A great cross-selling strategy can lead to higher profits and greater customer loyalty.

New customers aren’t the only shoppers who can keep your monthly revenue on an upward trend. If you want to maintain a steady line of profit, your current customer base should always be included in your game plan. With cross-selling, you can activate the power of existing customers while showing them you care.

While new customers are a must for your business growth, sustainable growth can only happen if your current ones choose to stay. Returning shoppers are not only cost-effective to maintain, but they also spend 67% more than first-time buyers.

Cross-selling is a technique to help encourage this buying behavior and increase your long-term and short-term profits.

If you want to prevent a high churn rate from killing your bottom line, keep reading to learn exactly what cross-selling is and how you can make it a staple tactic in your sales strategy.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is a sales technique that boosts your revenue by encouraging shoppers to purchase related products in addition to their selections. The tactic can be put into action as soon as a buyer adds an original item to their shopping cart, whether in-store or online. This allows you or an automated system to narrow down and suggest additional items based on their selections. Successful cross-selling occurs when your customer gains interest in a suggested product, adds it to their cart, and checks out.

This selling technique is a proven method for increasing your average customer lifetime value and customer retention rates, and it’s clear why. As Steve Jobs once said, people often don’t know what they want until you show them. And once they already plan to spend, they’re often willing to purchase a suggested add-on. Plus, you may find many of your current shoppers are open to (and even appreciate) personalized, helpful customer service like this during their shopping trips.

Cross-selling isn’t anything new. It occurs every time your Internet provider suggests bundling your WiFi with cable services or when McDonald’s suggests adding on fries or a drink. However, the modern world makes it an increasingly effective technique. These days, you can suggest additional products based on rich data, including past purchase histories, that help you nail every single recommendation.

Cross-selling vs. upselling

Though cross-selling and upselling have similar functions—upping the value of a purchase—there is a distinct difference between the two. While the goal of cross-selling is to get shoppers to buy related or complementary products, the goal of upselling is to get them to upgrade the original purchase that was desired.

As an example, let’s look at how Amazon cross-sells. On almost every product page, the ecommerce website displays items that are frequently purchased with whatever product you view as well as sponsored products related to the item. These suggestions are for completely different products, which a shopper would buy in addition to the item they were interested in.

screenshot of items frequently bought together to promote cross-selling

On the other hand, when you look at an official product page for Amazon smart speakers, you’ll instead see a “Compare Echo devices” section. This is upselling. Instead of encouraging shoppers to buy add-ons, it shows you alternatives for the same product. The company doesn’t expect buyers to purchase multiple smart speakers, but it tries to persuade you to buy a more expensive speaker with more features.

screenshot of chart comparing products

Both cross-selling and upselling are highly effective when you want to increase a current customer’s spending. Knowing which one is best for your situation can help you better form a sales strategy for your product or service.

4 examples of cross-selling strategies

It’s one thing to understand what cross-selling is, but learning how to put it into action is another step. Whether you own an online store or a brick-and-mortar location, you can soon increase your average order value. That is, as long as you put effort into creating a great plan. To help, here are four examples of how you can guarantee results with your strategy:

1. Help consumers solve a problem

When your cross-selling doesn’t benefit your customer in any way, the buyer can see it as a bothersome (and obvious) money-making tactic. Think about it: If you choose to buy a bag of dog food online, you don’t want an unsolicited suggestion to add cat litter to your cart. In order to boost or maintain your current levels of customer satisfaction, you need to make cross-selling a natural part of a seamless experience.

For example, when someone purchases a smartphone case, it’s a great idea to suggest a screen protector. This is a complementary item that can complete their solution for protecting their phone. With a quick suggestion from your team member or your website before checkout, you additionally save your customer the time they would have spent browsing through your shelves or catalog.

When you cross-sell products that are meant to be used together, don’t forget to make sure they function properly as a unit. You don’t want to lose trust by suggesting a Google Pixel screen protector for someone who added a Samsung Galaxy case to their cart.

2. Create bundles for your customers

Many companies choose to build bundles that help customers save money. It’s common for sellers to offer a discount for choosing the full package over buying each item individually. This not only ups the perceived value of a cross-sell, but it also can convince customers to add a few extra dollars to receive items they didn’t necessarily need.

Bundling related items is a great way to sell more products while saving customers time. For shoppers who already plan to purchase multiple items, this strategy pushes them to checkout faster. For the rest, bundling can show the value of getting more than one item and indicate a bundle is in demand by other buyers.

3. Limit your suggestions

While it can be tempting to list a large amount of related products in hopes one catches your buyer’s eye, you don’t want to overwhelm a customer with suggestions. This can confuse customers, make their decisions harder, and make it less likely for customers to listen to your suggestions.

A better alternative is to list out a small amount of carefully selected items—no more than five is a good benchmark. By reducing your suggestions, your cross-selling strategy will feel more personalized and well-catered to the current customer. In addition, this method of cross-selling can increase the likelihood that a buyer will choose all the add-ons by making them more approachable.

4. Take advantage of data

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your cross-selling strategy should take advantage of the data you have about your customers. Businesses all around the world are using customer relationship management (CRM) softwareautomated feedback tools, surveys, and other strategies to learn more about their buyers, what they buy, and what persuades them to buy more.

A few questions you may want your data to answer include:

  • What products have sold together in the past?
  • What types of products do specific segments of my customer base prefer?
  • When do customers respond to your marketing or sales tactics the most?
  • How much are customers willing to add on to their carts on average?

Earn more with each sale

When you implement an effective cross-selling strategy into your sales processes, you can maximize the potential value of every customer’s shopping trip. Cross-selling is your opportunity to show shoppers other products that can benefit them. As a result, you can boost your profits while turning your brand’s customer experience into one every buyer looks forward to.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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