How to Upsell and Cross-sell in Email Marketing

For better or worse, people are easily influenced be other people who are like them, or people they like. People will make a purchase if a recommendation to do so comes from people they trust. They also buy if it’s a product they’ve heard about before, or they’ve tried the product before. People also buy if the price is comparable to another product they usually purchase. Upselling and cross-selling take advantage of these behaviors.

Upselling is successful when the benefits of a more advanced version of a product or service respond to a person’s needs. When these offers hit the right customers at the exact time they are looking to fill a need, they gain the most traction.

Cross-selling is more of a tactic to raise awareness about similar products. It is essential you understand your audiences’ behaviors before cross-selling. Again, sent at the right time to the right person, cross-selling will build revenue.

For both upselling and cross-selling, subtlety is key. Pushing a sale shouldn’t be your main goal or the main idea people get from these campaigns. Instead, leverage the power of suggestion.

The first step in using this strategy is deciding if you’re going to send a dedicated email, or include upselling and cross-selling in parts of transactional emails. Many marketers choose to do the later only, but both can be effective. If you’ve never used these techniques before, it’s a good idea to test both options to see which one your particular subscribers like and which one works for the services or products you sell.

Basic Strategy

Upselling and cross-selling isn’t limited to one industry; any email marketer can use this technique to retain customers and increase revenue. Use cross-selling to introduce customers to a new category of products by offering a free trial of your products or services. You could also use upselling to move pay-as-you-go customers to monthly memberships.

In the financial services industry? Upsell a service the customer isn’t using. If someone has a checking account, but not a savings account, it’s an opportunity to cross-sell for you. In this dedicated cross-sell email from First Niagara Bank, the financial institution promotes its savings accounts:

First Niagara Bank cross-sells its savings account in this email.

If you’re in the travel industry, cross-sell with deals, tours, and specials from different categories in the area customers are traveling. If customers have purchased hotel rooms and flights, they may need a rental car. This is an opportunity for you to upsell. Travelocity cross-sold cars in this email campaign:

Travelocity uses upselling in this email campaign.

Retailers can definitely use this strategy. Use upselling to encourage customers to upgrade to a better version of a product or service you sell.  One way to upsell is by asking customers if they want to purchase insurance for their recent purchases, when they’ve purchased a high-value item.

There are more industries upselling and cross-selling apply to, and these are just a few ideas. But how do you go about sending these upselling and cross-selling campaigns?

Smart Data is Everything

You can’t use upselling and cross-selling without first having information about your customers’ behaviors. Many marketers have an abundance of data, but they don’t know how to access it or use it in email campaigns. If you’re storing your data in a relational format, you can conveniently track, store, and make use of subscriber data. You can create deep segmentations with customer data for upselling and cross-selling purposes.

For example, say you wanted to cross-sell popular and newly released games similar to ones customers purchased previously. As long as you are storing purchase history data, you can create a segmentation for those with a purchase history of buying games.

Also use your data dynamically inside email templates to create highly relevant offers. Insert if-then conditions into templates to draw in data that will populate dynamic offers. For example, if someone purchased a game, send them a gaming offer. To everybody else send them a different offer that applies to their purchase history.

Automate It

Automation is a marketer’s best friend. Once your segmentations and dynamically populated emails are ready to go, you can set up a triggered campaign to send them out based on time passed or subscriber behavior. For example, you could set a cross-selling aimed email to send 10 days after a person has made a purchase. Once you set the triggered campaign to run, you won’t have to lift a finger – just let the upselling and cross-selling do their thing.

Stand Alone or In Addition To

Remember, upselling and cross-selling can be used in an email campaign by themselves, or in addition to other content in a transactional email. Either way, it’s important to make sure the offers are relevant to the subscribers who are receiving them. Sending an email to thousands of email subscribers with a particular cross-sell offer in it won’t do you any good. Batch-and-blast is a thing of the past; personalized, relevant offers are essential to successful email campaigns today. So make sure you’re collecting and using smart data, automating your campaigns, and using appropriate upselling and cross-selling content for your industry.

Know additional ways to upsell and cross-sell in emails? Let us know in the comments below.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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