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Cross selling: definition, examples, and best practices

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Last editedJun 20212 min read

Are you looking for ways to increase sales? Cross selling is a strategy employed by many businesses to boost revenue by offering secondary products to existing customers. Here’s a closer look at the cross selling definition and how to work it into your marketing plan.

What is cross selling?

Cross selling refers to any marketing strategy designed to sell related products or complementary services to existing customers. Have you ever added an additional product to your shopping basket when prompted by a retailer’s suggestion at checkout? This is an example of cross selling.

Within the financial services industry, another cross selling example would be if a bank sells a savings product to an existing client with a mortgage. Within the beauty industry, a hair stylist might sell an additional conditioning treatment to a client who’s come in for a cut and blow dry.

Cross selling offers a simple, effective way to boost sales revenue without pressuring your customers. It’s a soft marketing technique that targets prospects who have already demonstrated interest.

Cross sell vs. upsell: what’s the difference?

Upselling and cross selling serve a similar purpose, but there are a few key differences to consider. Here’s how to distinguish between cross sell vs. upsell:

  • Upselling offers the client a higher-end, larger, or more comprehensive version of the product they’re purchasing.

  • Cross selling offers the client a different product with additional benefits.

For example, if an electronics company convinces a client to purchase a higher-spec model of a laptop than they were initially considering, this would be considered upselling. If the salesperson sells a complementary laptop case to go along with it, this qualifies as cross selling.

As you can see, upselling and cross selling often go hand in hand, both providing products with additional value to clients or customers. The objective of both tactics is to increase sales while encouraging existing customers to stretch beyond their usual orders.

Cross selling examples

We’ve already touched on a few cross selling examples, above, such as the laptop case for an electronics customer or conditioning treatment for a salon client. A further cross selling example might be an insurance company making a special offer on life insurance to its existing auto insurance customers. Cross selling is pervasive in nearly every industry:

  • A fashion website suggesting products with a “customers also bought” feature

  • A server asking restaurant customers if they would like a side salad or appetizer

  • A pop-up on a fashion website with compatible products to put together a full outfit

  • A bank asking if you want to open up a savings account along with your checking account

Cross selling opportunities for your business

So, how can businesses take advantage of cross selling opportunities? Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you formulate a strategy.

1. Consider the user journey

Every sale is a journey, with numerous touch points along the way. Map this out to identify the best moments to follow up with repeat customers, offering them something new that complements their usual order.

2. Group complementary products together

In most industries, you’ll have your core group of products as well as supplementary accessories. For example, a mobile phone provider will have the phones themselves as well as phone cases, extra chargers, and other add-ons. Your cross selling efforts will be focused on the supplementary products, not the primary.

3. Use customer segmentation

A customer segmentation analysis lets you group your customers into segments based on their buying behavior. By analyzing how visitors interact with your website, you can gain a greater understanding of the pages they’re more likely to browse, and which products they’re more likely to be interested in.

4. Offer automatic suggestions

In eCommerce, you should set up your website to offer suggestions of complementary products. One prime example is Amazon’s “frequently bought together” area, which appears on every product page. Another example is the “complete the look” section on many fashion retailer websites, where they give you a rundown of the other products that the model is wearing.

These are just a few ways to incorporate cross selling opportunities into your everyday customer interactions. Ideally, you’ll boost sales as well as offer clients a more comprehensive service.

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