Updated on April 3, 2024
Article byRamya Thiyagaraj
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Cross-Sell Meaning

Cross-sell is a marketing strategy used by a company to convince an existing customer to buy related or supplementary products and services in addition to the primary purchase. Its purpose is to boost sales revenue, increase brand loyalty, strengthen customer relationships, and improve customer lifetime value.

The strategy works well for businesses that aim at customer retention rather than customer acquisition. One of the common cross-selling examples is listing products under the “you might also like” section on e-commerce websites. Besides e-commerce, retail, and financial services industries, including banks and insurance companies, effectively use this marketing approach. It is different from up-sell, which encourages buyers to buy an upgraded version of a product or service.

Key Takeaways

How Does Cross-Sell Strategy Work?

The common goal of any business, irrespective of its size or industry, is to expand its client base and generate revenueRevenueRevenue is the amount of money that a business can earn in its normal course of business by selling its goods and services. In the case of the federal government, it refers to the total amount of income generated from taxes, which remains unfiltered from any more. Even though customer retention and customer acquisition are two ways to do so, the former is more convenient. It is where cross-sell comes into play.

Firms use this strategy to offer products or services related to the original purchase of existing customers. Because brands have already built a relationship with their customers, it helps them understand buyer requirements.

How Does Cross-Sell Work

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Cross-sell is a crucial sales tactic that a firm employs on its regular customers to boost sales. It yields effective results when a brand can recommend supplementary products or services to existing customers based on their current or previous purchases. In doing so, the business must ensure the recommended offerings provide extra benefits to consumers. Its motive is to convince the buyer to spend more during the purchase process or point of salePoint Of SalePoint of sale (POS) refers to the payment counter in a retail store where customers pay for their purchased goods. For example, the counter at McDonald’s where you place an order and pay for it is an example of a POS. The desktop on which the staff keys in your order and payment details is a part of the POS more.

Online shopping portals like practice cross-selling by suggesting additional products based on the search and buying history of the customer. Besides, it is highly effective in financial services where entities plan on selling their products and services to their existing client base. For instance, a bank suggests a customer start a savings account on opening a checking accountChecking AccountA checking account is a bank account that allows multiple deposits and withdrawals. Additionally, it provides superior more.

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Steps To Cross-Sell A Product Or Service

  1. Understand customer requirements
  2. Identify supplementary products and services
  3. Feature attractive offers to attract and retain existing customers
  4. Provide customers added value and benefits
  5. Create visually appealing videos and quality images displaying the design and specifications of an offering
  6. Use emails, targeted advertising, consumer data, inbound marketing campaigns, and social media to promote related products and services


Let us look at the benefits of the cross-sell strategy:

Benefits Of Cross-Selling

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  • Boosts the sales revenue of the business
  • Motivates existing customers to purchase related products
  • Improves customer satisfaction and relationship
  • Increases customer lifetime value (CLV) and retention
  • Provides regular customers information about unexplored products 
  • Reduces the marketing cost
  • Builds brand loyalty
  • Results in business referrals
  • Promotes the sale of unfamiliar products

Cross-Sell Examples 

Let us look at some cross-selling examples to understand the concept better:

Example #1

Jessica visits an Apple Store to buy an iPhone. While she was exploring the variants and models of the smartphone, a sales representative approached her. The representative told her about the designer and customizable iPhone cases and wireless earphones offered at discounted prices at the store.

Upon finding the case essential for the iPhone protection from physical damage and representing her personality, Jessica decides to buy it. Also, she is an avid music listener and prefers talking over earphones, and hence found wireless earphones worth buying. In this case, iPhone was the primary purchase complemented by a protective case and Bluetooth earphones.

Example #2

On November 27, 2017, the French bank BNP Paribas announced its plan to increase cross-selling activities across the group. The decision was a part of the bank’s long-term strategy to increase sales revenueSales RevenueSales revenue refers to the income generated by any business entity by selling its goods or providing its services during the normal course of its operations. It is reported annually, quarterly or monthly as the case may be in the business entity's income statement/profit & loss more from retail banking and corporate and institutional banking (CIB) in North America.

To make this happen, the bank’s CIB unit in the United States would provide mergers and acquisitionsMergers And AcquisitionsMergers and acquisitions (M&A) are collaborations between two or more firms. In a merger, two or more companies functioning at the same level combine to create a new business entity. In an acquisition, a larger organization buys a smaller business entity for more services to corporate clients of Bank of the West. Bank of the West is BNP Paribas’ retail banking unit in the U.S.

The commercial clients, primarily from healthcare, technology, food and beverage, and agribusinessAgribusinessAgribusiness refers to businesses actively involved in the commercial agricultural processes, from production to processing and marketing to distribution. In addition, the companies in this sector integrate small-scale farmers to meet growing consumer demands in emerging more, will gain access to these services both inside and outside the U.S. through BNP Paribas’ cross-organizational platform.

Cross-Sell vs Up-Sell

Upselling and cross selling are two sales techniques used together to improve the sales of a business by convincing the customer to spend more. Furthermore, they play a pivotal role in increasing the average order value (AOV) by adding products or services similar to (former strategy) or related to (latter approach) the original item that the customer intends to buy. Besides sharing common objectives like strengthening customer relationships and building brand loyalty, these methods share stark dissimilarities:

Cross-Sell vs Up-Sell

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Cross-selling encourages existing customers to purchase related or complementary items for the planned purchase. For example, employees at the chain of coffeehouses Starbucks use the phrase “would you like a cookie with your coffee?” to convince customers to buy related coffee products. There are various ways to introduce this marketing approach, such as product recommendations, discounts, packages or bundles, etc.

Up-selling is the process of persuading a customer to buy an expensive or upgraded version of the potential purchase. Here, the loyal customer base helps a brand sell the product or service conveniently, thereby maximizing profits. In return, customers get a better buying experience with valuable offerings. Netflix, for example, offers HD and Ultra HD streaming to members on its standard and premium subscriptions. Customers choose these plans because they believe upgrading will provide them with additional benefits.

Cross-Sell In Banks

Enhancing customer experience and relationships with the organization is the objective of cross sell in banking. For example, offering instant loans to credit cardholders belongs to this strategy. Based on credit card usage, banks recommend instant loans to willing customers.

It is also an effective tool to introduce new customers to the bank while retaining existing ones. Relationship banking is a perfect example of cross-selling, where it helps the bank understand customer requirements and offer suitable complementary products or services. This method helps boost sales for bankers, financial advisors, and tax professionals.

If a company does not execute this strategy correctly, it could have repercussions for the business. For example, millions of fraudulent savings and checking accounts opened on behalf of Wells Fargo customers without their knowledge. It occurred due to Wells Fargo officials pressuring bank employees to cross-sell products to boost sales revenue. The employees transferred money from existing accounts to the newly created accounts using their contact details to meet sales targets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What is cross-sell?

Cross-selling is a selling practice wherein a business encourages its existing customers to buy products or services related to their primary purchases. It helps improve sales revenue, brand loyalty, and customer relationship. The usual techniques often include the “recommended items” section on the e-commerce websites and the “similar searches” category on search engines.

What is cross-selling in banking?

Cross sell in banking improves the customer relationship with the organization and enhances their experience with the services. The strategy helps retain customers and introduces new customers to different financial products segments. It is common in relationship banking, where it aids in understanding the needs of customers to offer appropriate supplementary products or services.

What is cross-selling and upselling?

Up-sell persuades customers to buy a high-end or up-scaled product, while cross-sell suggests buyers purchasing a different or related item. Also, the former raises the price and features of the initial purchase, while the latter focuses on increasing the value of a sale through additional items or services.

This has been a guide to What is Cross-Sell and its Definition. Here we discuss the benefits of cross-sell and how it works, along with their examples and cross-sell vs up-sell. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –

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