I have worked on numerous e-commerce sites.  My responsibilities ranged from development to getting traffic and conversions. One thing I found in common with all of them was the way they up-sell products or related items.

In today’s world we adopt our tactics from market leaders i.e. Amazon, eBay etc. We think by adopting the same strategies we will do well also.

We all have some idea what marketing budgets of Amazon.com or eBay must be as well as the size marketing team they have. Obviously they can afford to run thousands of multivariate tests simultaneously.

Now my question is; can we as a small business owner afford to run that many tests?


Can we afford the cost to drive traffic like Amazon or eBay?

If you say yes then I think you landed on the wrong page, by mistake, and this article is not for you.

In the past I have seen clients with a £500 per month online budget who expect to get a million pound business. No joke, I am being very serious.

Horizontal Up-sell and Vertical Up-sell

Horizontal up-sell means you are up-selling a complete different item to buyer which they originally came to buy from you. Good example would be, I came to buy a t-shirt from your website and down under I am telling them that “people who bought this item also bought” and the item is laser projector.

Vertical Up-sell means I came to buy a digital camera from you and down under I saw a memory card, camera casing, spare batteries and camera stand.

What I am going to discuss now is vertical up-sell and how you can do it differently.

E-commerce sites should learn a lesson from Info Marketers

Typical e-commerce sites up-sell products alongside the desired product, it works like this; I land on the page with the product I wanted and just underneath or on the right hand side I see up-sell or related products. Don’t take me wrong has been a good tactic to sell more products.  But since every site is doing up-sells this way our eyes are used to it now. These tactics have pretty much lost their importance in the eyes of the buyer. Since they are in the same place on every single site we are immune to them.

What we need now is something new, something that gets the buyers attention and draws their interest.

I go through lots of marketing material on a daily basis, to keep myself up to date with the latest marketing trends. I study what’s working and what’s not working. I read free and paid marketing materials from the worlds top info marketers. One thing I have learned that e-commerce sites should adopt is the way info marketers up-sell their products.

So what exactly they do?

  • In e-commerce world would look something like this

  •  Found similar but not exact example from different industry

As you can see above up-sell comes after the first purchase. They first focus on selling the entry item and then up-sell.  The related items are offered after the customer bought the entry item. By entry item I mean the product the customer came to buy in a very first place. They don’t distract their potential buyer.  Instead they give them all the necessary information and proof to buy the entry product. Once the buyer purchases the entry items they force divert them to a related up-sell, this could be one up-sell or a bundle. They describe why this up-sell is so important and goes hand in hand with the entry item. This up-sell is a one time offer specially tailored for the buyer at the time.  The importance of immediate purchase is built by saying something like; “If you leave this offer now it won’t come back again”. Thus they generate scarcity.

Now at this stage there is 1 button “Yes I want this product” or “No thanks I don’t want this one time offer” which is a small link underneath the button.

Again a subliminal message telling your brain that you are about to turn down a great one-time offer.

You would think that doing the up-sell this way means the user will have to put their card details again for the up-sell.  But the truth is…

The answer is no!

By using payment gateway API you can specify that when they bought the first entry item and paid for it the session doesn’t break. Then, simply clicking on the “Yes I want this product” button on the forced up-sell page; they will transact the desired amount without manually putting in card details again. If they say “not interested” it will then leave them alone and send them to the Thank You page. Of course you can always target them later by sending new offers via e-mail.

Remember to always segment your mailing list i.e. Single Item Buyers, Multiple Item Buyers, Male, Female, Age group etc. And target them accordingly.

Segmenting your list this way will significantly increase your “Average Customer Value” which translates to more profits. It will also give you an edge on your competitors.

This new tactic will give you several years of better profits; at least until everyone else starts to adopt this strategy and people become immune to it. But when that happens, you always have the option to go back to the old “right navigation” up-selling tactic. Of course this time you will be the first to start it again and reap a few years of profit before everyone starts following you back again.

I hope you liked the article; your feedback will be much appreciated.

E-commerce Sites should Learn a Lesson from Info Marketers
Rehan Khan

Rehan Khan

Rehan is an Online Search - Social Media & Conversion Specialist. As senior marketing professional he possesses over 11 years experience in this industry. In today's world where the real commitment and client sincerity has lost its meaning, he is not ready to let go the golden era of 80's. For a peace of mind, he loves to hang around in quarries across UK discovering underwater nature as a trained scuba diver.

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