Powerful & profitable playbooks

Have you checked out our Powerful & Profitable Subscriptions Playbooks? In this post, we’re taking a closer look at our Cross-Selling & Upselling playbook.

Our playbooks were created by bringing together 12 of the industry’s most successful ecommerce agencies and getting their insights on growth strategies they use with their top clients. Topics include marketing (social media and advertising), growing brand loyalty, customizing the customer experience, building a brand community, and more.

Now, let’s talk about some of the strategies and ideas covered in this subscriptions playbook, including cross selling strategies, upselling techniques, maximizing your average order value, and examples of this across different product categories. 

Cross-Selling vs Upselling

So, what’s the difference between a cross sell and an upsell? Let’s use some real world examples to explain the ways in which they differ. A cross sell occurs when you pick up your morning coffee at your favourite cafe and use their combo option to grab that tasty bagel for only a dollar more. 

An upsell would be when you order a couple of donuts to bring home and notice the deal for a six-pack. For just a little more coin, you bring home a half-dozen (I mean… who is going to turn a deal for more donuts?).

More cross selling vs upselling examples: A cross-sell is when the fast food restaurant is asking, “Do you want fries with that?” An upsell is when they ask if you want to supersize your drink for just a dollar more. 

With subscriptions, cross selling and upselling are easy wins for merchants. From our Powerful and Profitable Playbook on the subject, Suzannah Cranwell, New Build Service Team Lead at Swanky, breaks down the benefits for subscription merchants:

You’ve done the hard part already by convincing a customer that they want your product on a regular basis. The good news is that existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and 30% more likely to spend more, with little to no increase in your customer acquisition costSuzannah Cranwell, New Build Service Team Lead at Swanky

Consider what to offer from your customers eyes rather than focusing on the obvious perks to average order value. What else can you offer your subscribers that would make their purchase even more valuable? 

Examples of Upselling

My favorite example of upselling is a great combination of ingenuity and knowing your customers. Battlbox is a subscription box company who curates a package of survival and outdoor products to their customers. Working with the agency Praella, they wanted to create an impulse buy opportunity at the very last step of the checkout. 

They wanted the online equivalent of that impulse purchase at the grocery store when you’re waiting in line and staring at the racks of gum and chocolate bars. The Battlbox equivalent to those treats? A mystery box. 

mystery box

We’ve worked with Battlbox.com to implement a very sleek and effective upsell at Recharge checkout. This small implementation had an impact of increasing the Average Order Value (AOV) by 16%. 

Amer Grozdanic, Co-founder & CEO at Praella

Cross Selling Examples

Let’s look at some great examples of cross selling. Cross selling, remember, is all about finding adjacent products that are perfectly tailored to match your customers’ purchases. Subscriptions give you a leg up on the competition, as you’re already supplying the customer with an item or service; now use that information to find related or complementary items to offer. 

Think of the product page for a digital camera you’d see on Amazon. What related items are a natural fit? A memory card, a tripod, a charger—items that help the customer use or enjoy their purchase. Amazon has a whole section dedicated to these items on their product pages, aptly titled “Frequently bought together.”

frequently bought together

Consider more common pairings of product suggestions, like a new printer and ink cartridges, mobile phones and trendy cases, and HDMI cables or an extra long power cord with a new gaming system. 

Now let’s look specifically at subscription merchants for examples of cross selling. First up is LOLA, makers of period and sexual wellness products. 

When you choose to order their cardboard applicator tampons subscription, you are offered a variety of one-time products that are related or complementary items to the original product.

complementary items

Another example of cross selling from Hello Bello, creators of premium baby products at non-premium prices. 

hello bello

When their customers purchase a diaper subscription from their product page, they are offered a selection of one-time products at a discounted price before checkout. Once more, these product recommendations are tailored specifically to Hello Bello buyers purchasing from their diaper service. Personalized recommendations are the key here. 

Here’s Z, Founder at Tako Agency, with more on that:

Create cross-sells and upsells within the customer portal or on the cart page that change frequently and offer something: Unique (Exclusive products), Highly Valuable (Deeper discounts), Limited (in quantity or availability duration) and/or Personalized.

Personalized recommendations are key… cross-sells and upsells can function as love notes: I know you, I’m thinking of you, and I want you to have all the things. They keep customers engaged with your brand, making them less likely to want to quit you.

Z, Founder at Tako Agency

Up Selling Examples

How can you provide your customers with even more value for the products they purchase? With upsells, you can look for these opportunities to benefit your bottom line and your customers satisfaction. 

Take, for example, American Hat Makers: They offer products that can increase their other products’ life spans, and other beneficial care options. 

american hat makers

Our client, American Hat Makers, increased their products’ value through an extended care option and added upsells like a hatbox, hat stand, and rush order option, which has been hugely successful. 

Cross-sells and upsells should remain lifestyle specific. We recommend identifying a particular problem your consumer needs to solve and then recommending a custom solution.

Mike McCarthy, Chief Design Officer at Zehner

Bokksu, a distributor of authentic and delicious Japanese snacks, offers two value upsells at checkout when purchasing their curated subscription box. 

bokksu cart

Their Route Package Protection upsell provides protection for shipments that are lost, broken, or stolen, while their prepay upgrade options outline the savings for the customer based on the plan they choose. Remember, upsells don’t necessarily have to be a physical product; they are just add-ons that deliver value to the customer.


Consider one of the most popular upsells in ecommerce, “Free shipping over $xx,” which either encourages customers to add more items to their cart or to add more expensive products to meet that threshold. 

Need More Tips? Grab The Playbook

If you’re looking for more effective ways to boost your AOV and LTV through cross-sells and upsells, be sure to download the Cross-Selling & Upselling Playbook, and check out the rest of the Powerful and Profitable Subscriptions Playbooks.