The reality of today’s turbulent economy emphasizes the phrase “spend less” which applies to all.  Businesses, as well as consumers, find themselves spending less just to stay economically stable.  So at a time when consumers are not out looking to buy the latest and greatest products, cross-selling can be a useful tool to allow businesses to outperform.  Cross selling is a simple concept and just involves selling multiple products to a single customer. For example: If a customer is buying shoes, you can recommend him/her to buy a pair of socks.

The practice of cross-selling is becoming very popular especially with the growth of ecommerce and big data.  Many commercial sectors including insurance, finance, airlines, apparel, telecommunications, accounting and retailing (both online and offline) are strategically prioritizing cross selling tactics. Cross selling is a very low cost way to increase revenue because you have already acquired that initial customer that you are cross selling. Having them buy additional products will not cost much in terms of additional selling expenses.  Here are a few tips you can use to increase cross sell:

The first tip is making sure you “know your customer’s needs".

Cross-selling does not involve randomly targeting a wide audience with common products. Instead it involves understanding your customer's needs and targeting either an existing customer or a new customer at the time of purchase with additional relevant products.  Understanding your customer's needs can be accomplished by "following their shopping patterns". If you are an online retailer you can analyze and segregate frequent/repeat buyers and not so frequent/choosy buyers and then recommend additional products to them accordingly. Simply offering everything in the same manner to all your customers is not an effective cross sell strategy.

For example, if an online customer buys multiple clothes at a time and in the next month also buys accessories, electronic items, cosmetics, magazines etc, then he/she may be categorized as a frequent, broad customer where you have a lot of freedom to recommend a wide range of products. Whereas, another online customer may purchase a kitchen appliance one day and then come back after a few months and purchase another kitchen related product. This customer may be much more choosy when purchasing products and for them your cross sell approach should be more cautious with product recommendations and primarily targeted towards kitchen items.  For these infrequent buyers greater use of promotions or coupons may also be merited.

It is also important to be "transparent, honest and answerable" while cross-selling.

While offering additional products you should honestly showcase the product attributes and any additional discounts offered so that the customer does not build any unreasonable expectations.  They should feel the overall purchase process is smooth and that they are getting a fair deal.  Good customer service can also be critical in getting customers to trust you with multiple purchase decisions.  Ask for their feedback and implement their voice into your sales process.

"Training your sales/marketing personnel" to know your products is also critical for cross selling.

Once you are able to understand and segment your customer's needs, your sales/marketing staff should be able to offer the right products or services to satisfy those needs.  In a traditional brick and mortar store this can be done through training programs and certifications for sales floor staff.  In ecommerce settings this can be done by identifying what segments you want divide customers into and then identifying what products you want to recommend to each segment.  Many ecommerce companies leverage visitor behavior on browsing patterns to categorize visitors into segments and choose what discounts to offer or products to recommend.  Leveraging end user browsing patterns to offer targeted recommendations is one of the uses of big data analytics.

Building a cross-selling strategy can increase order value, customer loyalty and satisfaction. As mentioned above greater cross selling can be accomplished by:
1) Knowing your customer's needs
2) Being transparent, honest and answerable, and
3) Training your sales/marketing personnel
Use these tactics to increase cross sell and grow your business.