Cross-Selling: 6 Strategies to Try and How to Validate Them

If you think you’re leaving money on the table with each order customers place via your Shopify store, you probably are. So the million-dollar question is: What can you do about it? How can you earn 10% or 20% or 30% more per order? Implementing the right cross-selling strategy can easily help you achieve those results or better

To give you some ideas for where to start, we’ll cover six strategies that have worked for many brands and best practices to help you identify and implement the right one for your brand. 

The difference between cross-selling and upselling

Cross-selling is promoting relevant products that complement what a shopper is about to buy. Or, in some cases, what they just purchased. Upselling is persuading them to buy premium add-ons, customizations, or a different or advanced version of a product. 

Take, for example, a skincare brand that sells skin cleansers and moisturizers. A cross-sell would be encouraging soon-to-be customers to also purchase a moisturizer when they add a cleanser to their carts. While an example of upsell would be prompting them to upgrade to the 10 oz. bottle of skin cleanser when they add the 5 oz. bottle to their carts. 

The same principles apply no matter what you’re selling. However, some methods of cross-selling may work better for your brand than others. 

6 effective cross-selling strategies for Shopify stores (with examples from DTC brands)

There are many ways to persuade visitors to your Shopify store to consider buying complementary items. 

1. Cross-sell on product pages

A little later, we’ll see cross-selling examples in the cart, at checkout, and on the thank you page. But, before customers reach any of those stages in the checkout flow, what do they see? Your product pages, of course! 

By placing strategic cross-sell offers here, you can plant seeds of interest in other products you offer. That way, if people don’t add complementary products to their cart immediately, you may be able to persuade them with cross-sells in the cart, at checkout, and so on. 

Helix Sleep does this on its product pages. Below the pricing for each primary product is an upsell. In the example below, a cooling mattress cover is offered on product pages for one of the brand’s mattresses. 

2. Cross-sell in the cart

Carts are also prime locations for cross-sells. They give an opportunity to showcase products that a visitor may like but hasn’t seen. Plus, they allow you to showcase what products other customers love or typically buy with the products a visitor has in their cart. Using language like “trending products” can have a similar impact as customer ratings, reviews, and other forms of social proof. They signal that other people love what you offer and trust your brand, which can give site visitors an extra nudge to buy suggested products.  

Feminine care brand Daye uses this strategy, placing its “Products You Might Like” section above the checkout button. That way, customers can’t miss it before they head to the checkout page. 

The best thing about this example is its simplicity. The products are self-explanatory and inexpensive. This prevents people from having to sleep on it or hunt for product info to decide if they want the additional items. They can decide on the spot and add the items instantly without any friction. 

Another example of simplicity is this cross-sell we created for the bean bag brand Moon Pod. (Try saying that five times fast!)

These offers are pricier than the ones in the previous example. But the right pricing for cross-sells is relative. Moon Pod’s core products start in the hundreds of dollars, so adding a $129 item wouldn’t be as off-putting to its customers as it might be to Daye’s customers, for example.

In any case, you’re probably wondering how this cross-sell performed. Nearly as soon as we implemented it, revenue increased by an additional five figures per month. The takeaway? You can successfully sell complementary products as long as they’re closely related to what’s already in the cart, don’t require a ton of explanation, and are priced reasonably for your brand.

3. Bundling complementary products

Don’t just cross your fingers and hope shoppers will search for and buy complementary products on their own. Proactively suggesting bundles is a smarter way to go, especially if you personalize your cross-sells based on shoppers’ interests. Your bundles could include different variations of a product already in their carts (e.g., different flavors of a food item) or different but related products (e.g., a shirt and beanie to go with the pants in the cart).

Of course, manual bundle personalization for each person shopping in your online store isn’t feasible, so you’ll need a tool. We love and recommend Rebuy for grouping products into high-converting cross-sell offers—particularly because it allows dynamic bundling.

Instead of presenting the same offer to everyone regardless of what they’ve shown interest in on-site, Rebuy’s artificial intelligence suggests personalized bundles. As a result, users have seen up to 86% increases in average order value, up to 40% increases in conversions, and 42x ROI on average. To say we highly recommend product bundling and, specifically, dynamic bundling with a tool like Rebuy is an understatement.

4. Leverage free gift and free shipping thresholds

Perks like free shipping or free gifts for orders over a certain dollar amount can be great motivators in themselves. Many customers will willingly add additional products to their carts if they know they’ll get additional value out of doing so. 

To give you an example, Promix Nutrition uses not just one but several tiers of free gifts as an incentive in the cart. Then, below items in the cart, there’s a section dedicated to cross-sells.

A key takeaway here is to be strategic about your gift thresholds considering your average order value and typical cost of your products. In this case, the tiers are just close enough together that adding an item from the “Customers Also Bought” section would get customers close to being eligible to receive the next free gift. 

For instance, if a customer added Debloat for $37, the total would be $97.80. That’s less than $3 away from the first free gift threshold. If that gift is appealing to the customer, they’ll add another product to their cart, which will probably put them close to the $140 mark. If the gift for the $140 threshold is enticing, they may spend a bit more, and the cycle repeats.

5. Cross-selling at checkout 

The checkout page provides another opportunity to showcase additional products customers might be interested in. Just remember that if you’ve presented other cross-sells during the user’s time on-site, your checkout cross-sell should focus on a different product. Showing an offer they’ve already seen and ignored could be ineffective at best and, at worst, come off as pushy.

Cosy House Collection does a good job with its checkout page cross-sell. It presents a single offer to not overwhelm customers with a ton of choices. The offer is placed in the summary and above the checkout button, making it harder to skim past than if it were below the item in the cart. Plus, it doesn’t just state the product name and price; it also succinctly highlights why the customer should want it using action-oriented language. 

This example isn’t to say you can’t present more than one product at checkout; you can definitely A/B test that and may find that it works better than a single cross-sell. However, no matter the number, make sure they have good visibility so customers are more likely to spend a few extra seconds considering the offer. Also, speak to the benefits of the product where you can. 

6. Cross-sell on the thank you page 

The checkout page is by no means your last cross-selling opportunity. You may see good results from allowing customers to add related items to their order post-purchase with a single click. Especially if you offer something that’s exclusive, available for a limited time only, or that the customer didn’t already ignore in an earlier-stage cross-sell attempt. 

You might want to try a tool like ReConvert, which is a thank you page builder that integrates with Rebuy. It’s a solid tool for adding cross-sells and upsells at this point in the customer journey where customers’ conversion potential is still high. The average ReConvert user gets a 10-15% boost in revenue and a more than 2,000% return on investment. 

How to make a success of cross-selling

We’ve talked about some cross-selling techniques that can help increase average order value. Now let’s get into some best practices you’ll need to remember no matter which one you use. 

1. Recommend products based on customer behavior 

Research by Salesforce found that 66% of customers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations. And 52% expect all offers to be personalized. 

In a nutshell, generic customer experiences are becoming riskier. Personalization is key not only for driving sales and increasing AOV today but also for customer retention. If you personalize your cross-sells (and other aspects of the customer experience), you’ll automatically have a leg up on competitors who don’t. 

2. Emphasize value

If you’re asking people to spend more in your online store, they expect and deserve to get some benefit from doing so. While you shouldn’t overhype the items you’re promoting, do emphasize a benefit they can expect from buying. 

3. Don’t promote products that require education

On a product page, in a cart, and such, you don’t have the luxury of space to give a full product pitch for each additional item you’d like customers to buy. At most, you may give a description of a couple of sentences. Your offer either has to be familiar or something you can explain the purpose and value of concisely.  

4. Don’t just sell; build trust 

If you have a growing, loyal customer base, use it to your advantage. Show that other people love your products and trust your brand. There’s no shortage of ways to do this. 

Be strategic about the heading you use to introduce your cross-sells, using language like “customers also love” or “customers also bought.” You can also show the number of five-star ratings a product has received. Or use dynamic badges showing recent customer purchases or the limited number of inventory left. Particularly with pop-ups, you may even be able to show off a customer testimonial or two. 

5. Know how many cross-sells is too many

Just because you can cross-sell on product pages, in the cart, via pop-ups, at checkout, on thank you pages, and so on doesn’t mean you should. It will take some research to figure out what number of cross-sells works for your brand and what’s overkill. There’s no minimum or maximum that works for all brands. 

Hence the importance of evaluating your Shopify store user experience (UX) from customers' perspectives. And, even better, doing user testing or on-site surveys to know for sure how shoppers feel about the UX. 

Always validate your cross-selling strategies

In addition to the above best practices, you should always validate your cross-selling strategy through A/B testing. After all, there’s no guarantee that cross-selling elements will work for you. We’ve seen them work for many brands in different verticals (e.g., to keep shoppers browsing longer before checking out). But we’ve also seen instances where cross-sells have hurt performance. In fact, we tested removing a cart cross-sell for one client and found that it was costing them $63,000 per month.  

So it’s important to ask: Is your strategy working? Could a few tweaks increase its effectiveness? Is there another approach you should use in addition to or instead of it? A/B testing can help answer all of these questions reliably so long as you have a solid process. Feel free to steal ours, by the way. 

We swear by our Testing Trifecta methodology since, unlike typical processes that basically leave you flying blind, the Testing Trifecta encourages data-driven decision-making. 

Examining qualitative data

It starts with reviewing your qualitative data—analytics, heatmaps, scrollmaps, and the like—to figure out what your ecommerce store’s strengths and weaknesses are. (This could include reviewing data on the performance of any existing upsell or cross-sell flows you have.) 

Gathering and analyzing quantitative data

From there, we move on to extracting insights from quantitative data (e.g., interviews with existing customers, usability testing, and chat support analysis). Many brands leave this step out, but that’s a huge mistake. It allows us to hear directly from your target customers their wants, needs, expectations, and suggestions for improving your site experience. As a result, we can approach the third step of the trifecta more strategically. 

Planning based on data-driven insights

What is that third step? Developing a hypothesis. The quantitative and qualitative data have already told us the what and why of your online store’s current performance. Now, based on that information, we can zero in on A/B testing ideas that are likely to address your target customers’ needs better and, ultimately, make you more money. 

This is absolutely a process you can implement yourself if you have the time, resources and have experience with A/B testing. But if you’d like to discuss how we can manage the process for you and generate more revenue via cross-selling, just request a proposal