of options, ranging from the most economical (what they're considering) to the most expensive, but not too many. Research suggests that three is the ideal number. You can upsell without appearing too pushy by providing customers with alternatives within their budget.

In fact, in a recent Down to Chat podcast episode on increasing AOV, DTC experts Cody Plofker and Eli Weiss say that when you offer three options – say different sized packs of cereal or toilet paper – customers will typically go for the middle option.

So you can play around with your offerings to find the sweet spot that gets customers to say add more to their cart.

9. Don't be sneaky

When trying to upsell a customer, you should do it in a way that benefits you both. Don’t offer last minute shipping insurance at checkout for the tiny increase in AOV.

Nobody likes to feel like they're being taken advantage of. It's more important to retain customers over the long haul than to win tiny added increments of revenue on a customer who you’ve turned off of your brand.

Support your upselling efforts with SMS messaging

These upsell techniques are a great way to generate more revenue in the short term. Experiment with different upselling techniques to find what's most effective for your brand. But to retain your current customers, you need to keep them engaged. That's why growing your email and SMS subscriber lists is essential to reach existing customers about special offers and new products.

Emotive's powerful automation tools help you grow your subscriber lists, segment your audience, and engage them through targeted messages. Want to learn more about how Emotive's best-in-class SMS marketing software can boost your sales and marketing efforts?Book a demo to talk to an SMS expert.