The 3 Ps of Cross-Selling in the Shopping Cart

Cross-selling and upselling in the cart can either build your average order value, or lower conversion, depending on how you design your cart and populate your promoted picks.

The 3 Ps of Cross-selling in the Cart

If you’ve been following Ecommerce Illustrated from home page through checkout, you’ll recall our 4 Ps of merchandising product pages: presentation, population, persuasion and post-cart.

Cart page merchandising has a slightly different set of Ps: placement, population and persuasion.


Where you place product recommendations in your cart page template is the most critical conversion element — not only for cross-sell attachment rates and average order size, but also conversion rate, as cross-sells can also distract the customer from their initial purchase intent and increase cart abandonment.

The most common placements are vertical and horizontal. Vertical, right-rail columns are more visible above the fold than horizontal treatments placed below the order contents, but may be more subject to “banner blindness” and be ignored by the customer. Depending on how many items are in the cart, they may also require scrolling up and down the page to view.


Alternatively, horizontal recommendations that appear near the line-of-sight of the checkout button (at the point where a customer decides whether she wants to checkout or keep looking around) may be more effective than right-rail placement.


Many carts place recommendations below checkout line-of-sight, and often below the fold. While they’re less likely to be noticed, they’re also less likely to distract from checkout. A/B testing is the best way to gauge which method is best for your cart design and your customer.


An alternative to showing recommended product galleries is inline recommendations and offers, with a call-to-action baked into the cart summary. For example, Crutchfield’s inserts a “View accessories” button in order details.


Customers who click can view accessories and add them to the cart without leaving the cart through a modal window.


Many customers don’t actually review cart details very closely, focusing exclusively on the cart total. Using color to make inline offers “pop” attracts more attention.


BestBuy combines cross-selling with upselling, using inline upsells of easy add-on products in the cart summary, and a cross-sell carousel below.



Product recommendations don’t get clicked if they’re not relevant. What’s in a customer’s cart is the strongest signal of purchase intent, and suggested items should be enticing enough to keep the customer clicking.

Most recommendations tools support rules-based merchandising, with controls for include/exclude and product association. For example, exclude men’s products when a women’s product is in the cart.


One of these things just doesn’t belong here…

Unless you’re as highly trafficked as Amazon, “people who bought this also bought that” can easily surface irrelevant cross-sells. It requires a significant amount of multi-item transactions to make good predictions.

Even Zappos (now owned by Amazon) struggles with this strategy.


A better approach for smaller-than-Amazon sites is to show more from the category of the last-added-item (if it’s a product type for which it’s not unreasonable to purchase more than one at a time), or pre-defined associated product categories for higher ticket, considered purchases like HVAC units, car stereos and engagement rings.


When a customer has a 6-person tent in his cart, REI shows related accessories

Showing items related to the customer’s cart contents can be a very helpful guided selling feature. In the REI example above, novice campers may not be aware that certain accessories can enhance their camping experience. Even expert campers can appreciate not having to use global navigation to locate add-ons (especially on mobile devices).

Another tactic is to pull more from the brand of the last-added product. Rules can be configured to pull trending items, highest sell-through, newest or keyword-related, depending on your merchandising tool’s capabilities.


Urban Outfitters shows more from the last added product’s brand

A simpler tactic with no back-end rule configuration required is to show recently viewed items. With this approach, you know the customer has expressed interest in an item by virtue of viewing its product detail page.


In some cases, this simply reminds customers of products they’ve decided against buying — but it can also recover “forgotten” sales.


HockeyShot sneaks a freebie in the cart, a surprise-and-delight tactic that can boost conversion rates. Who doesn’t love a free gift?


When you click Proceed to Checkout, HockeyShot shoots an interstitial lightbox, which offers deeply-discounted flash deals that disappear when you close the lightbox.


Game on!

Any way you can surprise-and-delight or create urgency can amp the persuasiveness of your shopping cart page.

Testing cart merchandising

With the exception of showing recently viewed products, your cart associations should be audited for relevance. Test your recommendation relevance by sequentially adding products from various categories to your cart and reviewing the recommended products that show up. If you find a rogue product recommendation, it’s a clue there may be a hole in your merchandising rules or product data.

Do cart recommendations help or hurt conversion rate and revenue? You won’t know until you A/B test cart recommendations. A full chapter on A/B testing shopping cart pages is coming up on Ecommerce Illustrated in two weeks. Have you subscribed?

Need help with your checkout optimization? Drop me a line.

Ecommerce Illustrated is a project of Edgacent, an ecommerce advisory group.

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