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A Guide to Cross-Selling for Higher Average Order Values

With competition fierce and showing no signs of easing up, eCommerce businesses must constantly seek fresh avenues to drive sales and increase customer value. A strategy that’s proven to be highly impactful in that regard is cross-selling.

Cross-selling is the practice of recommending additional products or services to customers based on their current purchase or browsing history. It focuses on offering relevant and complementary items that enhance the customer’s shopping experience and add value to their purchase.

This guide will explain the ins and outs of cross-selling in eCommerce, providing you with the knowledge and strategies you need to implement this powerful sales technique and maximize your revenue. We’ll equip you to seize the opportunity to increase your average order value, foster customer loyalty, and encourage repeat purchases.

The psychology of cross-selling

To implement cross-selling effectively, it’s important to understand the underlying psychology that drives consumer decision-making. By gaining insights into buyer behavior and motivations, you can tailor your cross-selling efforts to meet their needs and preferences.

The basics of consumer decision-making

Consumers go through several stages when making a purchasing decision:

  • Problem recognition: At this stage, customers become aware of a need or problem that requires a solution. It could be an eagerness for a new product, the need for a replacement, or simply a desire to enhance their current circumstances.
  • Information search: Once aware of the problem, shoppers embark on a search to gather relevant details about potential solutions. They may explore product descriptions, read reviews, compare prices, and seek recommendations.
  • Evaluation of alternatives: During this stage, consumers assess various options that could address their needs. They consider factors such as features, quality, price, and brand reputation to inform their selection.
  • Purchase decision: This is the point when customers make the final decision to buy their chosen solution. Factors such as price, perceived value, and trust in the brand influence whether or not they commit to a purchase.
  • Post-purchase evaluation: After buying, shoppers evaluate their experience and satisfaction with the product. Positive experiences can lead to repeat purchases and brand loyalty.

The concept of “perceived need” and “added value”

Cross-selling is effective because it taps into customers’ perceived needs and adds value to their purchase. Perceived need is the shopper’s subjective argument for requiring a particular product or service. It’s essential to identify those needs to align your cross-selling recommendations accordingly.

Added value refers to the benefits consumers receive beyond the core product they purchase. By presenting complementary items or services that enrich the buyer’s overall experience or provide additional utility, you increase the appeal of cross-selling offers.

Keep in mind that perceived need and added value will vary between shoppers. Tailoring your recommendations to individual preferences and providing a seamless experience can greatly influence their purchasing decisions.

Key principles of effective cross-selling

Cross-selling has a few fundamental principles you must embrace to guide your approach and maximize the effectiveness of your efforts.

Understanding the customer

Learning about your consumers is foundational to effective cross-selling. By gaining insights into their preferences, needs, and purchase behaviors, you can adapt your cross-selling recommendations to match their interests. The following strategies will help you develop a deep understanding of your customers:

  • Customer segmentation: Divide your consumer base into groups based on relevant criteria such as demographics, purchasing behavior, or product preferences. Segmentation enables you to craft cross-selling offers targeted for each group.
  • Surveys and feedback: Gather customer feedback through surveys, interviews, or online reviews to gain valuable insights into their preferences, pain points, and desired solutions. Then, use that feedback to refine your cross-selling approach.
  • Consumer data: Leverage data analytics and tracking tools to collect information on customer behavior, browsing patterns, and purchase history. This data helps identify cross-selling opportunities and better personalize recommendations.

Knowledge of product/service catalog

You also need a comprehensive understanding of your product or service catalog to realize success results. Familiarize yourself with the features, benefits, and use cases of each item to hone in on suitable cross-selling options. Specifically, you should:

  • Acquire thorough product knowledge: Develop in-depth knowledge in your team about each product or service offered. This enables them to make informed recommendations and answer customer inquiries confidently.
  • Identify complementary products: Analyze your product catalog to pinpoint items that naturally complement one another. Look for products that are frequently purchased together or have a logical association.
  • Highlight unique selling points: Clearly communicate the unique selling points of each product to shoppers. That way, you’re more easily able to showcase how cross-selling recommendations can enhance their experience or solve additional needs.

Timing and relevance

The recommendations you present should align with the customer’s current stage in the buying journey and demonstrate a clear connection to their needs. You can achieve this through:

  • Strategic placement: Position cross-selling offers at strategic points in the buyer journey, such as on product pages, during the checkout process, or in post-purchase follow-up communications.
  • Contextual relevance: Ensure cross-selling recommendations are contextually relevant to the customer’s current purchase or browsing activity. Take advantage of algorithms or artificial intelligence (AI) to produce personalized recommendations based on their behaviors and preferences.
  • Consideration of purchase intent: Gauge the shopper’s level of purchase intent and tailor your cross-selling offers accordingly. For example, during the checkout process, focus on complementary products that enhance the main purchase.

Enhancing perceived value

The perceived value of your cross-selling offers significantly affects the consumer response. To maximize its worth, showcase the benefits, savings, or unique advantages customers gain from accepting your recommendations. Consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Social proof and testimonials: Capitalize on social proof like customer testimonials or reviews to enhance the perceived value of the recommended products. Positive feedback from other customers can instill confidence in your product and increase the likelihood of buying.
  • Limited-time offers: Introduce scarcity and urgency by presenting limited-time offers or exclusive deals for the cross-selling recommendations. Communicate the time-sensitive nature of the deal to induce a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action.
  • Free shipping or add-ons: Consider offering free shipping or additional perks for accepting cross-selling recommendations. This adds value to the purchase and improves their overall experience.
  • Clear communication of benefits: Explain the benefits customers will receive by accepting the cross-selling offer. Highlight how the additional product or service addresses their needs or enhances the main purchase.

Best practices for cross-selling in eCommerce

To implement cross-selling strategies successfully in eCommerce, it’s important to follow certain practices that have proven to be effective.

Curating related products

The associated items you choose to push are essential for effective cross-selling. Curate products that are relevant and complementary to the customer’s main purchase to increase their interest and encourage additional sales. To select the right items, be sure to:

  • Analyze purchase patterns: Analyze historical data and customer purchase patterns to identify frequently paired or recommended items. This helps you curate related products that have a higher chance of resonating with customers.
  • Use product associations: Link together products or tags to create associations between items in your catalog. This enables you to showcase related products and suggest them to customers based on their browsing or purchasing history.
  • Leverage customer reviews: Pay attention to customer reviews and feedback to identify products that are frequently mentioned together or that complement one another. Incorporate these insights into your curated cross-selling offers.

Create product bundles or packages

Product bundling is a technique that compels cross-selling by offering customers a collection of related items at a discounted price. This tactic enhances value perception and entices shoppers to make additional purchases. Helpful strategies to craft fast-moving bundles include:

  • Identify complementary products: Analyze your product catalog and pinpoint items that naturally go together or fulfill a specific need when combined. Unite these products to create attractive offers.
  • Communicate benefits: Clearly express the advantages and value customers will receive by purchasing the bundle. Emphasize cost savings, convenience, or enhanced functionality to persuade them.
  • Promote bundles strategically: Place bundled offers prominently on your website, product pages, and during the checkout process. Highlight the savings and benefits customers can enjoy by opting for the bundle.

Strategic pricing for cross-selling

How you price your cross-sell offerings can incentivize customers to accept the recommendations. Consider implementing the following strategies when deciding on cost:

  • Discounted add-on pricing: Offer discounted prices for additional products or services when shoppers accept a cross-sell. This creates a sense of value and encourages them to add more items to their purchase.
  • Tiered pricing: Implement tiered pricing models where the more items a customer adds to their cart, the greater the discount or savings they receive. Customers then feel compelled to explore and tack on cross-selling recommendations.
  • Dynamic pricing: Utilize dynamic pricing algorithms to adjust prices based on demand, consumer behavior, or inventory levels. That allows you to optimize cross-selling offers and maximize revenue.

Personalizing cross-sell recommendations

By tailoring recommendations to individual customers’ preferences and behaviors, you can significantly increase the chances of conversion. For targeted personalization, be sure to:

  • Delve into customer data: Leverage customer data such as purchase history, browsing behavior, and demographics to tailor cross-selling recommendations. Use machine learning algorithms to generate personalized suggestions in real-time.
  • Implement recommendation engines: Incorporate recommendation engines on your website or at checkout to provide personalized cross-selling suggestions. These engines analyze customer data to present relevant and enticing offers.
  • Dynamic content generation: Craft content on your website or marketing materials that showcase personalized cross-selling recommendations. Tailor the messaging and visuals based on each customer’s preferences and history.

By following these best practices, you can boost the effectiveness of your cross-selling efforts and drive additional sales for your eCommerce business.

Cross-selling techniques for different stages of the customer journey

Launching cross-selling strategies at different stages of the buyer journey targets shoppers with relevant recommendations based on their current needs and preferences. The strategic introduction of cross-selling options as they shop maximizes the potential for additional sales and enhances customer satisfaction.

Pre-purchase stage

The pre-purchase stage is a crucial time to influence shoppers, as it’s when they’re researching and considering their options. By providing relevant cross-selling recommendations, you can guide their decision-making process and introduce complementary products that enhance their overall experience.

1. Upsell on product pages

On product pages, showcase higher-priced or premium alternatives to the customer’s selected product. Highlight the additional features, functionality, or benefits they can enjoy by opting for the upsell. Utilize persuasive copy and visual elements to communicate the value of the recommended item and its ability to better meet the customer’s needs.

For instance, if a customer is considering buying a basic smartphone, the product page could display an upsell option for a higher-end model with advanced camera features, increased storage capacity, and a longer battery life, emphasizing the enhanced user experience and capturing high-quality moments.

2. “Customers Also Bought” section

Include a section on product pages that features items other customers have frequently purchased together. This leverages the power of social proof and encourages customers to consider complementary products that have shown to enrich their overall purchase. Rely on customer data and algorithms to generate relevant recommendations that are based on the browsing and purchasing behavior of similar customers.

So, if a shopper views a laptop on your website, the “Customers Also Bought” section could display accessories such as laptop cases, wireless mice, or USB hubs, which are commonly purchased alongside the laptop. This helps the buyer envision a complete setup and prompts them to look into these additional items.

Amazon excels at this with their “Frequently bought together” section on Product Pages.


3. Cross-sell in email marketing

You can even cross-sell in email marketing campaigns. Segment your audience based on their interests and preferences to provide personalized suggestions. Use compelling subject lines and engaging content to capture the recipient’s attention and drive them to explore the recommended products further.

For example, if a customer recently purchased a fitness tracker, you can send them an email suggesting compatible accessories like fitness bands or wireless headphones, emphasizing how those add-ons can improve their fitness journey and overall experience with the tracker.

During purchase stage

At the purchase stage, customers have already demonstrated their intent to buy, so they’re more amenable to cross-sell offers. By strategically placing relevant recommendations within the purchase process, you can capitalize on their commitment and encourage them to add complementary items to their cart.

1. Feature cross-sells in the cart

Display cross-selling recommendations directly in the shopping cart by suggesting complementary items or upgrades that enhance the customer’s purchase. Highlight the value and benefits of the recommended products, such as how they can improve the main product’s functionality or provide a more comprehensive solution.

As an example, if a customer adds a digital camera to their cart, you could display recommended items such as camera lenses, memory cards, camera bags, or tripod stands. Emphasize how these accessories can enrich their photography experience and ensure they have everything they need for a successful shoot.

2. One-click upsells

After the customer has completed their initial purchase, present one-click upsell offers for additional products or services that complement what they bought. Make the process seamless and convenient, allowing them to add the cross-selling items with a single click. Drive home the exclusive savings or benefits they’ll receive by accepting the upsell offer.

Immediately after a customer completes a purchase of a subscription box, for instance, you could present them with a one-click upsell to upgrade to a higher-tier subscription that includes additional exclusive products or more unique customization options. Emphasize the added value and the opportunity to access premium items unavailable through their current subscription level.

3. Order confirmation page

You can even utilize the order confirmation page to present relevant cross-selling offers. Capitalize on the customer’s excitement after completing a purchase by showcasing products that complement their order. To induce a sense of urgency or exclusivity, offer limited-time promotions or discounts that encourage immediate acceptance.

For example, on the order confirmation page for a clothing retailer, you might display accessories or complementary products that go well with the items the customer just bought. Provide a limited-time discount on these items to encourage another purchase while the buyer is still riding their shopping high.

Post-purchase stage

The post-purchase stage is an excellent opportunity to continue cross-selling and foster long-term buyer loyalty. By delivering personalized recommendations and nurturing your consumer relationships, you’ll encourage repeat purchases and increase their customer lifetime value.

1. Personalized recommendation emails

Send customers emails with suggestions based on their recent purchases. Leverage consumer data and segmentation to generate tailored recommendations that align with their interests and preferences. Include compelling visuals, persuasive copy, and personalized offers to entice them to explore and consider additional purchases.

If, for example, a customer recently purchased a gaming console, you can send them emails with game recommendations based on their preferred genres, top-rated titles, or upcoming releases. Also, consider offering exclusive discounts or bonuses for being a valued customer.

2. Product bundles in packaging

Add a special touch to your unboxing experience by including information or offers for product bundles in the order packaging. This is a potent chance to introduce complementary products that aid the original purchase and thus encourage repeat spending. Consider adding a personal note or exclusive offer to make the customer feel valued.

Say a shopper buys a coffee machine; you might include a brochure or card inside the package that showcases bundled offers for different coffee blends, coffee mugs, or a milk frother. Push the convenience and savings they can enjoy by purchasing these bundles together.

3. Loyalty programs and rewards

Incorporate cross-selling incentives into your loyalty programs or rewards system. You can provide exclusive discounts or offers on complementary products as rewards for customer loyalty. These programs encourage repeat purchases and also build stronger relationships, both of which increase customer lifetime value.

Within your loyalty program, offer special rewards or discounts for customers who make multiple purchases or reach certain milestones. Provide incentives such as discounts on cross-selling items or exclusive access to new product releases, encouraging customers to explore and engage with additional perks.

Sephora does a fantastic job of promoting their rewards program by offering incentives and opportunities to “reward” oneself with points accrued over time.


By implementing these cross-selling techniques at different stages of the customer journey, you can effectively engage customers with relevant recommendations, increasing the likelihood of additional sales and fostering long-term loyalty.

The role of data and analytics in cross-selling

Leveraging customer data and implementing analytics tools allow businesses to gain valuable insights to identify lucrative cross-selling opportunities, personalize recommendations, and improve overall performance. This section will explain the importance of data and analytics in effective cross-selling.

Employ customer data for personalized cross-selling

Customer data is a goldmine of information that can aid in delivering personalized cross-selling recommendations. By analyzing and understanding customer preferences, purchase history, and behaviors, you can tailor your offers to match individual needs. Some tried-and-true strategies to gain the most out of your consumer data are:

  • Data collection and segmentation: Implement data collection mechanisms to capture customer information such as demographics, purchase history, browsing behavior, and preferences. Organize and segment this data to create customer profiles that enable personalized cross-selling efforts.
  • Reviewing purchase history: Analyze customer purchase history to identify patterns, trends, and cross-selling opportunities. Look for items frequently purchased together or complementary to past purchases to generate personalized recommendations.
  • Dynamic customer profiles: Continuously update customer profiles with new data to keep recommendations relevant and accurate. Incorporate real-time data such as recent browsing activity, wishlist items, or abandoned carts to refine cross-selling offers.

Analytics for identifying cross-selling opportunities

Analytics tools provide valuable insights into customer behavior, allowing businesses to identify potential cross-selling opportunities. By analyzing consumer data, you can understand their preferences and predict buying behavior to make data-driven decisions. Consider adopting the following techniques:

  • Customer segmentation analysis: Delve into consumer segments based on demographic, behavioral, or purchase data to uncover cross-selling opportunities for each grouping.
  • Association rule mining: Apply association rule mining techniques to discover relationships between products or services based on transaction data. Learn which items are frequently purchased together to generate cross-selling recommendations.
  • Predictive analytics: Utilize predictive analytics to forecast buyer behavior and anticipate cross-selling opportunities. Reviewing historical data, customer attributes, and external factors identifies customers who are most likely to accept cross-selling offers.

A/B testing for conversion rate optimization

A/B testing is a valuable technique to optimize cross-selling strategies and improve conversion rates. Comparing different approaches measures the effectiveness of cross-selling offers so you can refine their strategies. Follow these best practices for robust A/B testing:

  • Test offer placement: Experiment with different placements of cross-selling offers, such as on product pages, in the shopping cart, or during the checkout process. Measure the conversion rates of each placement to determine the most effective position.
  • Test product recommendations: Run various product recommendations to determine which combinations yield the highest conversion rates. Compare products based on popularity, price, or compatibility to identify the most persuasive pairings.
  • Test messaging and design: Try out different messaging, visuals, and design elements to optimize the impact of your cross-selling offers. Test variations in copywriting, calls to action, colors, and layouts to discover the most compelling approach.

Training your team for effective cross-selling

Effective cross-selling requires a well-trained team that understands the principles, techniques, and strategies involved. By providing the necessary knowledge and skills, you can ensure your team implements your cross-selling techniques consistently and successfully.

In-depth product knowledge

For effective cross-selling, your team must have a deep understanding of your product or service catalog. They should be well versed in the features, benefits, and use cases of each item to recommend complementary products with confidence. Look into training approaches like:

  • Product training sessions: Conduct regular training sessions to educate your team about the details of each product or service. Provide comprehensive information on product features, specifications, and how they align with customer needs.
  • Hands-on experience: Encourage your team to interact with the products themselves, allowing them to gain firsthand experience and in-depth knowledge of their functionalities and value.
  • Ongoing product updates: Keep your team updated on new products or changes to your catalog. Provide them with the necessary resources and materials to stay informed and knowledgeable.

Skills for communicating cross-sell recommendations

Clearly communicating cross-sell recommendations influences how customers receive them. Your team should possess strong communication skills to engage shoppers, highlight the value of the suggested products, and address any concerns. Consider training your team in these communication strategies:

  • Active listening: Train your team to listen actively to customers so they learn their needs and hone in on relevant opportunities for cross-selling.
  • Persuasive communication techniques: Persuasive communication techniques such as storytelling, benefits-driven messaging, and overcoming objections equips your team to convince shoppers of the value of your cross-selling offers.
  • Role-playing exercises: Conduct role-playing exercises to simulate real customer interactions and practice effective cross-selling conversations. Provide feedback and coaching to help your team refine their communication skills.

Training on understanding customer needs and preferences

Professional development focused on understanding customer psychology and behavior enables your team to tailor recommendations and create personalized experiences. Relevant approaches include:

  • Customer persona training: Educate your team on different customer personas, their characteristics, preferences, and pain points. This helps them align cross-selling recommendations with specific customer segments.
  • Customer needs assessment: Train your team on techniques for assessing customer needs through effective questioning and active listening. This enables them to identify opportunities for cross-selling based on individual customer requirements.
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence: Foster empathy and emotional intelligence in your team. This allows them to connect with customers on a deeper level, understand their motivations, and make relevant cross-selling recommendations.

Continuous learning and feedback

Cross-selling techniques and customer preferences evolve over time, so it’s important to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your team. Encourage ongoing training, provide feedback, and create channels for knowledge sharing through strategies like:

  • Regular professional development: Schedule regular training sessions or workshops to keep your team up to date on emerging cross-selling techniques, industry trends, and best practices.
  • Feedback and performance evaluation: Provide ongoing feedback to your team members based on their cross-selling performance. Pinpoint areas for improvement and offer constructive guidance to help them hone their skills.
  • Knowledge-sharing platform: Create a platform for your team to share success stories, tips, and lessons learned. Encourage collaboration and foster a learning culture within your organization.

By investing in comprehensive training for your team, you’ll equip them with the knowledge, skills, and techniques needed for successful cross-selling.

Common pitfalls in cross-selling

While cross-selling can be a highly effective strategy, there are common mistakes businesses should be mindful of and avoid to ensure a positive customer experience and maximize results.

Avoid overwhelming the customer

One of the easiest traps to fall into is overwhelming the customer with too many recommendations or irrelevant offers. Bombarding shoppers with a barrage of cross-selling suggestions can lead to decision fatigue and a negative perception of your brand. To avoid this pitfall:

  • Focus on relevance: Ensure the cross-selling offers you present are relevant to the consumer’s needs, preferences, and the context of their purchase. Capitalize on customer data, segmentation, and personalization to provide targeted suggestions.
  • Limit the number of offers: It’s easy to get carried away, but it’s important to be selective and present a small number of cross-selling recommendations at a time. Overwhelming buyers with too many options can leave them indecisive and reduce their likelihood of acceptance. Quality and relevance matter more than quantity.
  • Gradual introduction: Slowly introduce cross-selling offers throughout the customer journey, starting with subtle suggestions and gradually becoming more conspicuous based on customer responses. This approach gives shoppers a sense of control and engagement, rather than feeling overwhelmed.

Avoid irrelevant product recommendations

Presenting irrelevant product recommendations can result in customer frustration and have a negative impact on the overall shopping experience. You can ensure your suggestions are relevant every time through:

  • Data-driven recommendations: Lean on consumer data and analytics to generate accurate and relevant cross-selling recommendations. Algorithms, machine learning, and segmentation can ensure the suggested items align with each customer’s preferences, purchase history, and browsing behavior.
  • Regular updates to recommendations: Continuously review and update your cross-selling algorithms and strategies to reflect changes in buyer preferences and trends. Keep a close eye on product performance and customer feedback to refine your recommendations over time.
  • Customer feedback and reviews: Tangential to the previous point, pay attention to consumer opinions and reviews to identify instances where the recommended products didn’t align with their expectations or needs. Actively address any concerns and adjust your recommendations accordingly.

Ensure a positive customer experience

Failing to prioritize the customer’s needs and preferences can result in dissatisfaction and potential loss of future sales. To construct a positive customer experience that promotes successful cross-selling, you should incorporate:

  • Transparent and honest recommendations: Clearly communicate the benefits, features, and limitations of the recommended products. Avoid deceptive tactics or misleading information that may damage brand trust and credibility.
  • Seamless integration: Cross-selling offers should appear naturally in the customer journey. Present the recommendations in an unobtrusive manner so they don’t disrupt the shopping experience.
  • Opt-out option: Provide customers with the option to decline or opt out of cross-selling offers. Respect their choices and preferences, and don’t force unwanted recommendations upon them, or else you risk losing their business.

By avoiding these common pitfalls and prioritizing a positive customer experience, you can strengthen the effectiveness of your cross-selling efforts and build long-term customer loyalty.

Continue learning and adjusting your cross-selling strategy

The eCommerce industry is constantly evolving, along with customer preferences and behaviors. To maximize the effectiveness of cross-selling strategies, it’s important to encourage ongoing learning, adaptation, and refinement. Stay up to date on industry trends, invest in continuous training for your team, and regularly review and optimize your cross-selling approaches based on customer feedback and data insights.

With this comprehensive understanding of cross-selling in eCommerce under your belt, it’s time to act. Here’s a basic but effective plan of action for implementing cross-selling strategies:

  • Assess your product catalog: Analyze your product catalog to identify natural pairs, complementary items, and opportunities for cross-selling.
  • Leverage customer data: Review customer data and analytics to understand their preferences, behaviors, and purchase history. Synthesize that information to deliver personalized cross-selling recommendations.
  • Train your team: Invest in training programs to equip your team with the knowledge and skills required for effective cross-selling. Focus on product knowledge, communication techniques, and understanding customer needs.
  • Implement cross-selling techniques: Apply the best practices and techniques discussed in this guide, such as curating related items, creating product bundles, and personalizing recommendations at different stages of the customer journey.
  • Monitor, analyze, and adapt: Continuously monitor the performance of your cross-selling efforts, analyze customer feedback, and adapt your strategies to improve effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

Tip: Keep your inventory updated, in stock, and organized with optimized prep and fulfillment services.

Wrapping up — Use cross-selling to boost your AOVs

In this guide, we’ve explored the concept of cross-selling and its importance in eCommerce. We discussed the psychology behind cross-selling, the key principles for effective implementation, best practices, techniques for different stages of the customer journey, the role of data and analytics, training your team, and common pitfalls to avoid.

Effective cross-selling helps boost your AOV, enhance the buyer experience, and generate more revenue to scale your business. By implementing these strategies and embracing cross-selling in your eCommerce business, you can unlock its potential to increase sales, enrich buyer satisfaction, and drive long-term success.