Last week I wrote a post about cross-selling online and how it can benefit online businesses. This week I want to focus on cross-selling’s slightly better looking cousin: upselling. 

If you want to upsell to your customers but you’re not sure how to do it, hopefully these 10 brands will provide some inspiration. 

What is upselling?

Upselling is when you persuade a customer to buy a more expensive item or upgrade a product or service to make the sale more profitable. 

It’s something all online businesses should consider. As with cross-selling, not attempting to upsell when the customer is already in a buying frame of mind is a wasted opportunity. 

Let’s take a look at how some successful brands are using upselling on their websites.

Dollar Shave Club

Despite being called Dollar Shave Club, this brand obviously wants you to spend much more than that. But it’s a very clever marketing trick. 

Dollar Shave Club lures people in with the name and then shows them two pricier options that provide a lot more value than the standard dollar option, which incidentally costs three dollars including postage despite the catchy brand name. 

Upselling Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club has also used social proof via the phrase ‘Member favourite’ to make the middle option seem more appealing.

Virgin Media

Drawing people in with a low offer and then presenting them with better, more expensive options is the bread and butter of upselling. TV providers are notorious for this technique.

In the banner ad below you can see Virgin Media is offering fibre optic broadband for just five pounds per month. 

Virgin Media upselling online

Sound like a pretty good deal to me. Let’s find out more. 

Virgin Media upselling online

Oh wait, what’s this? For an extra fiver I can get over 60 TV channels too?

Well if I’m spending that much, 16 isn’t too far a jump from 10 I suppose. I mean the broadband is twice as fast and there are over twice as many TV channels and… sigh. 

You get the picture. 


I can’t mention Virgin Media without looking at its biggest rival, Sky. I am going to focus specifically on the Superfast Sky Fibre options. 

Again there is striking imagery and bold copy advertising the lowest price point, which in this case is free. 

Sky upselling online

Then you are presented with the cold hard facts: the free package only allows for 25GB monthly downloads. But for an extra £10 you can upgrade to unlimited usage. 

Sky upselling online

The free option is not really an option at all in this case, because most people who want a 38MB download speed are hardly likely to be happy with a 25GB monthly restriction.  


Comparing two options side by side is an effective way to make one look preferable to the other.

Spotify lists six features on its Premium account, five of which are greyed out in the free list. This instantly makes the free account seem basic by comparison. 

Spotify upselling online

Spotify has also included a ‘recommended’ tag complete with eye-catching imagery. I’m not sure how much weight that holds however as it’s essentially just Spotify recommending its own service.  

Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes provides another example of comparison lists combined with social proof. As in other examples the mid-range package is presented as the best option with a ‘most popular’ tag providing the social proof.

Elegant Themes upselling online

The key to this type of upselling is that the price difference between the cheapest and next cheapest options seems small relative to the increase in benefits. 


The above point is illustrated again in this next example from Solostream. If you are going to pay $59 for one theme then paying just $40 more for full access to all their themes for three months seems like too good a deal to pass up. 

Solostream upselling online

Even if you only downloaded two themes you would still have saved $20 against paying the individual theme price if you went for the $99 option. If you present the customer with a ‘no-brainer’ like this they are very likely to part with extra cash.

Again this site lures consumers in with the promise of a cheap price but then presents a slightly better option for an additional cost. upselling online

In this case the cheap option is non-refundable whereas the costlier option enables you to cancel free right up to near your chosen date. 

This plays upon the fear that some people might have about not being able to cancel something that is happening quite far in advance. It’s almost like insurance: a small price to pay for peace of mind. 


Let’s move up-market for a second. The BMW site enables users to configure their cars before purchasing. Not only is this a good piece of UX design, it is also an opportunity for some upselling. 

Users have the option of upgrading anything from the seats to the wheels for an additional cost, and they can see in real time what those upgrades would look like.  

BMW upselling online


On the TheGardenOffice site you can see another great example of upselling. The four products below are essentially identical except they increase in size and price. 

TheGardenOffice upselling online

This has the psychological effect of making you think about having the extra space and weighing up the additional cost, especially as there is clear imagery showing the size differences between them. 

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic’s wording for its mid-level seating is quite clever: by calling it premium economy rather than business class or something similar, it makes it seem less of a step up even though there is quite a large price difference. 

When it comes to the upsell, Virgin Atlantic includes a short video for each of the seating options so customers can easily see all the features while they’re in the process of choosing their ticket. 

Virgin Atlantic upselling online

Virgin Atlantic upselling online

Conclusion: make it an easy decision

Upselling is very much psychological. Draw people in with a low-priced offer and then show them something better while you’ve got their attention. 

Consumers aren’t stupid, they know the difference between low cost and good value. If the price increase is low in comparison to the additional benefits offered then it’s an easy decision for the customer.

Jack Simpson

Published 2 September, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)


David Pavlicko, Marketing director at AVISPL

These are great examples! Even us marketers fall prey to these techniques, when used well - I opted for the free cancellation option with for an upcoming trip, though I wouldn't even have considered it had it not been there. dammit

almost 3 years ago


James Longstaff, E-Commerce Manager at esure

Nice examples Jack. I'm guessing that all of these brands employ A/B testing, it'd be interesting to see how their upselling strategies evolve over the coming months!

almost 3 years ago


Grahame Palmer, Marketing Director at All Things Ecommerce Ltd

Good examples - but if you use there's a good chance you'll get your bank account cleaned out. They kept as quiet about it as possible, but many rogues put up false establishments (non-existant Villas in Spain) which people booked through, only to have thousands lost to the fraudsters. Seems like was errant in not verifying the validity of the the establishments it lists. It's all very well to try to entice customers to spend more - but if you can't keep good security on your webshop, the objective is futile. NEVER trust these booking sites.... even if they try to offer you a better deal.

almost 3 years ago

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