What McDonald’s can teach us about upselling online

“Would you like fries with that?” the McDonald’s employee asks as you complete your Big Mac purchase. But this is not just a friendly reminder. This iconic question is an example of upselling: an intelligent technique for increasing sales on all channels.

In our example, McDonald’s uses the purchase of a relatively cheap Big Mac as a lead generator. They know that once a customer is already at check out, they are more likely to add an additional item to their purchase. McDonald’s recognises that existing customers are an important source of lead generation.

Yes, you read that right. Existing customers are some of the hardest and most commonly neglected sources of lead generation.

The success of the McDonald’s “Would you like fries with that?” upselling model is not limited to the fast food industry. In fact, one of the best examples of upselling comes from danish electronics retailer Elgiganten. Elgiganten is known for selling big ticket electronic items such as MacBooks. You might think that these expensive products are the biggest source of revenue for Elgiganten. However, this is not the case.

Elgianten’s real profits come from the sale of add-ons such as adaptors and insurance packages. Sales associates at Elgiganten are therefore trained in the art of upselling. They know how to bundle products together for customers in the purchasing process. And it turns out that this in person method of upselling is very effective. Who knows? Maybe the next time you walk out of Elgiganten with a newly purchased MacBook, you may also be the proud owner of an assortment of products you hadn’t known you needed.

So what can we learn from the examples of McDonalds and Elgiganten?

When a customer has already or is currently in the process of completing a purchase, you not only can but should, be using that purchase as a lead generator. These customers are some of the hardest leads in the market. It is as simple as this: If you are missing an opportunity to upsell to existing customers, you are missing out.

But how do we apply this sales strategy to the online market, where there is not a sales associate looking over the customer’s shoulder? Here are our suggestions:

    1. Use a recommendation engine to generate suggested products for your customer to purchase, based on items they have already viewed.
recommendation engine
An example of a recommendation engine, image credit: bubbleboxconvert.com

2.Employ a pop-up on your web shop to catch the attention of customers and encourage them to buy more.

An example of an
An example of an attention catching pop-up

3. Follow up on leads from customers who bought online by calling them to sell more products.

The fact is that upselling has already been shown to work online. Still, not enough web shops are utilizing such a strategy to engage existing customers.


Our conclusion:  It is not just about securing a sale online: It is about ensuring that that sale is the best sale possible.  


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