The Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling for Ecommerce Stores

The Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling for Ecommerce Stores

Ah, the classic upselling vs. cross-selling debate. As an eCommerce store owner, you probably know that you should be doing both of these things, but sometimes might be wondering: “What’s the diff?” And you’re not alone; these two terms are commonly confused.

Long story short: upselling and cross-selling are two different things. They do*,* however, often lead to very similar wins like increased AOV (average order value), higher customer satisfaction, and increased customer loyalty. And in the end, all that translates to higher sales and revenue for you and your business (upselling and cross-selling can drive up to 30% of revenue in some instances). Since upselling and cross-selling can be *very* confusing but — as established — are also both *very* important, we decided to break them down for you. So you can spend less time trying to figure out what they mean and more time, well, actually upselling and cross-selling.

Upselling vs. Cross-Selling


Upselling is when you recommend an upgrade, enhancement, or more premium option to a customer’s existing purchase. In more elementary terms: It’s like adding avocado or extra pickles (personally, ew) to your takeout burger order. Or for the Apple stans out there, it’s like upgrading your iPhone to a version with more storage or adding Apple Care.

Upselling is a win-win: customers are happy with the enhanced value they’re now receiving, and merchants like you are happy with the increased AOV.


Cross-selling, on the flip side, is when you suggest an additional product that’s complementary or related to a customer’s existing purchase. In other words, it’s an entire other purchase. It’s like adding fries and a milkshake to your takeout burger order, or like adding Airpods or a phone case to your purchase of a new iPhone.

Like upselling, cross-selling is also a win-win for pretty similar reasons: customers are happy for their now full suite of complementary products, while merchants like you can rejoice over your business’s increased AOV and profits.

Upselling and Cross-Selling Examples, IRL

Okay, we get that you’re probably not selling cheeseburgers or iPhones on your Shopify store. That’s why we collected some live, potentially more relatable upsell and cross-sell examples from current In Cart Upsell customers to break things down for you even further.

Upsell Example #1: Stone and Rose

Stone and Rose is an online retailer selling pajamas and clothing made of bamboo for babies and toddlers. Let’s say you’re in search of new pajamas for your daughter and come across the perfect long-sleeve, rose-adorned set. “Love,” you exclaim and add it to your cart. Suddenly, you’re prompted with a suggestion to “complete the look” with a matching bow. This suggestion? It’s an example of an upsell.

The set already includes a top and a bottom — it’s already an outfit. In this instance, tacking on a $12 bow completes the outfit and rounds out the whole set. It’s sort of like adding an avocado or some other type of topping to your cheeseburger. Adding this kind of upsell to the checkout process is pretty much a no-brainer and an easy layup for increasing cart value.

A Shopify store called Stone and Rose showing an upsell offer on their product page.

Upsell Example #2: Hyggelight

Hyggelight is a sustainable candle retailer. Let’s say you’re browsing their site in search of some new candles for your home. You find a candle you like and when you add it to your cart, you’re prompted to “Buy TWO, get one mystery candle.” This is an example of a discounted upsell.

You’re not being prompted to explore complementary items — rather, you’re being enticed to just buy more of the same thing. (Upgrading from a regular to a double cheeseburger, if you will.) And in the instance of candles, this sort of upsell is also a no-brainer; candles eventually burn out and ultimately will have to be replaced, so it makes sense to stock up while you can.

A Shopify store called Hyggelight showing an cross-sell offer on their cart page.

Upsell Example #3: Point No Point Studio

Point No Point Studio is a jewelry retailer specializing in engagement and wedding rings. Let’s say that you’re looking for an engagement ring for your special someone. You find a piece you know (hope) they’ll love, select their ring size, and add it to your cart. Upon adding to your cart, you’re prompted with a suggestion: add insurance. This is an example of an upsell.

Adding insurance protection is sort of an enhancement of the ring itself. And when buying such a high-investment piece — from both a financial and an emotional standpoint — it makes sense to buy some sort of coverage in case the ring someday becomes lost, stolen, or damaged. It’s like adding Apple Care to your new iPhone, whose eventual cracked screen is inevitable. Suggesting insurance is thus another easy layup of an upsell.

A Shopify store called Hyggelight showing an upsell offer on their cart page.

Cross-Sell Example #1: Timeless Trends

Okay, now for some cross-sell examples. Let’s say you’re searching for a corset and come across Timeless Trends, a retailer that specializes in corsets. Upon finding one you like and adding it to your cart, you’re prompted with a suggestion to add a modesty panel. This is an example of a cross-sell.

You don’t need a modesty panel in order to wear your corset. Rather, it’s a nice-to-have should you want a little more privacy. It’s a complementary add-on item, but one that could make a lot of sense should extra coverage be something you’re looking for.

A Shopify store called Timeless Trends showing an cross-sell offer on their cart page.

Cross-Sell Example #2: EcoKind Cleaning

Ecokind Cleaning is a retailer selling sustainable cleaning products. Let’s say you’re looking for some products to clean your bathroom and come across their Toilet Cleaner Tablets. You decide to give them a try and select “Add to Cart.” After adding, you’re greeted with a suggestion: “You might also like: Cleaning Essentials Kit.” This is an example of a cross-sell.

The Cleaning Essentials Kit, again, is a complementary item. It could round out their Toilet Cleaner Tablets quite well should you be stocking up on general home cleaning supplies, but it’s not necessary for using the Toilet Cleaner Tablets on their own. Still, if someone is already open to buying new home cleaning products, it could be an easy cross-sell to help drive up their cart value.

A Shopify store called EcoKind Cleaning showing an cross-sell offer on their cart page.

Start Upselling and Cross-Selling Today

Less confused? We certainly hope so. Now that we‘ve cleared things up, let’s start actually upselling **and cross-selling.

Implementing savvy upselling and cross-selling techniques across your email campaigns, product pages, and your checkout process is an easy way to drive AOV and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. And the easiest way to implement these techniques? Using the In Cart Upsell & Cross-Sell Shopify app.

This app, which uses AI to recommend products that your customers are most likely to buy, makes upselling and cross-selling on product pages during checkout easy.

Try out In Cart Upsell today with a 30-day free trial. With a 30-second setup and immediate results, your eCommerce store has so much upselling and cross-selling to gain and literally nothing to lose. (It is a free trial, after all.)

Install free for 30 days on the Shopify app store