7 Of The Best Email Lifecycles – Part: 3

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Upsell/Cross-sell emails

In Part 3 of our review in email lifecycles, we will discuss emails which can be used to upsell/cross-sell to your customers. Cross-selling and upselling email lifecycles represent a highly effective marketing technique that has the power to boost your sales considerably.

Let’s first understand more about these processes and then study how we can apply them in our product lifecycles.

Cross-selling has always been a good marketing method for retailers. When you order fries at McDonalds, you are asked if you would like a drink (usually a Coke) along with your order. Combos of Coke and fries can also be prebuilt for you – this is called bundling.

Cross-selling is recommending related products to the users which may best suit their requirements, such as, when you open a product page on Amazon, you often get tabs such as ‘People who bought this also bought’. The trick here is to recommend such items to the customer which are most suited for his/her needs such as when a customer is buying a DSLR, you may want to suggest an additional lens pack or a tripod, for example. You can build either simple algorithms in house with something like Looker or you can outsource to a company liked Strands or RichRelevance

Upselling is recommending higher priced versions of the same product or a different product with the same utility and extra features. For example, if users are browsing a product page of a 16GB IPhone 6s, they are casually displayed the option to purchase the 64GB version.

According to a study by Forrester Research, product recommendations in the form of upselling and cross-selling can represent up to 10%-30% of an eCommerce’s site revenue. 

What should you keep in mind while upselling/cross-selling??

As a customer, if I am browsing for a blender, showing me an iPhone at a massively higher price point in a different product category is difficult. My train of thought is that I want to solve for a specific problem (making ice cold smoothies easily) and the recommendations should reflect that.

Sometimes, displaying products from within a large category (if the category is wide enough) also doesn’t work. You would need to group products by customer interests rather than categories. If someone is searching for a top of the line, commercial strength blender, they would want to see other blenders within the same range. Cross-selling and upselling require you to dive into a customers’ insight and thought process. 

Choosing between Upsell and Cross-sell:

According to Predictive Intent, upsells perform 20% more than cross-sells. When customers were faced with an upsell and cross-sell, 4% went for products upsold to them while only 0.3% went for the cross-sold products.

But on the checkout page, cross-selling wins with a 3% conversion rate.

You can use these stats as a general starting baseline while formulating your marketing strategies, but do not stick to them to as a rule. The only rule you should stick to here is improving the customer experience. Carry out A/B tests with different products recs and see what turns out best for you.

Recommended methods:

  1. Upselling and cross-selling are all about providing options to your customers. Do not bombard them with options to the extent that they feel confused. A study by Bain showed that narrowing choices can boost revenues by 5%-40% and reduce costs by 10%-35%.
  2. Bundling is a very useful tactic, especially for products that go hand-in-hand. For example, when a customer buys a DSLR, they would likely need an SD card or various lens kits as well. Offering small incentives on such bundles further increases the chances that a customer would opt for one.
  3. Price Anchoring is a good technique to influence your customers to go for the upsell. This is essentially a technique of showing an inferior choice at almost the same price as a superior product, such that customers opt for the higher priced option even if cheaper variants are available.
  4. Take the example of a customer looking at a DSLR. You have shown him 3 options.
    a. A cheaper option with lesser features.
    b. A somewhat superior model but without any lens kit or similar add-ons at a higher price.
    c. The same model as the second option with lens kit and add-ons at a marginally higher price that the second.
    Upsell this with a proper explanation- Why would you need the lens kit provided in the third option? Why do I need the weather protection or the tripod? You have a good chance of upselling the higher priced model.

Let’s see how Amazon does all of this:

Amazon Nikon

As you proceed below the page, there is one more ‘basic’ bundling option to group it with a memory card and after that follows tons of recommendations which include tripods, lenses and other camera options.

Amazon Also Bought

We will skip the Film maker’s kit as it is bound to be expensive.

Nikon 18-140


Price with the 18-140 mm lens: $2343.90

Nikon 55-200


Price of camera with the 55-200mm lens: $2493.90

Now let’s not forget that this doesn’t give much flexibility to a user who is interested in macro photography. For a guy who is interested in telephotography, you get additional zooming capabilities at just $150 more. So rather than buying an 18-140mm lens and shelling out $200 later on, they would prefer to go for the upsell.  

How do we incorporate these techniques in our email marketing solutions?

Collect and maintain consumer data:

For excelling at upsell and cross-sell emails, you need a well-regulated and maintained customer database. This database must be frequently checked for redundancies or incorrect information and these must be continually rectified.

Once you have detailed customer information, you have a list of the customers’ most recent purchases and you can efficiently send them recommendations. If a customer bought a new mattress, you know they will be needing pillows and bed sheets. You can send them timely recommendations based on their most recent purchase and browsing history (you can collect this with an in-house cookie).

Decide when should you reach out:

Leverage post-purchase emails for the best results. We have already seen that post-purchase emails have above average open rates, especially since they have high recency and are likely in a point of positive engagement with your brand. Use these to your advantage. Recommend products to customers in your order confirmation email, product shipped email, product delivery email, and the post follow up feedback email.

In the below example, HelloBar sends the customer an email regarding product activity for the last week and half of the email contains recommendations for the user.


Pinterest offers recommendations boldly with the ‘inspired by the board’ at the bottom of the email.  


Dollar Shave Club sends an email with shipping information and almost 90% of the email is devoted to cross-selling items. Note the sense of urgency: your item ships on the 10th. Add these now before your order is shipped.

Dollar Shave Club

Use Targeting and Triggers

Now that you have detailed customer data, use it to make great cross-sells.  You have the customer’s birth date or anniversary date in your database and you also have the latest purchase data and browsing history. Gruop this information together with offers such as cashback or free shipping to make sure they go through with the purchase on the ‘special day’.

Birthday emails are much more than mere cross-selling techniques. In a broad spectrum, Experian estimates that birthday emails have 481% higher transaction rate, generate 342% higher revenue, and have 179% higher click rates than the average promotional email.

There are also many variations to try here:

Should you only send the coupon on the birthday date or after it?

Should you send reminders for that coupon?

What level of personalization should you use?

Birthday Email

Omaha Birthday

Traditionally, marketers have used birthday emails independently. However, for the best results, you can club offers on products based on the user’s latest purchase history or browsing history.

Take for example, in the above email, Omaha Steaks knows based on your orders that you are an ardent lover of seafood (maybe the proportion of your seafood orders far exceed that of red meat). They can use this information to send you an offer on a lobster meal.

With the above tips, you can heavily incorporate product recommendations and go a step beyond utilizing accessible data points in order to supercharge the return you can get from both promotional and triggered emails.


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