Online Sales

Cross Sell vs Upsell: What’s the Difference?

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By Anna Ribas, on 7 March 2023

There are numerous marketing strategies businesses use to boost sales and generate additional revenue. However, the two most effective and simple strategies are cross selling and upselling. The first focuses on encouraging the buyer to add another relevant item to their cart, while the second persuades them to purchase an upgraded version of the original product.

In this cross sell vs upsell guide, you will learn about the key differences between these techniques and how you can use them to increase your revenue.

* Learn the 10 most important questions to ask your sales team that will help  you create relevant and valuable inbound marketing content for your buyer  persona! 

Cross Sell vs Upsell

What Is Cross Selling?

This sales technique encourages buyers to purchase products or services that are complementary to what is already being bought.

For example, let’s say you are interested in buying a wall clock. When you add the item to your cart or are about to do so, the seller recommends batteries that are used to activate the clock.

What Is Upselling?

Upselling is another sales technique that persuades buyers to purchase the upgraded version of the chosen product. This technique also benefits buyers, as they get a better product by paying only a little more.

For instance, if you are about to check out with an average-quality phone, the seller can offer an upgraded or premium version of the phone.

Cross Selling vs Upselling

Here is a cross sell vs upsell comparison to help you understand what makes these techniques different from each other.

Elements used for comparison

Cross Selling



Selling a different (but relevant) product to an existing customer

Persuading a buyer to purchase a more expensive product


Boost the overall value of a sale

Boost the actual value of a sale

Difficulty level

Easier to achieve

Comparatively not as easy to achieve as cross selling


Complementary products

Higher priced alternatives


Average order value and average ticket size

Average order value

How to Boost Sales with Cross Selling and Upselling

Now that you understand the cross sell vs upsell comparison, let’s see how you can use these techniques to increase your overall sales and revenue.

Offer Free Shipping

Customers usually prefer brands that offer free shipping. There are multiple ways you can offer it to your customers. For instance:

  • Add shipping cost to the product's original price to give the appearance that you are offering free shipping on all orders.

  • Reward free shipping only to customers who buy more than $XX.

  • Offer free shipping to customers who purchase more than two products.

Follow the 25% Rule

If you are trying to sell a complementary or premium product, ensure it does not cost more than 25% of the original product. For instance, if a potential customer has come to buy a $300 phone, don’t try to upsell them with a $600 phone. It increases the risk of losing the customer as well as the deal.

Cross Sell vs Upsell:

Map Your Customer’s Journey

Understanding your customers’ needs, preferences, and lifestyle is important to make your upselling and cross selling techniques successful.

Collect psychographic and demographic data on your customers to recommend additional products and upgrades that match their needs.

Offer Only a Few (Well-Targeted) Suggestions

When cross selling or upselling, make sure you provide only a few options to choose from. Customers can get overwhelmed and confused when they are offered too many options. As a brand, your goal should be to make the buying decision easier for your customers.

Track Each Campaign

No one can predict how a customer will react to a particular cross sell or upsell campaign. Therefore, you should always track important metrics of each campaign to find what is working and what needs to be changed.

Set clear goals and note how each component of your marketing strategy is helping you achieve them. Study analytics to improve the effectiveness of your offers.

Be an Active Listener

When you talk to your customers, listen to them carefully to determine whether it is the right time to extend an offer or not. For instance, a customer tells you he wants to achieve his goals in a short time. You can suggest updated versions of the product he already has and inform him how they can help him achieve his goals.

Don’t Forget Follow-Up Emails

Establish a deeper connection with your customers via follow-up emails, as it increases their chances of accepting your offers. There are different ways you can send these emails to bond with your customers. Some of the follow-up email ideas are:

  • A thank you email to appreciate your customer for choosing you

  • A how-to email to inform them how to make the most out of the product

  • A rewards program email to persuade your customers to earn a reward by making more purchases

  • A review request email to ask your customer to share a product review

These emails will show your customers that you value their views and consider them a part of the brand.

Learn When to Send Offers

Remember that timing is everything. You should know when the right time to offer an additional product is and when you should avoid it.

Trying to sell a product or a service when your customer is already having a problem with a product they purchased from you can cause a bad impression.

Offer Bundles

Another way to boost your sales is by creating and selling bundles of related items, instead of selling them as standalone products.

For instance, you can sell burgers, fries, and cold drinks in bundles in different combinations instead of selling them as separate items. It will allow customers to purchase related items in one go instead of making three separate purchases.

Summing Up

Cross selling and upselling are two powerful tools businesses use to improve sales and customer retention. You should consider adding them to your marketing strategy if you want to increase your revenue.

We hope that the above-mentioned tips and cross sell vs upsell comparison will help you make the most of these techniques!

10 questions you should ask your sales team to create the best inbound content

Anna Ribas