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The Dos and Don’ts of Cross-Category Upsell Campaigns

How do you know when a customer is truly loyal? For many marketers, customers are only loyal if they’ve not only made several purchases with a brand, but have bought a range of items from several different categories. It’s the difference between being loyal to a product (i.e. buying several pairs of pants from the same retailer) and being loyal to a brand.

Cross-category upsell email marketing campaigns are one of the most effective marketing tactics for driving this “truly loyal” behavior. Marketers should think of ways to guide shoppers from one product category to the next, to encourage a larger variety of purchases, and to create new opportunities for customers to explore your brand.

But as with any email campaign, it’s critical for marketers to deliver cross-category upsells in a personalized way that speaks to the customer’s needs first and foremost. Marketers shouldn’t risk recommending an irrelevant category or trying to push a shopper in a direction they’re not naturally inclined towards – doing so will most likely cause your customer to disengage.

So what should marketers do when thinking about executing a cross-sell campaign?

DO: Identify and leverage your “gateway products”

Gateway products are products that are the most effective at driving new customer acquisition – or in other words, the products most often purchased first. These products are great to lead with in cross-category upsell campaigns – since customers with no demonstrated shopping preferences gravitate towards these items, they also tend to be effective as introductions to new product categories.

DON’T: Ignore the possibility of obscure cross-category shopping correlations

To this point, your decisions about which categories make sense to guide shoppers between should be based entirely on behavioral data, not on instinct or on any preconceived notions about what categories “go together.” For example, a Zaius customer used cross-category intelligence to discovered that a large number of shoppers who made their first purchase in their Jewelry & Watches category were likely to make a second or third purchase from their Kitchen & Dining category relatively soon afterwards.

DON’T: Assume that cross-category shopping correlations go both ways

In the above example, customers were purchasing first from the Jewelry & Watches category, then the Kitchen & Dining category – not the other way around. Marketers need to keep in mind that correlations between two separate categories may not go both ways, and therefore need to make cross-category recommendations in a way that honors the direction of the correlation. Just because your shopper went from Category A to Category B, doesn’t mean you can recommend that shoppers who are buying from Category B should explore items in Category A.

DO: Get proper analytics in place to better access and act on customer data

Without having insight into cross-category pollination (the movement of shoppers from one category to the next), marketers won’t be able to identify correlations between product categories – both intuitive correlations as well as correlations that are surprising and difficult to predict. But Google Analytics doesn’t cut it – unless your customer analytics platform is able to understand behavior at the individual level and unify a customer’s interactions across channels and devices, you’ll be making decisions based only on high-level patterns and won’t be able to personalize your cross-category campaigns. Once you’ve done this, it becomes easier to recognize the critical and oft-hidden correlations between product categories and deliver cross-category upsell campaigns that effectively encourage shopping from one category to the next.

When you have a single customer system of record to draw from, you’ll not only be better equipped to capture and understand correlations between product categories, but you’ll be able to personalize the subsequent cross-category upsell campaigns to each individual shopper based on their unique interests. From there, it becomes possible to deliver smarter and more effective cross-category upsell campaigns that don’t simply drive purchases from one category to the next, but that drive overall customer loyalty and lifetime value.

(To offer an example, customers who used Zaius’s advanced cross-category analytics and segmentation have increased cross-category sales rates by 75% and related average order value by 25% – so when cross-category upsell is done well, the value speaks for itself!)

Cross-category upsell campaigns work best when coordinated across channels, when they include dynamic product recommendations, and they’re delivered with relative timeliness compared to their first purchase. In addition to offering recommendations for products in different categories, consider experimenting with delivery time based on when your shopper last purchased, or offering a discount specifically for purchases in this new category to effectively drive cross-category purchases. Doing so is one of the best ways to help your customer explore a wider range of products while driving customer loyalty from purchase to purchase.

To learn more about how to create and deliver effective cross-sell and upsell campaigns, visit – or reach out to us directly at or at 877-658-2570.

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