Increase Order Size with Effective Cross-Selling

Many online retailers rely on product recommendations engines to cross-sell products and increase order values during the holidays, but with the recession still looming, shoppers may be less apt to spring for that extra item this year.

Cross-selling involves suggesting items or accessories that are related to the products shoppers view or add to their carts. Automating cross-sells with a recommendations engine that selects relevant cross-sells for each and every shopper can help increase order values and drive repeat purchases. The challenge with cross-selling, however, is that retailers must persuade shoppers to buy two gifts instead of just one. With millions of budget-conscious shoppers scrutinizing every gift purchase this holiday season, cross-selling may not be as effective as in previous years.

Fortunately, today's automated recommendations engines are intelligent and flexible enough to go beyond cross-sells. Instead of suggesting additional items to increase cart size, e-tailers can accomplish the same goal by using the power of automation to up-sell shoppers based on their unique shopping behavior, intent and interests.

Unlike cross-selling, up-sell recommendations suggest higher-value alternatives to items that shoppers are viewing or have added to their carts. So, instead of buying two products, shoppers are encouraged to buy one product at a higher value.

Up-sell recommendations tend to work best on product detail and shopping cart pages where shoppers have declared an interest in a particular type of product. Online merchants can then apply a recommendations slot to those pages and instruct the engine to display only higher value alternatives.

Of course, not all up-sells are created equal. Retailers should make sure that the up-sells presented by a recommendation engine are well-suited to each shopper's intent and browsing behavior. For instance, someone shopping in the sale area might be enticed by similar, but higher-priced sale items, whereas someone shopping in a specific brand might respond to up-sells from that brand only.

Merchants have their own strategies, and automated up-sells should abide by those as well. An online merchandiser, for example, may want to override the engine's selections at times by fixing a specific product in a slot to clear out excess inventory. Today's advanced recommendations engines can deliver relevant up-sells that are suited to each shopper's tastes and interests, but also those that align with the merchant's strategy.

Up-sell strategies needn't be limited to the Web store. The holiday shopper in 2009 may begin a search in a catalog, continue it on the Web, be reminded of a gift idea in an email campaign, and ultimately buy the product on their smart phone.

Merchants should ensure their up-sell strategies work across all channels, just as shoppers do. For instance, a retailer could use its product recommendation engine to personalize up-sell recommendations in email campaigns and on its mobile store by utilizing data from shoppers' previous visits to the Web store. Reminding shoppers of their visits and interests across channels helps create loyalty, while also accomplishing the merchant's goal of selling more high-value items and increasing cart size.

The bottom line is that the economy - and consumer spending habits - have shifted and e-tailers need to ensure that they have flexible, automated recommendations engines that can react to changing online shopping behaviors and merchandising strategies. It's not too late to add recommendations for holiday 2009 - these solutions can be deployed in a matter of days and provide a much-needed boost to merchants' sales this holiday season.

Ryan Hoppe is the director of marketing for ATG's e-commerce Optimization Services. For information, visit
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