Upsells: Are They Ethical?
I’m sure many of us have experienced these sorts of things.
When we’re shopping online, we decide we’re going to buy something, and then we make our purchase.
Then on the next screen, we are offered something else to buy as well.
That makes sense if you’re running a business. If you can encourage somebody to buy some more things, then that’s good for you because you’re making more money.
But this can raise the question of…
Is This Ethical?
I was asked this question by someone on Facebook recently.
This person understands Upsells.
She would like to use them because it’s good to make money so she can stay in business.
But at the same time, she is worried that it doesn’t necessarily follow the same levels of integrity that she wants to maintain with her customers.
And, that’s a genuine concern, because there are plenty of examples of bad Upselling.
- Using a false sense of urgency and scarcity.
- Offering a totally different product or service to the one just bought
- Only providing part of the whole solution with the first purchase, so you have to buy more to get the result you want.
You could also look at it from the point of view that an upsell is only there for the business to increase its sale value. So it’s not in the best interest of the customer.
Yet if somebody has taken the first step to buy your product or service, it means that they have trusted you to solve their problem. And they have trusted that your product or your service, can fulfil that promise.
So here, offering an upsell, if done correctly, gives you the option of further helping that person.
Your product or service is there to solve a problem.
If it doesn’t do that, then stop reading this…
But if it does solve a problem, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong offering an upsell at this point.
Not in a pushy way. You can say to someone after they’ve just bought…
“Thank you very much for buying. We know this is going to help you achieve the result you’re after. Just to let you know, after a number of requests from previous clients, we have created an option here that will help you achieve the solution to the problem faster, easier, smarter, etc.
You don’t need it to get the result we’ve promised. What you just bought will get you there. This is an option for you if you want to get there a little faster…”
Because what you should be doing with an upsell, is offering an enhanced way to solve the problem.
You know what happens next…
If you genuinely have something that helps someone solve a single problem completely, and in the best way possible so they don’t need anything else, then offer something they don’t yet realise they’ll need.
For example, if there’s nothing else they need to solve that one problem, you as the expert (or you as the creator of whatever it is that you sell) will know something about what happens after that problem is solved.
So upsells could be used there to educate someone that once they’ve gone through the journey of solving this one problem, they’re going to face another one.
And what they could do is get in front of it by purchasing another product or service from you now, with a one time deal.
Ultimately, as long as what you’re offering is genuinely providing value to the people that you serve, and you are presenting your upsells in a way that it’s done with the desire and ability to help that person achieve a result faster, better, quicker…
Then I would argue you’re doing a disservice to that person by not offering something more.
An enhanced way of solving someones problem.
As long as you approach it in this way, I’d go so far as to say it’s unethical not to use some form of upselling.
However, if you’re just putting something that’s completely irrelevant in front of someone after they’ve just bought, then that will kill the trust.
And I certainly wouldn’t ever advocate doing that.
But upselling might still not feel right…
So one of the things that you could do is don’t offer “upsells” directly after purchase.
Instead, you give the option beforehand, so you’re completely transparent.
For example, when asking for the sale, you offer 3 different options.
Option A, Option B, or Option C.
- If you go with Option A, it will cost you a hundred pounds.
- If you go with Option B, it’s 200 pounds.
- Buy both together, it’s 150 pounds.
- Or you can have Option C, where you can get A and B along with extra, enhanced services (e.g. X hours of coaching with you, or whatever it is that you do) for £500.
That means that somebody is then given the “upsell” options up front, so it’s completely transparent.
There’s none of the after-purchase-upselling that can be a little bit annoying.
“Upselling” isn’t unethical. As long as it’s done the right way.
The obvious example is when people go to McDonalds and the server asks:
“Do you want fries with that?”
(Ok, technically you could argue that it’s unethical because it’s feeding the worldwide obesity problem… but that’s another issue!)
Perhaps a better example is Amazon.
They are masters at this. They do it all the time, and we’re happy for them to do it!
It’s when they show you:
“People that bought this also bought that”.
The key with using upselling properly and ethically, is that you’re never forcing anyone to buying them.
I want to be very clear about that. You’re saying:
“This is something that can enhance what you’ve just bought.”
They choose to take you up on it or not.
Ultimately, you don’t have to do upsells.
They do help businesses, especially small businesses.
That’s because if you get a certain percentage of people to buy your upsell, that can help you to keep the lights on for a start.
And if you’re able to do that, you’re able to improve your revenue and profit. Which I think is a good thing.
If you don’t do that, or you’re not making as much money as you need or should, then I would argue that maybe you’re doing a disservice to the people that you serve.
When you’re scraping by, riding the “cash flow rollercoaster”, it makes it really hard to serve your clients at the highest level.
You have less time and resource available to actually able to help them as much as you can, and they need.
It’s another way of saying you need to be able to charge what you’re worth.
Using upselling is just one way of being able to do that, but only if done in the right way. So that it enhances what you offer.
An ethical upsell provides extra value, that is genuinely going to help the person that is going to buy it.
That’s how I would look at upsells.
I hope that’s answered the question as it was intended!
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