How Effective Is Your Upsell?

Recently, when my son was sick and the temperature outside was in the single digits, I opted for the drive-thru pharmacy. Not wanting to get a sick child and his brother out of the car in the cold, I did something I’ve never done before: I begged the pharmacist working the drive-thru to grab a bottle of children’s ibuprofen for us, too.

I was embarrassed. I hate asking for special favors. But on that day, at that time, I was feeling especially desperate. Later, I told some friends what I had done and voiced a question I’d always had: Why don’t pharmacies have a basket of children’s ibuprofen next to the cash register and ask if you’d like a bottle at the end of every transaction?

If they did, I would buy one basically every time I picked up a prescription. Ibuprofen and antibiotics go together like burgers and fries – so why aren’t they sold as such?

I’m sure there are logistical reasons why this isn’t done. But it got me thinking about upsells. Why, when so many businesses offer complimentary services, is the upsell so hard to master? Here are some things to consider when deciding how to increase your upsell opportunities.

How Effective is your Upsell Marketing Strategy

How to be Effective at Upselling your Products or Services

1. Compatible Products and Services If you’re selling a gym shoe, the natural upsell is socks. Or so it would seem. But there are plenty of upsells that are less obvious. It’s worth some trial and error with all your compatible products to see which people are the most likely to purchase. Personally, if you offered me some odor eaters every time I bought gym shoes, I would buy it every time. I have a house full of athletes, after all.
2. Price Point Of course, it makes sense that the thing you’re suggesting as an upsell is less than the product you’re selling. But it is important to note that it becomes more effective if it is a mere fraction of the cost of the original item. Selling a $25 steak? Adding on some mushrooms for $1 seems like no big deal once you’re already spending $25. Similarly, if you’re buying a $1000 computer, adding on a $25 battery booster doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
3. Product Placement Is the product you’re trying to upsell on the other side of the store from the register? People may not be inclined to walk all the way over there. Buying online? Make sure the add-on isn’t something people have to search for because the odds are, they won’t take the time. Make sure that your add-on items are placed in a location that adding it to the purchase takes almost no effort.

Adding an item to each of your sales can increase your revenue dramatically. Make sure that you’re thinking through what you can offer so that people are likely to add one more item to their carts. Do you have any suggestions for how to perfect your upsell? Because we’d love to hear them!


  1. Sheila Hensley

    Nicely done Kristin! Love the lead in story which made it all make so much sense. Inspiring.

    • Kristin

      Thanks so much Sheila! Have a wonderful day!


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