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Upsell apps help timely suggest product B (typically) when someone takes action with product A. If you sell shoes, you should attempt to sell socks any time someone buys a pair. They go hand-in-hand, or foot-in-foot, in this case XO. Really quick though, an "upsell" officially means upgrading 1 product from say 8 ounces to 16 ounces, whereas "cross-sell" means adding socks to an order with shoes. The terms are typically interchangeable though, as everyone just says "upsell" when they mean "cross-sell."
Anyways, upsell tools are crucial for helping customers discover products right after they add something to cart, move to checkout, or even deep in the checkout process or after the checkout altogether.
Upsell apps are for increasing Average Order Value (AOV) and helping users discover more products they can add to the cart. And by the way, this should always be designed with the users best interest at heart. These apps are not meant to shove bad offers in someones face. You can also use an upsell app to offer unique bundles or time sensitive offers.
Upsell apps are specifically for multi-product brands, and the more products in your catalog, the more you may want to invest in an upsell app. The simple ones have you create the offers yourself. The great ones are basically personalization tools that predict what products will sell best with "this product." Of course as you move along that path, price increases, therefore the beefier tools are really for the higher volume stores that can benefit from such personalization at scale. Just starting, consider a simple tool and test a few cross-sell offers. Been in the industry for a while and growing into that 7-8 figure zone, invest in something with AI, it will pay off!
The core of a good upsell/cross-sell is having the right products, so in a way, you could call that operations department. But of course the meat of the upsell work will rely on whoever is managing the website - typically either the head of Ecommerce, head of marketing, or you as the founder yourself. Crafting the right offer can take a while, and you should spend time testing offers and products to really maximize the value of this type of tool. For that reason, I don't see this as a set it and forget it product, but more something you should come in and tweak every 7 - 28 days.
First and foremost is where. Where is the offer going to be displayed. Your main options are: Product Detail Page, Cart, Checkout, Post-Purchase, Channel (SMS, email, push, etc.). The further down the funnel, the more powerful the offer, but also the less people that see it. Some tools focus specifically on the product detail page, others only do post-purchase. And one in particular that I'm thinking about only does the checkout (it's Order Bump and its amazing for Shopify Plus brands).
Once you know where you want the offer, you need to understand how. How will the product be selected and placed. Some tools use that "machine learning algorithm" that no one truly understands. Others use a very simple comparison to see "across all your orders, which two products were most often bought together." And others don't suggest or have any data for you, they just allow you to create your own custom offers. The more products in your catalog, the less manageable "DIY" becomes.
The final feature worth comparing for this category is pricing. Some apps charge a flat rate while others charge a percentage of upsold revenue. That can affect margin and you need to understand how that will change the actual profit/revenue ratio for your business. In most cases, it works perfectly well because you are increasing Average Order Value (AOV) and thus profiting more, but for slimmer margin products/companies that won't work.