Upselling, cross-selling and bundles: boosting your retail sales

Growth and strategy

23 March 2016

Hundreds of books have been written on how to improve retail sales, but whether you're selling in-store, online or both, few tactics are as tried-and-tested as the holy trinity of upselling, cross-selling and bundling.

The trick is to clearly differentiate between these techniques, deploying the right tactic at the right time. Here's a quick look at the basic principles.


Definition: Offering up a superior version of the product your customer is considering purchasing.

How it works: There are a number of ways to make upselling work. For example, if you can show the customer that by spending a little more, they can get a product that offers a significantly better experience, this plays on the notion of 'added value'.

Another way to upsell is by organising products into 'prestige' tiers – for example, bronze, silver and gold – to show how stepping up a tier means getting a better product.

Case study: Apple is the expert in upselling. Choosing a computer is just the first step – afterwards, shoppers are presented with lots of chances to upgrade to a better processor or larger screen, meaning Apple nets a larger order value.


Definition: Using a customer’s interest in one product to fuel their interest in a related product.

How it works: Unlike upselling, this isn’t about offering a better or improved product. It’s about selling an additional, complementary product to the one the customer is interested in.

Case study: Amazon is top dog here. When you shop online at Amazon, every item screen displays related items that you might also be interested in buying, or which other shoppers have bought previously. You can replicate a similar experience in-store by training your sales staff to cross-sell at the fitting room, for example, or even at the point of purchase.


Definition: Grouping different items together and selling them collectively for a lower price than they would have sold for individually.

How it works: The initial sell is on the saving made by buying several items that would naturally complement each other in one go. Psychologically, it works by masking how much the customer spends on an individual product, lowering the barrier to a bigger purchase.

Case study: Marks & Spencer's 'Dine In' meal deals are a great example of how a bundle can prove really successful – but the idea can apply to all sorts of products. It's also an excellent way to shift slow-to-clear stock items: rather than marking them down, try including them as part of a bundle with other products, and you could see a healthier margin.

These three sales techniques are tried and tested ways of boosting your retail sales, but what’s your view? Are the old ways still the best? Or is there a new sales tip proving popular with your customers?

Have your say in the comments below and find out how to protect your growing retail business with Shop Insurance from AXA