Cross-selling and upselling in retail help businesses stop a huge missed opportunity: small, single-item purchases.
In retail, small average order values can stifle growth and lead to costly inventory losses or slow inventory efficiently.
Upselling and cross-selling offers a simple solution. When done right, upselling will get customers to buy more.
Here’s the catch: Upselling and cross-selling in retail is an art. You might suggest an upgrade, a value-added bundle of products, or suggest related products to buy. This helps transform a single-item sale into a higher-value basket. But successful upselling comes down to 1) the promotion and 2) your timing.
This technique can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
Upselling strategies in brick-and-mortar shops, for example, can increase sales by 10-30% on average. And in ecommerce (where upselling is often incorporated into checkout and sales), it can account for up to three-quarters or more of all revenue.
So, you might be wondering: How do I upsell my retail customers?
First, it depends on your business and industry. A brick-and-mortar retailer, for instance, will use different strategies than an ecommerce SaaS company. However, no matter what niche you operate in, there are many strategies you can use to upsell and cross-sell.
This guide covers the tech tools you need and strategies you can use to upsell in retail to maximize order values.
Table of Contents
- What Is Upselling and Cross-selling?
- How Do Upselling and Cross-selling Work?
- Top Upselling Techniques
- How to Find Upsell and Cross-sell Opportunities
- Upselling Tools for Retailers
Cross-Selling vs Upselling: Key Differences
Here’s a closer look at the difference between upselling and cross-selling:
What Is Upselling?
Upselling in retail is the practice of encouraging customers to buy more or to buy higher-value products or services during a transaction.
Upselling is common in retail, food service, and ecommerce.
Here’s an example how to upsell in retail: Offer a product upgrade. You might suggest a seat or room upgrade or encourage a customer to buy a more premium version (have you tried the blue label version?).
What Is Cross-selling?
Cross-selling is an upselling technique. When you cross-sell, you offer a complementary or related product to what your customer is already buying.
Here’s an example how to cross-sell in retail: A customer is buying a bottle of vodka, and the cashier suggests, ‘Hey, want some mixers to go with that?’ Some common examples of cross-selling include product bundles, add-ons, meal combos, etc.
Ultimately, in retail, cross-selling and upselling are powerful strategies you can use to increase customer order value. (You’ll find a bunch of examples of upselling and cross-selling strategies below.)
How Do Upselling and Cross-selling Work? (Key Benefits)
Upselling is simple if you remember this rule: Always provide value (an additional or upgraded product). Just make sure the value relates to what your customers are already buying.
When done right, you give your customers a value (e.g. “upgrade to a meal combo for just $2.99 more”) that they can’t resist. And you sell more and increase revenue.
Another cross-selling and upselling tip: Provide options. Show the customer the product they’ve selected, but then show a slightly pricier product, as well as your top-of-the-line version. To change this to a cross-selling example, you might showcase the product, as well as modestly priced bundle, and finally a premium bundle.
Here are some key benefits of upselling in retail:
1. More Sales
Upselling maximizes your store’s revenue-earning potential, resulting in higher sales
2. Larger Margins
Upselling isn’t just about increasing sales and revenue; it’s also effective for increasing profit margins. Upselling and cross-selling techniques, for example, strategically encourage customers to choose an upgraded or higher value product.
Think about it like this: Your customers are already there. You can generate more revenue from your marketing dollars if you get them to buy additional items. Here are some ways upselling improves margins in retail:
- Higher average order values = reduced cost-per-item of credit card fees and shipping
- Encouraging customers to upgrade to a higher margin product
- Increased customer loyalty and lifetime value (e.g. reduced marketing costs)
However, if your goal is to increase margins with cross-selling, you have to consider the economics of upselling. Do you want to increase revenue, profits or profit margin? Some tactics will increase revenue but may actually diminish your margins.
3. Higher Employee Retention
Employee retention is as important as customer retention.
One option: Offer your employees a cut of upselling revenue. can be a powerful tool for motivating and retaining your best employees. (And you can do it easily with the right tech tools!)
- According to TeamStage, engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their jobs.
- More engaged employees can boost your store’s productivity by 21%.
4. Increasing Customer Value
Upselling is an art! It is about offering customers added value. And when you do it right, this value-add helps you build stronger relationships with them.
Cross-Selling and Upselling in Retail: 10 Techniques to Try
The beauty of upselling is that you can start doing it today. It’s as simple as creating a product bundle that your cashiers can promot.
Want to give it a shot? Try these suggestive selling techniques to get customers to buy more of your stuff:
Impulse buys are last-minute add-ons that tend to be unplanned. The idea is simple: Strategically display the complementary and essential items at checkout… and get more sales.
Example: Display small essential items that complement your core products. For example, you might try socks (shoe stores), candy and lighters (convenience stores), bottle openers (in liquor stores), etc.
A product bundle tends to be promotional, e.g. ‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free’. However, you can also bundle similar products, e.g. a holiday wine sampler for $55. Bundles encourage customers to buy more than one item by offering a package deal at a slightly discounted price.
Example: A liquor store could create the “Lover’s Picnic Bundle,” with a bottle or wine, 2 glasses, a corkscrew, and a tablecloth.
>>> See more ideas for increasing liquor store sales.
Find products to recommend that complement your customer’s primary purchase. Have them displayed near the register for easy access. (You can combine this with impulse buys, for example).
Example: A shoe store might offer socks or shoelaces when a customer purchases a pair of shoes.
Suggestive selling is an approach to upselling, in which you suggest an upgrade or cross-sell that’s aligned to the customer.
For example, a liquor store cashier might see a regular customer, and say, “Hey, I know you’re a bourbon drinker. We have the newest release from [distiller], and we’re offering a promotion.”
If you can align your suggestive selling offers to a customer’s preferences, you’ll win a lot of sales.
Pro Tip. Use an upselling tool like Uplift to automate suggestive selling. With Uplift, a message appears on the POS screen based on a customer’s order or loyalty data. The system generates a script, so your cashier knows exactly what to say to close the sale.
Amazon is a master of cross-selling. Every time you shop on Amazon, you see the “Customers Also Bought” section.
In retail operations, you can recommend popular or in-demand products as a cross-sell. For example, a cashier might suggest a complementary shoe for the dress a customer has picked out.
Example: A best-sellers shelf in a bookstore.
Strategically place high-margin or newly introduced products at the customer’s eye level on shelves. It’s a simple trick that works.
Example: The cereal aisle in every grocery store. The premium cereal brands are all at eye level, while more affordable options are typically above eye level or on the bottom shelf.
>>> Get more ideas for increasing sales in grocery stores.
Incentive to Upgrade
This goes back to adding value. If you can incentivize the upgrade, you’ll increase the number of upsells you convert, while adding value for customers.
Here’s how to do it: Focus on the value-add that the cross-sell offers, and you’ll create a winning promotion.
Example: Offering an upgrade incentive at checkout, e.g. “We’re running a special, ‘buy 1, get the second for 30% off.’”
This upselling technique adds time-sensitivity to an incentive. For example, you could run a one-day promotion or a value-based promotion.
Example: You could say: “Today only, get $5 off when you purchase 2 or more” or “If you spend $300 or more today, receive a free tote bag.”
Everyone loves a story! A story is a way to form a connection with customers. With storytelling selling, you create a unique story about your upsell offer, and use it to engage and entice customers.
Elf on a Shelf is a classic example. When it launched, the Elf kit was sold with a book, which told the story of the holiday tradition. The story helped foster that emotional connection, resulting in a winning product.
Example: A liquor store could design signage with a winemaker’s photo. When customers ask, they can tell them who the winemaker is, where they’re located, and the techniques they use.
In brick-and-mortar, this technique is hard without technology. You have to have a really good memory and know your customers well.
However, POS data makes it easier. Essentially, you’ll use this data to provide a personalized recommendation to your customer. At checkout, for example, you might trigger an upgrade offer (and automate it within your POS system).
Example: Use a tool that allows you to look up customers by phone number. These are loyal customers and represent customers most likely to respond to upselling.
How to Upsell in Retail: Finding Opportunities
This is where a POS system comes in handy. POS transaction data reports are the best place to look for ideas for product bundles and upsell promotions. Some datapoints to look at include:
Deadstock is obsolete inventory, e.g. products that are not selling. Before they collect dust, use upselling to jumpstart sales.
Find deadstock in your inventory data by looking for products that move extremely slow OR those with a lot of excess inventory.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. Use deadstock as a bundle or impulse add-on item. For low-cost items, you might consider using deadstock as a “free gift” for qualifying buyers.
2. Slow-Moving Products
Slow-moving stock sells, but not quickly. These items tend to do well as a bundled offer.
Find deadstock by looking at a product’s inventory-turnover ratio. A lower ratio may indicate slow-moving stock.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. Use bundling to sell these items with popular products. Also, run discount promotions like “Buy One, Get ½ Off” and use signage to generate awareness.
3. Frequently Bought Together Items
Check your POS reports for items that sell together, e.g. you might find that most sandwich shoppers often buy a bag of chips.
Find product combos by filtering your transaction data at the product level. Many tools offer customizable reports or offer AI-based recommendations for bundled products.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. Create a bundled offer (and trigger it in your POS). When a customer buys one product in the bundle, you can then ask if they’d like to upgrade to the full bundle.
4. Premium Version
Offer an upgrade to a more advanced version of an existing product or a premium related product.
Find opportunities for premium upgrades by looking at customer buying patterns. Identity segments that are willing to spend more and/or have previously purchased your upgrade item.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. At a liquor store, you might suggest a more premium bourbon. “This is great, but we just got this private stock in. You should give it a try!”
5. Item Availability
Generally, products with limited stock or excess stock (that you want to move) make for great upsells.
Find these items by exploring your inventory reports and set filters for inventory levels.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. You can use this information to upsell in multiple ways, such as:
- Offer alternate products or ‘Products similar to your last buy’ when you are running low in stock.
- Suggestively sell overstock items.
- Recommend upgraded versions that are readily available when there are new or abundant stock levels.
- Roll out offers as a sense of urgency or try product bundling to drive customers to make a quick purchase decision.
Seasonal items often fly off shelves at different times of the year. By identifying these items, you can adjust inventory levels and place these products prominently.
Here’s an example: Walmart stocks endcaps and shelves with Pop-Tarts leading up to weather events… They sell more Pop-Tarts leading up to hurricanes (an insight found in their transaction data).
Find seasonal upselling opportunities by analyzing buying patterns around holidays, by calendar events (e.g. Back to School), or after major weather events.
Upsell / Cross-sell Strategy. You can use multiple upselling techniques like:
- Introduce promotions leading up to and during major events.
- Use digital signage to draw interest to seasonal promotions.
- Use a seasonal in-demand product in bundles or as an upgrade.
Bottom Line: Be Data-Driven
Finding great upsell ideas comes from transaction data stored in your POS. Not only does this help you implement data-driven upselling strategies, but you’ll also add some controls to your inventory (which helps maximize sales and boost profit margins).
Upselling and Cross-Selling Tools: Why Tech Is Important
Technology plays a significant role in enhancing customer experience and upselling. These are some key pieces of technology that will help you sell more:
Point of Sale (POS)
A point-of-sale system is the heartbeat of your retail operation. It is no longer “just a cash register.” Modern retail POS systems enhance sales performance, customer engagement, inventory management, and more.
For upselling, a POS puts valuable data at your fingertips. You can use POS customer reports, such as buying history, transactions, preferences, and inventory reports that are useful for upselling.
Plus, you can use CRM tools to build stronger customer loyalty programs, which can help you identify and design winning upsells.
An upselling tool like FTx Uplift automates suggestive cross-selling in your POS. You set a trigger in your POS. Then, when a customer purchases a product that sets off the trigger, a suggestive selling offer is displayed for the cashier to read.
With an upsell automation tool, your staff makes the right offer at the right time. And you can even share a bit of the upsell revenue with your cashiers, creating a win-win situation.
Digital signage is a powerful upsell tool for growing awareness. (See some tips for upselling with digital signage in liquor retail.) You can use digital signage to:
- Introduce new products
- Announce bundled promotions
- Market combo deals
- Show personalized offers at checkout in real-time
Digital Ad Design Tool
Designing digital signage that stands out requires a design tool. Fortunately, there are numerous options on the market (like AdPro), that make it easy to create visually stunning upselling ads.
Upsell Training: Motivate Your Employees
You have to train your employees to be upselling superstars. If they don’t know what to say, chances are your promotions will be DOA.
Your store’s training program should include:
What to Say
Each retail store will have a unique upselling strategy. But there are a few common attributes to teach your staff:
- Be courteous and soft-spoken
- Educate staff on what to pitch and how
- Provide regular product updates (e.g. a menu tasting in a restaurant) to give them personalized knowledge of your products
- Practice the upselling script with your staff
- Provide tips for handling difficult questions
What the Promotion Is
If you have an upselling tool, you can automate your promotions and scripts. But if not, your training program should:
- Educate staff on the latest promotions and offers
- Practice the script for specific promotions
- Understand the features of a promotion (personalized, bundling, seasonal offer, etc.)
An upsell made at the right time to the right person is a closed deal! Teach your staff the timing of upselling:
- Never start with an upselling pitch
- Listen to your customer’s requirements
- Wait till they have decided on buying a particular item before pitching them
- Don’t be pushy or aggressive, and try to sound natural
Provide in-depth training for any of the tech tools you’ll use. Here are some tips for tech training:
- Provide frequent software training and educate staff on software updates
- Provide a “sandbox” to let them test and practice using the software
- Introduce data analytics concepts
- Practice onboarding an upsell customer
Employee upselling incentives are an excellent method of promoting upselling to your employees. It keeps them motivated to perform better and partake in upselling. Here are a few tips:
- Add monetary and non-monetary incentives to offer flexibility
- Publicly recognize their efforts to make them feel ‘included’
- Ask your staff to support each other to ensure a positive environment
- Give your team the flexibility to get creative during upselling efforts
Start Upselling in Retail Today!
Upselling is an invaluable strategy that can help you sell more, boost profit margins, and retain loyal customers. FTx POS offers a suite of tools to help you upsell in your retail shop, including:
- FTx Uplift – Automated Upselling scripts and personalized offers.
- Inventory Management – Run reports and find your promotional items.
- FTx POS – A best-in-class POS with numerous marketing customizations.
- CRM Tools – Onboard loyal customers seamlessly and collect better customer insights.
- Digital Signage – Create and manage vibrant displays and market your sales promotions.
Bottom line, FTx POS is a powerful upselling tool. No need for third-party integrations; all of the tools integrate with our POS to help you sell more and grow your sales.