Two ecommerce upsell AB tests that were worth $2 million+ in annual revenue

Posted By Devesh Khanal | One Comment

Not presenting related items at the shopping cart step could be costing many ecommerce stores millions in potential revenue.

In particular I’ve noticed while large, well known brands do this consistently (see examples below), mid-size ecommerce stores often don’t, and that’s likely a mistake.

In this article, we’ll show data from two AB tests where we added a one-click upsells and cross sells.

The first increased average order value (AOV) by $55 (worth millions in annual revenue).

The second increased conversion rate by 13%, which for any 8 figure or greater ecommerce store is also worth 7 figures in extra annual revenue.

Finally, we’ll also show (and analyze) 5 live examples from well known brands of upselling and cross selling related products at the cart stage.

ecommerce upsell cross sell examples

This way we hope you can find an upsell implementation that works for you.

Note: We are a conversion optimization agency exclusively focused on ecommerce. Want our conversion and UX experts to evaluate your upsells or optimize your conversion rate? Learn more about what we do on the homepage or contact us via the red button at the top.

How do upsells and cross selling work in ecommerce?

Some people have all sorts of specific definitions of “upsell”, “cross sale”, and “downsell”.

Quickly, for our purposes, I prefer to use the more general definitions of upselling and cross-selling, which just mean you’re trying to get the customer to increase their order value by presenting additional items they might want.

It may be a more expensive item (upsell). or some add on items (cross sell). But here’s the most common type in ecommerce (discussed in more detail below):

Once you add to cart, Gap is showing 4 additional items I can consider. We’ll discuss the implementation details below (for example here you need to click into each product detail page (PDP), you can’t just add those items to cart) but that’s the idea.

For now, let’s talk strategy.

As the two case studies in this article below show, upsells and cross sells can either:

  1. Increase AOV
  2. Increase conversion rate

(If you’re curious how an upsell can increase conversion rate scroll down the second example.)

Let’s start with an AB test that does the former.

Upsells that increase AOV: $2 million/year extra revenue for an online furniture store

Our first example is from an online furniture store. Let’s say in this case that they sell sofas ranging from $850 to $2000+ with an AOV of $1200.

Note: They don’t actually sell sofas, but it’s analogous to sofas. You can learn how and why we anonymize brand identities here. All data we report is 100% real.

leathercouch test variationA

Their most popular sofas are leather, and what’s interesting in this case study is not the sale of the leather sofas, but of a particular upsell: a leather conditioning kit that helps protect the sofa, and costs between $40 – $80.

Something like this:

ecommerce upsell

The conditioning kit is a perfect cross sell for a customer buying a leather sofa. It actively protects and lengthens the life of the thousand dollar or more purchase the customer is already making.

If you’re already spending $1500 on a leather sofa, why not pay $60 to protect it and make it last longer.

But these complimentary accessories were not easy to navigate to on the site at the time of this test. They weren’t promoted heavily.

So we hypothesized that mentioning it as an option at the cart step, and making it very easy to add to cart, would increase AOV.

Building our AB test from the hypothesis

You can turn a hypothesis into an actual UI/UX treatment in many different ways and this step is critical. Our hypothesis was:

Offering a leather conditioning kit as a one click upsell when a customer adds a sofa to cart will increase AOV and thus total revenue. 

But how should we actually offer the leather conditioner in the cart?

With a photo?

As a one line item?

Do we add some copy to really “sell” it or keep it low key?

Will any of these decisions possibly hurt sofa conversions itself?

We opted to start low key because we felt that the change of going from not mentioning that leather conditioner at all to mentioning it was a big enough change.

Our variation design:

leathercouch test variationB

The pink strip is what we added.

We coded the plus icon to add the conditioning kit to cart on click. If the customer clicked the name of the conditioning kit instead, it took them to its product detail page (PDP).

Results

Typically we run tests for around 2 – 4 weeks, but we ran this test for 41 days (nearly 6 weeks)! Why so long?

Because what we were looking for here was change in AOV, but, the current AOV was above $1000, and the leather conditioning kit costs between $42 and $84.

So we were trying to detect a pretty small change.

After 41 days, over 4000 transactions and $5,600,000 revenue tracked, and AOV increased by $55, with 92% statistical significance.

The AOV increase held steady for the last 4 weeks of the test with statistical significance sitting in the 90% – 95% range the entire time.

Here is a plot of quantity sold per week of the upsell’s product SKU in Google Analytics’ ecommerce report:

2018 05 04 08 31 56 1

Previously they were selling around 40 – 80 conditioning kits per week. Once we turned on the test (which means only 50% of users saw the variation), sales jumped immediately to 150 – 180 per week.

In fact, the warehouse ran out of leather conditioning kits when we turned this test to 100% of traffic and we had to turn it off temporarily until they could order more.

This increase in AOV, on average, was worth an extra $180,000 per month in revenue (that’s over $2,000,000 of extra revenue per year!).

Takeaways for your site

Ask yourself: Are there complimentary, lower priced products that pair with your main product(s) really well?

Walk through the typical buying and checking out funnel.

  • Is it obvious to customers that these products exist? It should be.
  • Is it easy for them to add them to cart? It should be.
  • Does the copy position them in a way that makes it clear they compliment the primary products? It should.

Upsells that increase conversion rate: 13% increase in orders for a health food store

This second case study surprised even us when it happened.

Building on the success of upsell tests like the one above, we decided to test something similar for a online health food brand that sold nutrition bars (same disclaimer).

The key difference from the example above though is this: They only sold that one product in 3 different flavors.

That’s it. There were no other products. All 3 flavors had the same price point.

So how do you offer an upsell when you largely just have one product in 3 flavors?

It’s not the case that customers didn’t know about the other products: On the homepage, all 3 products were mentioned. In the navbar, all 3 products were mentioned. Even on each PDP the other 2 flavors were mentioned.

What we decided to do is this: When a customer adds a product to cart and an add-to-cart “drawer” slides in, we decided to offer a single “pack” of one of the other flavors at a discount (A below).

Packs typically cost around $8, but customers can only buy 2, 6, 12, or 18 packs (AOV for this site was around $57).

So when a customer added one of these to cart, our upsell offered a single pack of another flavor for $6 (B and C). That’s it, you can only add 1 of the alternate flavor, but you get a slight discount on it.

We tested two variations that were functionally similar but had slightly different designs (white border versus colored background).

KF Upsells A B C

Results: No change in AOV but an increase in conversion rate

Our hope for this test was that this would get more customers thinking about adding multiple flavors to their cart and thus increase AOV. In other words that they wouldn’t just stop at the single pack but decide “Well let me also add more of the other flavors”.

That didn’t happen.

But what did happen was positive. We simply saw an increase in orders (“conversion rate”) on the site as a whole.

Specifically we saw a 13.4% increase with 95% significance with over 1,000 conversion events (orders).

2018 05 08 21 46 01

We tested two variations over 2 weeks with a slight design difference and both showed the 13% increase over the original (no cross sell) with 95% significance.

Why did a cross-sell increase conversion rate?

Why did adding a single nutrition bar of an alternate flavor increase conversion rate?

Our hypothesis is that customers simply wanted to take advantage of the “deal” on the alternate flavor. They get to the site, browse the flavors, pick a flavor, add it to cart.

Stop and think about what your mindset, as a customer, would be at that exact moment: A part of you will have a slight doubt about your flavor choice:

“Hmm, maybe that other flavor was better?”

“I wonder what that would taste like?”

“Should I go through with it and buy this?”

In our variation, at that moment, customers saw a small $6 discount offer on one of the other flavors .

We think for some fraction of customers this was enough to push them over the edge to buy.

Basically, the cross sell acted as a discount or add-on special offer that encouraged more purchases of the main product.

Takeaways for your site

If you don’t have upsells like the first example that compliment the main product and could possibly increase AOV, can you instead offer a similar product at a slight discount?

Are there multiple flavors or varieties of your product that customers likely debate about choosing?

Can you offer one of the other flavors at checkout at a slight discount?

Upsell and Cross sell examples in Ecommerce

Finally, for inspiration, here are a X upsell/cross sell examples from well known (and sometimes well optimized) ecommerce brands (in the U.S.).

Under Armour: Customers Also Bought

The most common types of upsells are in large SKU stores (in particular apparel) where they suggest other similar products when you add one to cart:

Under armour cross sell example

If you’re not testing something like this and you have a store with many products (over 20), you should test it immediately. Start without fancy algorithms and just put your most popular items there.

When testing these, try testing these implementation and UI details…

Test different algorithms or logic for suggesting products. This many not be easy to do with front end AB testing alone, but can be done. If you’re curious how, contact us to discuss.

Test number of items presented. Try minimizing carousels like what Under Armour does and show 4, or even 6 items if space allows.

Test showing and not showing product prices or even titles. You may be thinking “What?!” but this has precedence.

Gap: No Prices in Suggested Products

Gap 1.10.2018 preview

Bare Necessities: No Prices or Product Names

BN 1

In general our experience is that showing more products and less carousel arrows is better. Requiring clicks will reduce the number of users seeing products.

Wayfair: Accessories Upsells

Exactly like the first case study at the beginning, Wayfair shows very complimentary accessories to large furniture items added to cart:

Wayfair upsell

Try testing these UI and implementation details:

Test the number of upsell items. In our first client example at the beginning, we followed up the test profiled in this article with many other tests that also presented other upsells to the couch. They didn’t make much of a difference. Nothing beat just suggesting the conditioning kit as a single upsell.

Test different add to cart functionality. Above Wayfair lets you choose color and quantity. In a test not profiled here, allowing multiple quantities did worse than simply suggesting adding a single quantity in one click of a particular upsell. But this is very store dependent so should be tested

Harry’s Razors: Modal for Details

Similar to Wayfair, but at much smaller price points, when I add a razor, I get suggestions for sensible, complimentary products I can add.

2018 05 08 22 20 16

A click on the plus sign, doesn’t add the balm, however, it pops open a modal where I can choose details:

2018 05 08 22 21 49

This is an interesting choice. I’d be curious if they have tested this versus just a one click add to cart that defaults to Quantity 1 and the most popular size.

Especially for products like shave balm where customers aren’t expecting to be able to choose a size (unlike say, jeans) and it’s not obvious why someone would want to add more than 1, I would think this is a must test issue.

Want us to evaluate your upsells or optimize your conversion rate? Contact us on the homepage or via the red button at the top.

  • HabitLauren

    Great case study! Thanks for sharing the actual numbers 🙂

    I noticed an error in the “note” below that you might want to edit (there’s no red button at the top of the site anymore):

    Note: We are a conversion optimization agency exclusively focused on ecommerce. Want our conversion and UX experts to evaluate your upsells or optimize your conversion rate? Learn more about what we do on the homepage or contact us via the red button at the top.