Do you wish your customers would spend a little bit more on your product or service? Maybe upgrade to a higher-priced option? Upsell emails can make that happen!  

Imagine a customer signs up for your new online course, for example. Right afterward, you send them an email with a special offer to sign up for your webinar event on the same topic. They’re so jazzed about your course that they register for the webinar right away. 

This is upselling in action, and it really works. In fact, sales generated by these types of product recommendations account for 10-30% of all ecommerce revenue. 

In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about sending upsell emails that get results. We’ll talk about when to use them, what a successful upsell email contains and specific strategies to get the most out of your campaigns. 

We’ll also show you five real-life examples of upsell emails to get the ideas rolling. But first, let’s start with the basics.

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What is an upsell email?

An upsell email is an email you send to existing customers to persuade them to purchase more than they originally intended. Often, this means encouraging them to buy a related item or upgrade to a higher-priced version of your product or service. You can send an upsell email on its own or as part of another message, like an order confirmation email.

When should you use upsell emails?

Upsell emails work best when they’re sent at the right time. Here are a few examples of when it’s ideal to send them:

1. Immediately after a sale

Sending an upsell email immediately after a sale is like the classic “would you like fries with that?” scenario, but with a twist. Instead of making the upsell pitch right before the sale closes (as with the fries), you do it right after—taking advantage of purchase momentum. 

For example, let’s say a customer just purchased a holiday-themed candle from your online store. You immediately send an upsell email with a special offer for your subscription service that sends a themed candle every month. Or, you might offer free shipping on coordinating accessories like candle holders, decor or sconces.

2. When a customer reaches a milestone or limit

The key to successful upselling is context—otherwise, it can feel too pushy or salesy. Customer milestones and limits provide the context you need to reach out and suggest a relevant and valuable purchase. 

When customers get close to the limit on the number of users they can have, for example, you can send an email encouraging them to upgrade to a premium plan. Or if a customer hits their one-year anniversary of signing up with your brand, you can send a celebratory email that includes suggestions for other products that complement their existing purchases.

3. At the end of a free trial period

Another great time to send an upsell email is when a free trial period comes to a close. It’s a natural transition point and takes advantage of the context to make your email feel relevant.

In fact, most people expect to receive an upsell email at the end of a free trial, so it’s a good opportunity to hook them with special offers and other valuable content.

4. When you launch a new product

New products often provide some kind of value that wasn’t previously available. So when you launch a new product, send an upsell email to existing customers showing them why they need this new product or service. 

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new hair care product that’s free of common allergens and environmental toxins. You can then send an upsell email to your current customers explaining the features and benefits of your new product compared to products they’ve purchased in the past.

Here’s a good example of a great product launch email built with Flodesk:

Elements of an upsell email

Good upsell emails have several features in common. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important ones:

An optimized subject line

If you want users to take action on your upsell email, you need to get them to open it first. And to get over that first hurdle, you need a strong, optimized subject line. 

Emilie Steinmann, founder and CEO of Buoyant, shares her subject line expertise on Flodesk University. In the tutorial “How to Write Click-Worthy Email Subject Lines,” she tells readers that there are three main rules to creating email subject lines that convert: 

  • Keep it clear: Subject lines should clearly convey the purpose of the email and exactly match what’s being offered in the body copy. In fact, Marketing Sherpa recently conducted a study comparing clarity and creativity in email subject lines. 

The test was run across 20 subject lines and sent to a list of over 45,000 subscribers. The clear, straightforward subject lines garnered far more responses than their creative counterparts, surpassing them by a stunning 541%. 

  • Keep it concise: You don’t have much space to get your point across in a subject line, especially when it comes to mobile devices. So you want to keep it short and front-load the most important part of your message so it doesn’t get cut off. 

The optimal length of a subject line varies, but a study from Marketo shows that 7 words seems to be a sweet spot, garnering the highest engagement metrics compared to subject lines with 4–10 words. 

  • Keep it personalized: Subject lines should sound like they’re coming from a real person. Emilie suggests mirroring the voice of your customer using words and phrases that are important to them in their everyday speech. 

Personalization

Remember how we mentioned before that upselling relies on context? Well, personalization is one of the best ways to create that context for the customer—showing them why your product recommendation makes sense. 

In the scenario above with the candle, for example, the upsell email could be personalized using recent purchase information and other customer data. You could show an image of the actual product and say something like, “Loving your new fall candle? Here are a few things to take it up a notch!”

If you offer a service instead of a product, you could offer an upgraded version of your service or add-on features like VIP access. For example, if you offer a coaching business, you could send an upsell email to current group clients recommending that they upgrade to the one-on-one coaching plan.

Eye-catching graphics 

The average time spent reading a brand email is just 10 seconds. This means you need to get your message across as quickly as possible. And since the human brain often processes images way faster than text, good upsell emails use eye-catching graphics to convey important takeaways.

Images are also far more memorable than words, with people retaining much more of what they see compared to what they read. So if you want users to remember your upsell offer, graphics are the way to go. 

Of course, creating your own email marketing graphics can be a frustrating, time-consuming task. If you’re a Flodesk user though, you can forget about designing email graphics on platforms like Canva and then dealing with downloading, uploading and sizing them for your email campaigns.

Flodesk completely removes the need for any third-party design tools, allowing users to create gorgeous built-in visuals without ever leaving the platform.

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5 strategies for upselling emails

In this section, we’ll go over five proven strategies for creating upselling emails that get results.

1. Include product recommendations in order confirmation emails

Order confirmation emails are considered transactional, meaning they’re sent automatically in response to a customer’s action (placing an order). And since most customers are expecting to receive them, they have an extraordinarily high open rate—up to 80%, according to Mailgun. 

With so many eyeballs on order confirmation emails, this is a great opportunity to include product recommendations or other upsell offers. The key is to include your promotional content after the transactional content so that you’re in compliance with anti-spam laws. 

Also, make sure to explicitly state the purpose of the email in the subject line (i.e. “Order confirmation #123”) and include significantly more transactional content in the email compared to promotional content.

Amazon sets the gold standard when it comes to including product recommendations in order confirmation emails, generating 35% of its revenue from cross-sales and upsells. To replicate their success, include product recommendations that are based on browsing history and previous purchases.

2. Create a single, short call to action (CTA) button

Studies have shown that short CTAs are more effective than longer ones, greatly improving your click rate. For example, a button that says “Buy now” or “Click Here” is going to convert much better than one that says “Click here to buy it now.” Plus, long button CTAs tend to wrap on mobile devices, making your buttons look broken.

As for how many CTAs to include in your upsell emails, we recommend using only one whenever possible (and never more than three). The reason being, that if you have multiple CTAs encouraging multiple actions, the reader can get overwhelmed and wind up doing nothing.

3. Use discounts, coupons and special offers

The ultimate goal of an upsell email is for the customer to make another purchase, right? With that in mind, including discounts, coupons and special offers is a good way to encourage customers to take action. 

Not only can this provide motivation on the basis of price, but it also allows you to create a sense of urgency by using expiration dates and limited-time offers. The discount doesn’t need to be huge, but it should be significant enough to be of value to the customer.

4. Sprinkle in some social proof

Customer reviews, most popular products, best-seller lists, social media accounts—all these are a form of social proof and can help convince someone who’s on the fence about a purchase that it’s a good idea to buy. 

Plus, customers are looking for this information anyway—over 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase. By including reviews right in your email, you’re saving them a step and helping them feel okay about making a decision right away.

5. Connect the upsell to the customer’s activity

Whether you’re making a product recommendation or suggesting upgrading to a paid plan, always connect your upsell pitch to the customer’s activity or history. This makes the email feel more personalized and relevant as well as less promotional. 

Even if the customer doesn’t make the purchase this time, this personalization creates a positive experience that makes them more likely to open your emails in the future. 

On the other hand, if you’re always sending upsell offers that don’t seem relevant to them, the customer is likely to stop opening your emails—or worse, start flagging them as spam or junk.

6. Add upsell suggestions to abandoned cart emails

Another great strategy is to take a page out of Aerial Gordon’s playbook and add upsell suggestions to your abandoned cart emails. As you can see, she includes images of the items that the customer left in their cart along with some personalized product recommendations. 

This strategy works because it helps customers make decisions. Customers often get overwhelmed by too many options and walk away from the whole thing. Including something like the “Ariel Loves” section makes it easier for customers to make a purchase by recommending specific products they may enjoy.

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Examples of incredible upsell emails

Now that you know all about upsell emails, let’s look at some real-life examples and what they do right.

1. The “reorder upsell email” from Chewy

What’s great about this email?

  • Chewy’s email is personalized with images of actual products from the customer’s previous purchase history.
  • It includes two short and clear CTA buttons with the wording “Shop Now” along with links under individual products. These make it easy for the customer to quickly reorder products without having to navigate the entire website. 
  • It includes a special offer for using autoship, an easy way for brands to increase customer lifetime value.

2. The “product recommendation upsell email” from Pottery Barn

What’s great about this email?

  • Product recommendations are included within Pottery Barn’s order confirmation email, taking advantage of high open rates and purchase momentum. 
  • The recommended products (curtain rods and hardware) are extremely relevant to the product that was purchased (curtains). 
  • The promotional content is placed below the transactional content, and there’s significantly more transactional content.

3. The “free trial upgrade email” from Canva

What’s great about this email?

  • Canva makes it personal by identifying the reasons why the customer is using the current product. 
  • It clearly explains the benefits of upgrading to the pro plan so that the reader knows exactly why they should make the switch. 
  • It offers a free trial of the upgraded plan to help convince people who are on the fence.

4. The “service upsell email” from Home Goods

What’s great about this email?

  • This upsell offer from Home Goods to open a store credit card is included in an email receipt, which is very likely to be opened and read. 
  • It offers customers a 10% off discount to entice them to take action. 
  • Even though there’s far less promotional content than transactional content, the promotional content stands out due to the use of graphics.

5. The “milestone upsell email” from Microsoft

What’s great about this email?

  • Microsoft adds a feeling of personalization by including the user’s current stage in the account creation process along with a link to view their account. 
  • It communicates the benefits of upgrading to a OneDrive account. 
  • It uses strong images and graphics to quickly communicate their message to busy customers who are likely to skim brand emails.

Create & send a persuasive upsell email with Flodesk

Upsell emails are an important part of a strong email marketing strategy. They boost revenue, build positive customer relationships and increase customer lifetime value.

With an intuitive drag-and-drop email builder, stunning forms and powerful workflow automations, Flodesk makes it easy for small business owners to send beautiful upsell emails to their customers. Want to see how it works? Try Flodesk for free today!

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