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Enough With the Upsells Already!

It happened twice during the same week. All I wanted to do was make a purchase, and they were making every effort to keep me from it (or so it seemed). Why would a business who wanted me to buy from them so badly put enough roadblocks in my path to make me want to click off the site and go someplace else?

The roadblocks that almost kept me from purchasing were repeated upsells. You know the kind. You go to a site and add something to your cart or speak with a person on the phone and tell him/her you want to buy. Then it starts. The upsells.

But Wait? There's More

"As a special offer - only for people who buy today - you can also get?" I'm a copywriter so I understand the power of upsells, and one, maybe even two, is a good thing. Lots and lots of people will add more to their carts (or agree via telephone to buy more) when given the chance to upgrade or buy exclusive offers at the same time. But there is such a thing as overdoing it.

The robot-like sales clerk just about blew the order! I called to buy a book I'd seen advertised. As soon as the salesperson said, "I've got you down for one copy of the book, but - just for people who call today?" I knew I was in trouble. One upsell offer came. Then another. "We have a special bonus for you, too" followed by "Because you're a health-conscious person, we'd like to give you this special surprise for 30 days absolutely free." I am not exaggerating when I say there were 10 upsells in a row.

Stop It Right Now or I'm Leaving

I finally couldn't take it anymore. I interrupted and told the clerk that I wanted the book and only the book. If he was able to stop reading from his script and process the order for my book, I'd still like to buy it. If he was not able to do that, I would hang up the phone.

He couldn't do it! He floundered around, flipping through the pages, trying to think of what came at the end of all the upsells. I guess he'd never gotten that far before. The sale was stopped. I didn't order the book after all. I was so frustrated and aggravated by the time I hung up the phone I could have screamed!

A few days later, it happened again. I was at a website, transferring a few domain names. After I added the transfer service to my cart, the upsells started. Page after page came for hosting; domain parking; useless, mass search engine optimization; anonymous WhoIs registration - you name it! Did I buy any of the offers? No. After reading the first one or two, I scrolled - without reading a word - through FOUR more pages of upsells before reaching the final order page.

Don't Abuse Upsells

What happened here? Like so many other good things, the upsell is being badly abused. What started out as a wonderful marketing tool has ended up on what seems to be a drug-induced rage. Do upsells still work? Yes. If they are handled properly.

When someone adds something to their shopping basket or calls to place an order, by all means offer them special deals to increase sales. This strategy has worked to bring in additional revenue for decades. Don't, however, bombard the customer with upsell after upsell. Not only will the effect be completely lost after three or four attempts to make additional sales, but customers will also quickly become irritated. They may even hang up or click away to another site.

Use common sense when adding upsells to your marketing mix. If you, personally, wouldn't want to sit through an additional 20 minutes of sales pitches on the phone, don't make your customers. If you wouldn't want to scroll through page after page of bonuses and specials, your customers won't want to either.

The greed involved with hounding people to buy additional items or services can very often have the reverse effect. Instead of adding more to their shopping carts, your customers may decide to avoid the aggravation altogether and leave. Keep your upsells focused and to a minimum for the best results.

© 2005

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