3 Data Driven Content Techniques that Boost E-commerce Conversions

By: Brittany Corners | Published: April 22, 2015

Every e-commerce merchant in the world understands the importance of upselling and cross selling, but few have executed effective strategies in this arena. It is unfortunate, especially when you consider research from the book Marketing Metrics which suggests the likelihood of selling to a new customer is between 5 and 20%, while the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is an impressive 60 to 70%.


The numbers are on your side.

Upselling and cross-selling are effective e-commerce strategies because customers have already made the two most important decisions: the decision to buy and the decision to buy from you. Now that the hardest part is over with, the following is a list of ways you can structure your e-commerce data to get more mileage out of your hard-earned customers. 

What is the difference between cross selling and upselling?

Before jumping into a data enrichment project, it is important to first understand the difference between an upsell and a cross sell.

An upsell is encouraging your customer to consider a higher-priced alternative to the item he or she is already considering. For example, if you sell electronics on your e-commerce website, you might suggest a more powerful computer to the customer who is considering mid-grade options. A cross sell, on the other hand, is recommending products that are related to, or complementary to, the item your customer is considering. For example, if your customer is purchasing a camera on your e-commerce website, you might serve up suggestions for a camera strap, a larger memory card or a more powerful battery. When properly executed, both of these strategies can significantly increase the lifetime value of your customers.

1. Use enhanced search techniques to proactively recommend products.

For a typical e-commerce store, 57% of visitors will use the search feature, and those who do are 2.7 times more likely to make a purchase if they find the product they want. That means improving your search functionality is basically a guaranteed way to boost conversion rates. While this may seem basic or obvious, here are a few ways to improve search relevance to cross promote and recommend products:

  • Use auto-complete in your search bar.
    When Google implemented auto-complete in its search functionality, it forever changed the expectations of consumers. Companies are now expected to know what customers want before they know they want it. This concept can be easily adapted to e-commerce by displaying and suggesting best-fit products based on user search queries.
auto complete
  • Show images in your search results.
    We’ve all heard the saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” but did you know that visual content is processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text? Humans are basically hardwired to consume visual information. Why not capitalize on this in the search results of your e-commerce store?
  • Leverage social proof to recommend products.
    Search relevance is not only about returning relevant products. It is also about returning relevant insights about those products and persuading customers to make a purchase. User-generated reviews are one example of relevant insights that can help bridge the gap between product awareness and increased sales. When it comes to search relevance, consider sorting search results by popularity or customer ratings and use that information to recommend upsells or cross sells.
product review


2. Automate the upsell and the cross sell with enhanced product tagging.

Most of us are familiar with the application of a “related products” section within e-commerce websites. In fact, Forrester Research reports that product recommendations are responsible for an average of 10 to 30% of e-commerce site revenues. Despite the obvious benefits, however, this tactic is often misused. Here are some best practices for implementing a solid upsell and cross sell strategy using enhanced product tagging:

  • Relevance is crucial.
    There is a fine line between recommending products that are related to your customer’s original selection and being redundant. An enhanced product tagging strategy starts with a taxonomy and maps related products by customer need. For example, if a customer searches for a tennis racket, relevant cross sell items would include tennis balls or a tennis bag.
  • Keep cost in mind.
    When upselling, recommend products that are priced in the same ballpark as the original item. For example, if a customer originally selects a tennis racket that costs $50, your chance of upselling him or her to a $250 tennis racket is slim. However, up-selling him or her to the $60 tennis racket is more likely if you can quickly communicate the value. As a general rule, try to upsell within a 20 to 25% price range and keep this in mind when tagging your products as potential upsells for one another.
  • Timing is everything.
    Your website is an important touch point for your customers and a negative user experience could be a deal breaker. You don’t want to come across as pushy by recommending too much too quickly, but you also don’t want to miss your window of opportunity. One study by Predictive Intent found that upselling performed 20 times better than cross-selling when placed on product pages as opposed to the checkout page. Test this on your own e-commerce site to discover the perfect timing for your own audience.

3.Keep your data clean to avoid duplicate product recommendations.

Product recommendations are most effective when they support the checkout flow on your e-commerce website rather than distract from it. It is important to offer choice, but this could backfire by introducing too much choice – or worse – confusing your customers by offering choices based on bad data. As your inventory changes, so do your product descriptions and categories. It is important to keep this data clean because it contributes to your ability to effectively upsell and cross sell on your website.

In the image below, for example, it is easy to see how malformed data could contribute to a missed upsell opportunity. Standardizing your data can go a long way in providing website users with a functional and easy-to-navigate shopping experience.


A final word
In order for these techniques to work, the focus must be on your customer’s needs, not on pushing your products. Before presenting upsells and cross sells, the customer’s problems must be solved. A data driven content strategy is the only way to automate the upsell while keeping customer needs in mind.



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