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Ecommerce Upselling: How To Get It Right — Without Annoying Your Customers

If you’ve ever bought a product online (particularly a direct-to-consumer [DTC] product), chances are you’ll have had your fair share of post-purchase emails tempting you back to the store to buy more, or a more expensive product. This tactic is called upselling.

You might have also heard of cross-selling, but there is a key difference. Cross-selling usually involves recommending products that are complementary to, but similarly or lower priced than, the original purchase. Whereas upselling specifically refers to recommending products at a higher price point to maximize average order value.

You can probably see where the challenge with upselling is — convincing your existing customers to spend more money than usual is no mean feat. However, it provides your store the opportunity to make significantly more profit.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ecommerce upselling, including:

  • The different kinds of ecommerce upsell;
  • The key ecommerce upselling touchpoints;
  • Categorizing and recommending related products;
  • Segmenting your audience for the best upsell;
  • Measuring your upselling efforts; and
  • Examples of ecommerce upsell.

The different kinds of ecommerce upsell

There’s more than one way to upsell products on your Shopify store, otherwise there’d be a whole lot of sameness going on. Plus, customers respond differently to upsells depending on their situation and the type of product you’re upselling. Let’s take a look at some of those upselling options.

Higher quantities

The first option is to sell higher quantities of a product your customer has already bought. This strategy is a little easier to pull off than others because you know the customer is already interested in the product. 

However, this option works best if the product is consumable — food and beverage, skincare, or supplements are a perfect fit for this strategy.

Related products

This strategy is very similar to cross-selling, except you’d be recommending related products with a higher price point. A common version of this strategy is bundling related products together. 

For example, in the beauty category, creating a “daytime skincare routine” package for someone who has previously added a skincare product to their shopping cart.

Product or subscription upgrades

You can upsell an upgraded version of a product your customer has already bought, or convince them to “subscribe and save” to bring in more reliable monthly revenue.

Product upgrades are a pretty popular upsell in the tech niche, while subscription upgrades are popular options for consumables in health and wellness and pet care.

Add-ons and customizations

Another popular version of the upsell is to use product add-ons or to add the option to customize the product in the checkout page for a small fee. 

For example, adding a phone case and charger to a phone purchase or offering a custom engraving on the product (a strategy that Apple uses with a lot of products).

The key ecommerce upselling touchpoints — and how to make the most of them

There is a time and place for upselling opportunities. Using these opportunities (and not trying to upsell at every possible moment) is key to reducing the likelihood of annoying your customers. Thankfully, those opportunities are spread throughout the customer buying journey.

Pre-purchase touchpoints

You may be surprised to hear that you have opportunities to upsell before your potential customer even makes their initial purchase. The easiest way to maximize the opportunity at this touchpoint is to bundle and discount products to increase the order value of the purchase.

A great example of this strategy in action is Bulldog Skincare, where the store has a dedicated section for product bundles:

bulldog skincare

In the image above, you can see that Bulldog Skincare bundles together products that address specific needs — in my case, I have quite oily skin, and I currently use their Oil Control Face Wash and Moisturizer. I’m coming close to finishing these products and am very likely to purchase the Oil Control bundle instead of the two products individually. 

However, this strategy can also work very well for apparel brands, where you can bundle together “fits” to complete an outfit, which is an attractive offer if the customer is already interested in an item that a model is wearing.

Mid-purchase touchpoints

When a customer is settled that they want to make a purchase with your store, you have a lot of opportunities to upsell, particularly product upgrades and add-ons. The most common places to do so are cart pages, checkout flows, and related products in product pages.

One brand using mid-purchase upsells effectively on me is The Protein Works, a fitness supplement brand:

the protein works

In the image above, I’ve added a Whey Protein bag (banoffee deluxe is *chefs kiss*) to my cart. Notice how the brand does a good job of cross-selling and upselling at the same time — cross-selling the shaker while upselling Creatine (usually a higher price before discounts). 

However, a good tip on the mid-purchase touchpoints to avoid annoying customers is to avoid using all three strategies. If you’re upselling in the cart and on product pages, don’t also upsell in the checkout flow, or if you’re upselling in the checkout flow, avoid upselling in the cart. 

This will help make sure you’re not overwhelming your customers and making them feel like they have to fight off your offers.

Post-purchase touchpoints

Finally, during the post-purchase part of the customer journey, you also have a few opportunities to upsell — this is a particularly great time to upsell subscription options and related products.

I’ve come across plenty of post-purchase upsells in my time, but a recent example comes from Füm, a brand that sells nicotine-free, vapor-free products to help people quit smoking and vaping (still a work in progress for me).


I’ve previously bought a Füm device from the store, and they recently pitched for me to join its “Cores Club”, a subscription service that delivers product cores every month. It’s an attractive option to help me stay consistent and save money on its products, and the brand would get the reliability of monthly recurring revenue (MRR). 

The best way to approach this strategy is through email follow-ups and loyalty program enrollment (preferably both). Email follow-ups allow you to periodically recommend upsells, for example on birthdays or other holidays. While a loyalty program can help make those upsells more enticing with rewards for completing the purchase.

Categorizing and recommending related products

For nearly all upselling strategies to work properly, you need to implement an ecommerce recommendation engine that’ll automatically display related or complementary products to your customers on product pages, in the cart, or in checkout workflows.

If you built your own ecommerce store from scratch, this would involve a fair amount of development and coding — but thankfully, Shopify helps you build a recommendation engine fairly simply using the Shopify Search & Discovery app.

Before downloading the app, you need to make sure your products are properly set up ready for recommendation — which means making sure each product is categorized appropriately for the recommendation logic (i.e., related collections). 

Then download the app for your store and the app will help you through the rest. That being said, the app works by using two different “Recommendation Intents”, which are “Related products” and “Complementary products”, — the app will only auto-generate related products, while you’ll need to manually set up complementary products.

The recommendation algorithm for related products uses three factors:

  • Purchase history (products that have historically been purchased together)
  • Product description (products with similar descriptions)
  • Related collections (products from collections that the current product is a part of)

As for complementary products, the search and discovery app makes it easy to manually add recommendations:

shopify customize
Image source: Shopify

However, if you don’t fancy using the search and discovery app and you’re pretty decent with Javascript, you can dive into Shopify’s Product Recommendations API to build the recommendation engine manually. 

Segment your audience and upsell to the highest-value

The next area to think about for upselling is how you reach the customers who are most likely to take you up on your offers (particularly post-purchase) — which is where segmenting your customers comes in handy. 

You’ll most likely come across the idea of segmentation in your email marketing strategy — where you categorize customers based on a number of factors such as demographics, products they buy or browse, and stage of buying journey (e.g., if they are loyal or at-risk customers).

However, when you consider segmentation for upselling, there are a few different markers you can look at to identify the right customers for upselling opportunities.

In Shopify, there are a couple of places you can look to segment, including the customer reports. The main groups to consider are “returning customers” and “customer cohorts” — both of these will help you identify your high-value customers who are most likely to take an upsell, as they’re already familiar with and enjoy your brand.

The next important group to look out for is “one-time customers”, which Shopify shows as the data for customers with only one order. You can target these customers with upsell offers to turn them into repeat customers.

However, with loyalty program analytics, you’ll be able to collect even more data about your customers (such as lifestyle preferences and reward redemption rates) and segment them further. Loyalty analytics can also tell you “repeat purchase drop-off” data to help you find customers already considering further purchases.

Measuring your upselling efforts

It’s all well and good executing upsell campaigns, but how do you measure the success of your efforts? An overall increase in revenue or average order value can come from several factors — you need to be able to attribute success (or failure) to your upselling. But how?

By using comparative data, you’ll easily be able to see how upselling is paying off, or if you need to pivot which products to upsell. 

The key is to compare data segmented by upsold customers versus overall customers. Here are a few examples of metrics you can track to measure upselling data:

  • Average order value segmented by upsold customers
  • Purchase frequency segmented by upsold customers
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV) segmented by upsold customers

There are a few other metrics you can use to help you determine if your upselling is working by using email and web traffic data, including:

  • Open rates on post-purchase upsell emails
  • Click-through rates on post-purchase upsell emails
  • Clicks on website links to related products
  • Products added to the basket during the checkout/cart flow

Naturally, higher AOV, purchase frequencies, and CLV compared to overall customers tells you that your upselling is working. The other metrics are a little trickier to nail down, as you’ll also need to consider the efficacy of email and web-page copy — in this case, you can try some A/B tests to see if it’s the product itself creating the upsell or the copy.

Naturally, higher AOV, purchase frequencies, and CLV compared to overall customers tells you that your upselling is working. The other metrics are a little trickier to nail down, as you’ll also need to consider the efficacy of email and web-page copy — in this case, you can try some A/B tests to see if it’s the product itself creating the upsell or the copy.

Examples of ecommerce upselling

After all that, you’re probably raring to go set up your product recommendations and email sequences. But before you do, check out these examples of how other brands have done a great job of upselling (though it’s worth mentioning these examples are all post-purchase). 

Athletic Greens

Similar to my personal Füm example in the article above, Athletic Greens takes the same approach to email one-time buyers with a subscription upsell. 

athletic greens
Image source: Really Good Emails

In this example, Athletic Greens offer a welcome pack, a monthly supply of the previously bought product, and access to an exclusive members-only store.


Many folks will be familiar with the Harry’s brand, a grooming/personal hygiene brand. Since the brand sells many products addressing similar needs, it’s easy for them to upsell lots of their products. 

In this example, it’s likely that the customer previously bought a starter set or at least a razor. Harry’s then uses the post-purchase opportunity combined with a new product launch to upsell the existing customer:

Image source: Really Good Emails

Both products are related to Harry’s core shaving razor product, and make sense for those existing customers.


Taking on a different upsell strategy, BetterBrand bets that once you’ve bought (and eaten) one of its bagel’s, you’ll want a dozen more. 

Image source: Really Good Emails

As you can see in this example, the brand offers free shipping to customers who buy a 12 pack of its bagels. In this case, we’re looking at the higher-quantity upsell opportunity.

Red Clay Hot Sauce

Our final example of upselling comes from Red Clay, a hot sauce and seasonings brand. In this case, the brand is also going for a quantity upsell, but a little less drastic than a 12-pack of hot sauces.

red clay
Image source: Really Good Emails

As you can see from the image, instead of offering free shipping, the brand offers its customers a “limited time” deal to buy one get another half-price. This particular strategy is great if you have a decent profit margin on your products, but inadvisable if you don’t.

Make your upselling work harder for you with LoyaltyLion

By this point, you’ll have a good understanding of why upselling is so valuable for ecommerce stores, as well as how to do it for your store. But we’d like to help you take it all a step further.

While upselling can help you increase your AOV, loyalty marketing can push it even further. 

With LoyaltyLion, you can use loyalty analytics to segment your customers to find high-value opportunities for upselling, as well as making the upsell offer even more enticing by offering rewards for their repeat purchases and loyalty. 

By combining upselling and loyalty strategies, you have a far greater chance of succeeding your goals of increasing AOV, CLV, and repeat purchase rates — which many of LoyaltyLion customers have already done. 

Interested in finding out more? Check out LoyaltyLion’s pricing page to see the loyalty features that can boost your upselling efforts and find a plan that suits your store.

About the author

Alexander Boswell

Alexander Boswell is the Founder/Director of SaaSOCIATE, a B2B MarTech and eCommerce Content Marketing Service, and a Business PhD candidate. When he’s not writing, he’s playing baseball and D&D.

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