What is an upsell?
An upsell encourages an existing customer to buy a more expensive version of the product they are in the process of buying or have already bought. It can also be presented as an upgrade.
An upsell differs from a cross-sell in that it’s a higher-priced version of what the customer is already buying or has already bought, while a cross-sell refers to a product or service that complements what the customer is buying but is something different.
While technically not the same thing, cross-selling is often talked about as a type of upselling. Because we want you to be able to use both strategies in your email marketing, we’ll follow that definition for the purpose of this article.
Now, let’s have a look at how to upsell via email.
6 email upsell strategies and great upsell examples
1. Send a post-purchase upsell email
It’s common to include an upsell on your checkout page but your customer might need to be tempted more than once before they opt for the more expensive version of a product. A purchase confirmation email can easily serve as an upsell email as well.
Start by showcasing the purchased products and add a note about the benefits of upgrading. If you just sold someone a portable dehumidifier, they may have been on the edge about being the more eco-friendly and quieter but slightly more expensive version. Give them the option to change their order and make it super easy to do so by adding a button to your email.
You could even make this option time-sensitive.
This email from Underwear Expert lets the customer know their order is about to be shipped while offering them the option to add some funky socks. The call-to-action buttons are very clear. They don’t send the customer back to the online store but allow them to instantly add socks to their cart for easy checkout.
If you offer next-day shipping, this might be harder to pull off. In that case, consider turning your delivery process into the upsell by allowing customers to choose a delivery time slot at an extra cost.
Easier than offering an upsell is recommending complementary products to the one the customer just bought. These can even be lower-priced, making an impulse buy more likely.
Be careful to use this tactic sparingly, though. Your primary goal is to make people feel happy about their purchase with you, not as if they’re missing out by having bought a lower-priced version of one of your products or just one item instead of a complete package.
A safer, and at least equally important thing to do after customers bought something from you, is to ask them for a review.
2. Celebrate customer milestones with an upsell offer
Just as with the post-purchase upsell, the trick here is to first congratulate users on the milestone they’ve reached. Maybe they’ve been a subscriber for a full year, their birthday is coming up, or their kids reach a certain age.
Focus on how your product has helped them reach this milestone, then present your upsell as a way for them to get even better results, make their lives easier, or move on to the next stage.
A loyal customer of your skincare brand may turn the big 50. That’s the perfect time to celebrate them, applaud them for taking care of themselves, and mention your more elaborate 50+ line.
And if someone has bought their first yoga mat a few months ago, they may be interested in some yoga blocks or stretch bands to improve their practice. Congratulate them on being active and don’t forget to share some fun yoga videos they could follow at home – using your blocks and stretch bands, of course.
3. Tease loyal customers with a product launch
This is a great upsell strategy to try on a segment of loyal fans or repeat customers. Someone who’s been buying your product for years will want to know when you’re launching a new version and they’ll probably also be the first in line to buy it.
4. Upsell when the customer is buying
If you’re running a subscription service, you can alert your customers when their next subscription box is due to arrive. This isn’t just good customer service, it also allows them to let you know should there be an issue with the delivery date… or to add something to their order.
Hydrant alerts subscribers of their upcoming subscription renewal. They remind the subscriber of their exclusive member pricing which lowers the chance of them canceling their subscription.
Hydrant then uses a big bold font to indicate not only what the customer already ordered but also to ask if they “want more?” And again, subscribers get discounted rates if they add a product to their order. They don’t even need to get a more expensive subscription as the extra product would be a one-time add-on.
Another way to use this tactic is by tracking your customers’ purchasing behavior and identifying buying patterns. If someone buys the same art supplies every three months, send them an email before their next purchase suggesting other items they might be interested in. This works even better when you share tips on how to use these new products.
On a smaller scale, you can check which items people typically order together and make better recommendations in your cross-sell emails based on that data.
5. Get creative with your upsell offer
If your product doesn’t have a premium version or your customer already bought your most expensive product, see if you can upsell through an inherent product feature or by extending your service.
Meal subscription services can offer a discount when people lock in their subscriptions.
A sneaker brand can offer free shipping for those who buy custom-made sneakers.
An online sunglasses store can offer an extended warranty on limited edition sunglasses.
A common service upsell is faster delivery. People are often happy to pay more to get their order the next day, especially if it’s something like a gift for a special occasion.
6. Automate your upsell emails
All of the above upsell strategies can be automated by using triggers to send out your upsell emails. A few examples of such triggers could be
- Customer buys phone with 64 GB memory > Customer receives upsell email asking if he wants the same phone with 128 GB memory instead.
- It’s been x months since Customer bought a set of 20 lbs weights > Customer receives email promoting the 40 lbs set.
- Customer gets the monthly 3-pack of razor blades but always orders extra > Customer is offered to upgrade to the monthly 5-pack subscription.
Don’t neglect your email upsells
Someone who is already on your list and buying your product is the perfect person to present an upsell to. Don’t limit your upsell emails to the classic list of other recommended products but get creative and test which upsell emails work best for your brand.
Need more inspiration? Create a free MailCharts account to view more examples of upsell emails.