Upselling: how some of the biggest sites do it

Have you ever been at the cinema ordering popcorn and a drink, and you’ve ended up with both arms cradling two huge buckets because it only cost you an extra 35p to ‘go large’? Or at a drive-thru and you make your burger order into a meal because of course you want fries with that. Or have you ever bought the chewing gum and mints by the tills at supermarkets…or added the monthly insurance payments onto the purchase of a new tech device…or even just bought something you weren’t initially going to buy thanks to a buy-one-get-one-free offer?

These are all great examples of upselling: a technique that businesses use to get customers to buy add-ons or upgrades that give them better value for money, and are of a smaller additional price so seem like less of an investment in comparison to the initial expense. These payments could either be one-offs or monthly/annual payments, depending on the type of upsell. Recurring payments from upselling is a form of customer retention, and given that it’s 9x more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain current ones, it seems like a great technique to adopt as it helps businesses to maximise sales and gives the customers a better shopping experience.

There are a number of businesses that use upselling very well, so we’re going to give you a run-down on how some of the biggest ecommerce sites do it to help you maximise your own sales, because according to Entrepreneur, 20% of your customers produce 80% of your sales – so this is definitely something worth doing if you’re not already.

Bundling Items

Some online stores create bundles of products and sell them for less than if you were to buy each product separately… this is like a meal deal in a supermarket or at a drive-thru. Showing customers bundles of items that are frequently bought together is a great way of maximising sales as customers get a better value for money, and businesses get a larger sale.

Examples of things you might see bundled together:

  • Camera, camera case and memory cards
  • All the books in a series
  • Highchair, bibs and baby bowls and spoons

3-for-2 Deals

This technique is like a bundle of items that the customers get to select themselves, and it is commonly seen for cosmetics or toiletries. Customers can choose from all the products that are included in the offer, and usually the cheapest product comes free. This is a perfect example of an upsell because it often means that the customer is buying more than they were initially going to which is great for business but also means that they are getting more for their money.

Suggested Items

These products are the ‘you-may-also-like’-type products that a customer might not initially be wanting but if they’re interested in buying a party garland, they may also want balloons, for example. So, look at these as relevant items to what the customer might already be looking at, or perhaps show them any deals you have involving the product at the time.

phone payment plans

Another example of this is when you’re looking for a new phone contract, as phone providers often show several monthly payment plans for the same device, each offering different amounts of data for different monthly costs. In the above image, a phone provider shows a plan for £52 per month with 4GB of data, and a plan for the same device but with unlimited data for £59 per month. So, for just £7 extra each month, customers don’t have to worry about going over their data allowance and the phone provider will see a 13.5% increase each year from each customer to select this plan.


As we know, reviews build trust, and many brands use this to encourage more sales by having a review feature on their site. Some sites even put the star ratings from reviews under each product on the category pages to encourage customers to click through to the product page. Positive reviews act as recommendations from friends which is why they help to increase sales so much, and they could be the reason your customers choose to spend a little more on certain products, or the reason that they buy something they weren’t initially going to.

Consider Your Calls to Action

The content of your website is so important in the online sales process, and everything a customer sees should be there for a reason. With this in mind, you need to consider every element of your website’s copy, as the way you phrase your calls to action will alter how effective they are. Customers are more likely to make a purchase when they see calls to actions such as ‘add to cart’ instead of ‘buy now’, because this way, the idea of the actual payment is not the first thing they have to think about.

Another example of this, usually seen on fashion websites, is ‘complete the look’, which is related to our previous section on ‘Suggested Items’. Using a phrase like ‘complete the look’ completely reframes the idea of spending more money initially, and could encourage customers to purchase more items in order to achieve a certain desired style.

Loyalty Schemes

Adding a loyalty scheme is a great upselling technique because it gives customers the opportunity to receive rewards and offers if they make recurring purchases, and it gives businesses the increase in sales from said recurring purchases. There are a number of loyalty schemes available if this is something you’re interested in implementing.

If you’re looking to implement any of these upselling techniques, just speak to your web developers to get the ball rolling.