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A Beginner’s Guide to Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Emails

A Beginner’s Guide to Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Emails


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We explore how post-purchase emails can be used to up-sell and cross-sell to customers with real world examples. Once a customer has made a purchase, it doesn’t need to end there. With the right approach, this can be the beginning of a long-term relationship with customers.

It costs a lot less to keep an existing customer than to acquire new ones, so it pays to focus on customer retention, and email can play a big part in this. 

There are several types of emails you can send to customers after purchase, from confirming the details and thanking them for the order, to requests for reviews, but here we’ll look at using email to cross and up-sell.

Our stats show that post-purchase emails can produce some excellent results. The customer is already familiar with the brand, and the purchase is relatively fresh in their minds, and this is reflected in the response rates.

Post purchase emails such as cross-sell and upsell emails have a 61.7% open rate, a 9.7% click through rate, and 9.16% conversion from click. In addition, the use of personalized recommendations can drive a 28% increase in average order values. 

We explore how you can harness data in our 2021 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report to make your marketing campaigns more effective, including cross-selling and upselling examples.  


What is cross-selling and up-selling?

Cross-selling is to recommend related or complimentary products to a customer based on the product they have bought. Cross sell emails are an example of post purchase emails and they are one of the most profitable methods of marketing. 

Cross-selling enables businesses to drum up new revenue streams, which is essential for increasing average order value and for growing a business. It can be considered a much easier way to increase the value of your email marketing campaigns because you already have an established relationship with the customer. According to a study by Investpro, you are 60-70% more likely to sell to an existing customer compared to 5-20% with new customers. 

Upselling or ‘suggestive selling’ is a marketing and sales method that is related to including additional products which may suit the customer. Upselling is another tool that can increase the value of your baskets. The idea behind this is to encourage the customer to add a marginal product onto their purchase so the upsold items generally cost much less but can add value over time if they are sold regularly. It’s important to think about these techniques and delve into your customer data to offer the right products. For example, you may offer a scarf and gloves to go with a new coat.    

For example, industries like fashion retail may offer additional sunglasses with summer clothes or in financial services they may offer additional and different types of investment opportunities. Another is the kind of recommendations you see on Amazon’s product pages.


The same principle applies to post-purchase emails. Once a customer has made a purchase, customers can be emailed with suggestions for other products. The key is to make the emails timely and the recommendations relevant to the customer.

Up-selling is about persuading customers to buy more expensive items. It could be an upgrade to the next version of a product or service, or adding features or things like warranties to the product.

In this example from booking.com, I’ve clicked on the listing for the £79 hotel room, but the site also shows me more expensive, but potentially more attractive options. These include breakfast, rooms with river views and deluxe rooms, all of which may tempt me to spend a little more.



Cross-sell and upsell examples 

As with cart abandonment, timing and relevance are key factors. A message delivered at the right time, with product recommendations that are relevant to the customer.

By using a shopper’s previous on-site browsing behaviour and purchase history, intelligent recommendations can be dynamically pulled into an email. Targeting rules and filters can be added to campaigns, including trigger time. There is also scope for browse abandonment emails, which are email launched when a customer shows exit intent or leaves your site without adding an item to their basket.

An email can be compiled and triggered immediately after a purchase is complete, in order to thank the customer and provide recommendations for up-sell and cross-sell purposes.

Alternatively, it can be triggered after a specific period of time from the transaction. This could be after the standard delivery time for goods to ensure the customer has received their items, or after a check-in date for flight or hotel bookings. For example, this email was sent to a customer who has previously purchased a school uniform, recommending further related items


Pros & cons of cross-selling and upselling 

There are a multitude of different sales tactics and channels employed by businesses but cross-selling and upselling is one of the most effective. Why? Because your repeat customers are more open to be sold to, they trust your brand, you already hold browsing data and purchase history so you can personalise campaigns. 

Before entertaining a cross-selling and upselling strategy you must take time to understand your customer base and their behaviours and how complementary products will provide value to them. Customers buy from brands they trust and have a positive experience with so therefore it is easier to sell to an existing customer and the more they buy the more loyal they become. If you can get this buying cycle right you can gain the maximum amount of lifetime value from every customer, which results in your revenue growth. 

However, there is a fine line between providing value and coming across as too pushy and salesy. If this is done wrong you can actually push customers away, ruin their experience and therefore cause a negative experience. For this reason it’s essential to map out your cross-selling and upselling strategy and here are some questions to think about:

  • Do your customers require cross-selling and upselling?
  • Do you understand your customer’s needs? 
  • Are you offering value with the additional products? 
  • Have analysed your inbound open rate, click rate and conversion rate to decide on the best times and segments to send your post purchase emails?

Cross-selling and upselling methods 

Instead of showing the customer a wide range of products that may not genuinely provide them with added value slim down your cross-sales. Provide well-placed offers that benefit the customer. 

Understand how your customers shop and even find out the busiest retail months online and make sure to use the correct marketing channels. For example if your customers are more likely to browse on your product pages introduce an abandonment solution or targeted ads, if your customers engage more on social media make sure to run paid social ads. Put your cross-selling and upselling marketing material where your customers are most active. 

Harness your inbound marketing teams to include cross-selling and upselling opportunities within these emails. For example, if there’s a segment of people that purchases luxury fashion products include any others related to this. 

Analyse the data you hold on your customers. There is so much technology available, the majority of customers expect a personalised experience. Use the data you have to feed this into your cross-selling and upselling strategy.  

In Summary

Used in conjunction with other post-purchase emails, such as replenishment email  reminders and order confirmation emails, cross-sell and up-sell emails help to build up a longer term relationship with customers.

The key is to deliver value with intelligent and well-timed messaging, which helps to drive repeat purchases, and to maintain contact with customers.

Want to know more?

Enter your email here to download the SaleCycle Post-Purchase Emails booklet

Reviewed by Brad Ward
Written by Graham Charlton
— Updated on 24/05/2021

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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.