An Ultimate Guide On Writing An Upsell Email

An Ultimate Guide On Writing An Upsell Email
14 April, 2022 • ... • 818 views
Kate Sho
by Kate Sho

Upselling is an effective method to increase your Average Order Value (AOV) — the amount of money your customer spends placing an order. All you have to do is to ask them to buy more expensive products instead of cheaper ones. Sounds funny but, actually, people often do just that if they see clear benefits. So it’s a good practice for marketers to use upselling throughout their marketing channels from websites to phone calls, including email marketing. Let’s see what upsell emails are and what best practices are there for you to know.

What upsell emails are and how upsell is different from cross-sell

Upselling is when you offer a customer a similar yet superior and more expensive version of a product they want (or have already bought). It might be bigger, or smarter, or newer, or have additional properties — doesn’t matter, the idea is that it has to be more expensive.

Upselling sometimes gets confused with cross-selling which is another marketing technique aimed at motivating customers to purchase more goods or services. They mean different things but are indeed close in some respects, so on the internet, you can see that they are often covered in a single article. There’s a difference, though. Upsell is about comparable, cross-sell is about complementary.

For example, imagine a customer wants to buy an office chair from you. You can then convince them to buy a more ergonomic, comfortable and consequently more expensive chair — that would be an upsell. You can also sell some complementary products like footrests or cushions along with the chair they’ve chosen — that would be a cross-sell.

Upsell vs cross-sell
Source: Ecommerce Germany

What’s important with upselling is that it’s a marketing technique that you cannot use straight away, you have to build up to it first. Otherwise, clients won’t have a reason to buy anything more expensive from you, i.e. invest in you. So email marketing, which is designed to build long-term relationships, is a great choice for introducing upsell offers in your marketing strategy.

Upselling works in every industry. For instance, in e-commerce, upselling can encourage customers to buy a more expensive version of the product. In SaaS, it can mean an upgrade of an account or a prolonged support period.

Tinder Gold upsell
Tinder, upselling their users to a Gold status. Source: Really Good Emails

What can be considered as upsell in emails:

  • Sale of more expensive products
  • Sale of more units of goods (like 3 products at a price of 2)
  • Increase in product volume
  • Increase in the service period
  • Sale of additional options
  • Sale of another brand product

Why upselling is so important for your business

The reason upsell in general and upsell emails, in particular, are so important is that the likelihood of convincing an existing customer to buy a “bigger” product is higher than convincing somebody new to become a customer. Selling to an existing client is always easier than selling to a new one because, with an old customer, you’re one step further by having their trust. Statistics show 91% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that remember them and provide relevant offers.

Upsell has a lot of important advantages for the seller:

  • It makes customers even more loyal. For that, it’s important to make sure that they see that you care about their needs and goals, and not just try to blindly sell them more stuff.
  • It makes regular customers buy more. Most people make purchases in trusted places and for many, it takes only to be asked.
  • It increases the profit from each client. A competent upsell increases this indicator several times. As they say, don’t leave money on the table, take it if there’s an opportunity.
  • It can be done automatically with the help of triggered emails. The best part is that upsells are triggered emails so you don’t have to create them manually but use the help of email marketing platforms instead.

2 essential elements of a successful upsell email

1. Unique and attractive subject line

What works best with upsell emails? After having analyzed a number of real-life upsell email subject lines, it looks like there the most effective techniques are:

The promise of a specific benefit:

  • Add Hulu and ESPN+. Just $6 more per month!
  • More Wine For Less (Seriously. Want to save $100?)
  • Get unlimited projects and offline editing
  • Bring cafe-level coffee to your home with our WFH coffee kits!

Using emojis to catch the eye:

  • ? Pump up your sound quality with HQ audio – Trial Pro free for 30 days ?
  • Like to save money? ? This is for you. ⬅️
  • ? We love these high-impact, low-effort ways to boost your stream (and you will too!)
  • Your ticket to the winner’s circle ?

Personalizing by putting in names and order information:

  • Get 40% off Epic Unlimited for Jane—just in time for Back to School
  • Jane, we hope you love your recent PANDORA purchase
  • Jane, there’s still time
  • Hey Jane! Your $10 credit is waiting for you.

The promise of saving money:

  • Save money, focus on productivity
  • Save extra when you upgrade today!
  • Like to save money? ? This is for you. ⬅️
  • Save extra when you upgrade today!

2. Convincing copy and clear structure

Remember that inept use of an upsell threatens not only a decrease in income but also the loss of customers. To prevent this from happening, follow these rules:

  • The content of an email should be concise and contain images. Upselling is about convincing so add a picture of a recently purchased item (or an item a person is about to buy) and the item you want them to buy instead. Showcase its value and explain why it’s better for this particular customer. If your product is not physical, add an illustration that would explain its benefits metaphorically.
  • Upsell offers should be unobtrusive. An offer that looks out of place or aggressive will likely anger your clients.
  • Use different upsell options. Each type of product or service has its own upsell options and each client is different from the rest. For example, it’s not a good idea to try upselling an accounting software with options that the majority of your customers don’t even need.
  • Keep the body of an email short, specific and to the point. An upsell email has a very definite aim so don’t distract customers by giving them too many options or failing to provide a clear action plan. Add clear and prominent calls-to-action, contact information, opt-out options, social sharing buttons
  • The structure of upsell emails is extremely important. Make the first paragraph contain the most important information about your offer. Use a big bold headline, and show a personalized offer (if you have one) in the hero section of your email.

This is a good example of an upsell email by Grammarly:

Grammarly upsell email
You can’t miss the main point of their offer thanks to the picture with the distinctive “20%” in it. It’s followed by the short but very informative copy that tells about benefits for the users and puts a time limit, an eye-catching CTA, a visual representation of benefits in the form of a table. And the footer contains social icons and technical information on the subscription options and company contacts. A great upsell email all around. Source: Really Good Emails

When to use upselling in emails

There are several points in the email marketing funnel when you can upsell, and they are either before purchase or after purchase. To sum up, the preferable time to send upselling emails is:

  • Right before the sale closes
  • At the end of a free trial
  • When a user is nearing account limitations
  • When a user reaches a progress milestone or anniversary
  • When you launch a new product or a new version of an existing product

Before purchase

If we take marketing in general, most often upselling happens before the purchase — it’s those product recommendations on websites’ product pages you can often see. You can do it in email marketing too:

Asics upselling before purchase
Before you order GEL-Fit Tempo 2, how about switching to GEL-Contend 3? Source: Really Good Emails

However, in the case of email marketing where you don’t just show a product but have to send a separate message about it, pre-purchase upselling becomes tricky. There’s more pressure on the customer and more potential danger to scare them away before purchase. So the majority of email upselling is post-purchase. It usually borders on cross-selling. For example:

Underwear Expert pre-purchase upselling
Underwear Expert offers to buy some socks along with briefs, and although you can find an email like this in the “upsell” section, it’s technically more of a cross-sale. Source: Mailcharts

Right after purchase

So, the most favorable moment for upselling in email marketing is after purchase when customers are welcome to recommendations from a brand they’ve already chosen. This is when you make the most of a customer’s momentum and trust.

“Would you like to upgrade it” is a classic upsell move. Here’s Driftaway Coffee suggesting you upgrade your home coffee kit for nicer WFH:

=Driftaway Coffee upsell email
Source: MailCharts

“People who bought this also bought…” is another lead that works well on websites and in emails. It also borders on cross-selling:

Adidas upsell email
Source: MailCharts

Be careful though, don’t abuse this trust. Make the recommendation have something to do with what your customers have already bought so that it doesn’t look random but rather related to previous purchases.

After a user hits a milestone

A milestone like getting a new level, or anniversary, or even a birthday — these all are a good opportunity to demonstrate how a customer gained something using your service and how they can gain even more if they try a superior plan.

Grammarly upgrade email
Another upsell email from Grammarly showing how useful it has been and how even more useful it would be if only you had Premium. Source: Really Good Emails

When the free trial is over

Or else, if you’re a SaaS company, the most efficient way for you to use upselling techniques is to send upsell emails when users are nearing the end of their free trial or account limitations.

Take a look at this short and discreet message from Strava:

Strava Go Premium offer
Source: Really Good Emails

When launching new products

Who is your first choice to announce a new line of products if not the existing customers who are already invested in your brand? Existing customers are very much open to new products, so it’s a good idea to send them emails about the latest arrivals and invite them to upgrade.

Try rounded corners. Really, do it. Source: Really Good Emails

Best marketing campaign ideas for upsell emails

And lastly, here are several tips and examples to make your upsell emails more effective.

Personalizing emails

Personalization is the key to successful upselling. The more personalized your message is and the more it has to do with the actual person, the less it will look like another uninspired salesy email bound to be put aside.

You can start by mentioning your subscriber by their name:

Bannersnack upsell emails
Source: Really Good Emails

Or make suggestions based on their order history:

Stitch Fix upsell email
Source: MailCharts

Personalize based on segmentation. Divide your contact list into segments and consider the best ways to approach every group depending on defining characteristics. It can be:

  • Place of residence
  • Birthday date
  • Gender
  • Order history
  • Family composition
  • Occupation
  • Type of business, etc.

Creating a sense of urgency

Use countdown GIFs and other FOMO-related tactics to show that your offer is available for a limited time only.

IPSY upsell email with a countdown GIF
Source: MailCharts

Your goal is to avoid a situation when a subscriber prefers another activity in favor of paying attention to your message. You want them to act now rather than later, so creating fear of missing out on an opportunity is a good option. Tell them that there are “only 5 items left” or it’s the “last call,” or that the next such opportunity will present itself in a year’s time. Communicate the risks or missed opportunities.

Being convincing but not pushy

Remember, all you have to do is to ask and suggest, just don’t be too pushy or you’ll sound desperate and intrusive. Customers are not interested in making your profit, they want something for themselves and it’s your call to find the point where your interests coincide.

Invest in convincing copy and user-oriented design, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine what each group would like to have. Showcase the features of superior products you want to promote, the savings, and other benefits clients can get once they pay for the better version.

Look at this email by Medium:

Medium Membership upsell email
The tone is super respectful and discrete. They are telling you a lot about their membership and what you get with it, but there isn't a single pushy line — just facts, appreciation and interest in a partnership that feels genuine. Source: Really Good Emails

Offering free shipping

According to the Walker Sands Future of Retail study, 9 out of 10 customers consider free shipping as their top incentive to make them shop online more often. Offer free shipping as a way to make more sales or sell a more expensive product.

Postmates free delivery upsell

Wrapping up

Done right, upsell emails are a positive experience for your customers while being a great profit-increasing method for you. Don’t miss out on a chance but remember to keep a healthy relationship with your customers. Remember, they are already with you so don’t let them down.

  • Don’t try to sell, try to bring value. People don’t like it when they’re peddled but they genuinely appreciate it when somebody offers them something useful.
  • Segment your customers. Decide what’ll make each of them benefit the most from upsell. Ensure that your offer is reasonable — they need it and could afford it.
  • Create a mix of convincing copy and user-oriented design. Show pictures, add comparisons, tell about specific benefits, show how much money they’ll save.
  • Respect your customers. You can add time limits but give them enough time to decide and celebrate their choice no matter what it is.
14 April, 2022
Article by
Kate Sho
With a passion for exploration and an eye for detail, I am a seasoned writer with over a decade of experience in the field. Alongside my writing career, I have delved into various facets of marketing, using my skills to create engaging content that resonates. I take pride in simplifying complex marketing and design concepts into easily digestible materials. When I'm not immersed in words and strategies, you can find me hiking, taking photos, visiting theaters, or getting lost in the pages of a good book.
Visit Kate's

Latest Articles

Selzy Selzy Selzy Selzy