Newton's third law is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true of you with your customers' online purchases. Using their past purchase and current search history and settings, you can influence their purchase decisions, and this involves more than just closing the sale. For every item, there's an upgraded version or an accessory, right? Make sure your customers get exposed to these upgrades and accessories - a process called upselling and cross-selling.
Upselling is providing customers with the opportunity to purchase a higher quality, more expensive version of what they initially search for. This can be accomplished on your company website through the use of customer search history.
Simply review what it is they have searched for and offer them alternative items. Make sure that the reasons for it being a better purchase are clear enough for the customer to not ignore them. Unlike cross-selling techniques, upselling to your customer comes during not after the actual purchase. If they purchase before you put in your upselling suggestion, then they are, obviously, not going to take you up on it.
Cross-selling is when the customer is presented with the opportunity to make additional purchases to accessorize their initial purchase. These suggestions, in contrast to upselling suggestions which come during the purchasing process, can come either during or after the actual purchase.
Using the website search history or purchase history, give customers a list of options that would go along nicely with their new purchase. These should be educated suggestions, not merely other items that your company offers. Make your customer feel as though you understand them, not like you're throwing yourself and your products at them.
Practical Application Example
Consider, for example, that your customer is searching for a particular brand of tents. It can be deduced that the customer has already used and liked this particular brand or that this is the only brand they really know. You, then, can present an upselling suggestion by showing them a higher quality brand of tents.
What will win their purchasing to this brand (of higher quality and higher price) is if they are told a list of comparisons between the two brands which indicates that they are making the poorer choice. You can then further your profits by suggesting a number of accessory items to go with their purchase such as sleeping bags, an electric stove, water bottles, carabineers, and any other camping extras. If you're lucky, you will win on both upselling and cross-selling fronts in the same customer purchase.
Real Life Example
An excellent real-life example from a real company can be seen with PrintPlace.com. Let's say that you need postcards for an upcoming marketing campaign, so you click on the product link to visit the postcard page. Immediately, you see the heading, "Postcard printing and mailing." Before you've even started filling out the order form, you've been presented with an upselling choice. Notice that the first line of text under the heading asks if you need a fast turnaround - bam! Another upselling tactic. Read down below the postcard specs, and you'll find yet another upselling opportunity through the suggestion of folded postcards if you need more design space. Then, once you start filling out the form for your postcards order, you'll see a cross-selling tactic when you are given the option to add art check services to your order.
Etiquette for Upselling and Cross Selling
What PrintPlace does so well is that their upselling and cross-selling on their site is not obvious to a consumer. They make it flow within the natural order process. Before someone places an order for postcard printing on the site, they probably read through the explanation first, which is why this is an ideal place to upsell your customer. However, notice how they phrase upselling: with a suggested use (i.e. "need postcards fast?" or "need more space?").
The more natural you can make your upselling and cross-selling flow, whether for online or person-to-person sales, the less likely your customer will feel like a "sale to be made" rather than a human being.
And limit how many upsells and cross-sells you suggest. It not only becomes obvious and awkward but may also push your customer to a level of discomfort that enables them to walk away from the entire purchase. The right number of suggestions make it seem like you genuinely care for your customer, which in turn makes them feel better about purchasing from you.
Upselling and cross-selling are critical components to any retail and even service establishment. Using an ecommerce site gives you many opportunities to present upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Tap into what the customer is providing you with their search and shopping patterns to find out exactly which items present the best opportunities.