Cross-Selling: Know Thyself Cross-Selling: Know Thyself

Cross-Selling: Know Thyself

by ,
on 24 January 2017


Websites that “know” their customers and offer them curated cross-selling experiences are the gold standard in e-Commerce. Unfortunately, not every e-Com Manager can be afforded such a luxury. Between time, budget, partnerships, customer databases, integrating systems, etc… implementing and maintaining such an ambitious strategy is easier said than done.

Socrates and I say that if you can’t know the customer, KNOW THYSELF. Using data to understand your products’ attributes and their place in your product catalog allows you to “personalize” product pages based on the cross-selling opportunities of each.

No matter what’s being sold, many products should fall into one of the following categories:

cross-selling matrix

  • Pulling Products bring traffic to the site, but don’t convert well. An example of a pulling product might include a well-known, expensive item that interests many but few can afford. It could also be a product that isn’t well suited for e-commerce. It’s often researched but rarely purchased online.
  • Proven Products are your site’s best sellers. They draw a lot of traffic and that traffic converts well. You like these products.
  • Promising Products don’t receive too many clicks but perform well once discovered. This might be an item that isn’t relevant to the population at large, but one that your organization does particularly well. It’s an easy sell once the right match is made.
  • Problem Products don’t receive traffic or earn conversions. These issues should be addressed outside of this blog.

cross-selling matrix products

For Pulling Products, consider a clothing retailer that offers a range of blazers varying in price. Justin (you pick which one) wears the highest-priced blazer in a cover-shoot for GQ and drums up interest in the item. New customers are investigating the blazer’s product page due to the GQ feature, but no one is pulling the trigger on such pricey duds. Now is the time to hit them with a “You might also like…” module displaying similar blazers with a more accessible price point. The merchant is taking advantage of this influx in less qualified traffic by exposing it to products that are more likely to convert.

A salesperson would never distract a customer with a new jacket after recognizing that a connection to a specific sport coat has been made. Similarly, an e-Com site shouldn’t take a Proven Product, more likely to convert than any other, and distract shoppers with a “Customers also viewed…” module displaying alternatives to the same item. Rather than offering alternate jackets, the site should recognize the higher probability for conversion and serve up a module displaying complementary accessories like undershirts, pocket squares, and matching shoes. They’ll have effectively provided themselves with the opportunity to maximize cart value without jeopardizing the sale at hand.

Inventory is a major expense for e-Com merchants. Promising Products are worthwhile assets, but you don’t want them collecting dust in a warehouse because the right customer connections weren’t made. If the planets aligned and a customer found a well-converting product that others don’t stumble into often, it’s likely that they’ve landed there with intent. Distracting this qualified customer with any cross-selling module might not be worth losing a sale that’s less likely to be recouped due to the low amount of page traffic. Few people might be interested in your floral-print business suit, but if it’s good quality and priced well – make the sale when an opportunity presents itself.

Few customers experience or purchase Problem Products so they don’t offer much opportunity for cross-selling, or e-Com benefits in general. If merchants are confident in a currently problematic product, explore marketing and/or optimization opportunities to try and turn things around. Otherwise, pull the plug.

I know a thing or two about e-Merchandising strategy, but I’m no Socrates and can get it wrong every once in a while. The best way to confirm that these cross-selling techniques work for you is to A/B test. Identify a few Proven, Pulling, and Promising products in your catalog, then implement tests with the appropriate modifications made to cross-selling modules of each. Know your session value and know thyself!

Thanks for reading along! For more e-Merchandising insights reach out to


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Cross-Selling: Know Thyself