How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Your Online Learning Business

Ten years ago, when you’d approach the cash counter at a supermarket, you’d be greeted with reams of sparkly confections, calling out to you over the humdrum of your weekly grocery routine. Today, the equivalent of that end-of-shopping-list, out-of-pocket binge is an impulse buy on an e-commerce site. If you’re familiar with e-commerce portals, you already know that a check-out is not really a check-out. It’s an invitation for the notes in your wallet to die a slow death, in exchange for a few minutes of guilty retail pleasure. But it’s not all bad. Last-minute purchases can often add value to your core buy, leaving you with a more rounded, fulfilling user experience. Translate the concept to online learning, and there’s something there. Virtual learning has been ballooning at a phenomenal rate over the past few years, owing to the advent of turnkey eLearning frameworks like Pinlearn. Consequently, learners are more willing than ever to embrace new offerings and services.

Sell Your Online Learning Business

If you’re an educational entrepreneur, upselling holds enormous potential for you. It gives you an avenue to broaden your repertoire of offerings and even take a route you hadn’t contemplated before.

The Basics of Upselling and Cross-Selling

Before we get down to how you can successfully upsell ancillary offerings through your eLearning course, let’s understand what upselling and cross-selling really are.


Upselling is a sales tool where a seller attempts to induce a customer to make a more costly purchase through upgrades or add-ons. If a customer does indeed choose to augment his purchase by favoring an add-on, the sale becomes more valuable to the vendor.


Cross-selling refers to a sales technique that introduces a customer to relevant complementary products or services, based on a current selection. A baseball hat with baseball shoes, for example. Or in a learning context, an eLearning course and a digital textbook.

5 Tips to Master Upsells and Cross-Sells

Upselling and cross-selling done right can go a long way in unearthing new streams of income for you. To construct an effective upsell and cross-sell model, however, you may need a few tips along the way. Begin here.

Tip 1. Create a Landing Page With an Exclusive Upsell Offer

Nothing should hold you back to pitch an offer to a consumer who’s already made a purchase. If the customer is inclined enough, he may just decide to buy something else. The best way to leverage a customer’s proclivity to shop digital knowledge products is to create a landing page featuring a thank you message. Lead your customers to this page upon making a course purchase and display custom-curated offers for similar courses or even offerings like digital learning tools, simulations and textbooks. Here, it’s important to make sure that the elements that you feature on your page are in tandem with a customer’s purchase. A customer may be alienated if your landing page is an assortment of random products or services. Let’s take an example to make this clearer. Say you’re an art instructor and you’ve just sold a course on watercolor painting to a customer. Upon the purchase, when this customer is directed to a landing page thanking them for their purchase, slip in an offer for another related course, like sketching or oil painting. This method is also useful for highlighting those courses that have been buried beyond the limelight.

Tip 2. Display Related Products

Think Amazon. When you make a sale on its platform, Amazon tends to throw up suggestions like ‘Customers also searched for’. This is a great way to cross-sell by channeling a user’s interest to potential new products. As wary as you may be to follow Amazon’s promotional approach, displaying similar products is a great way to make consumers realise that they need something they never knew they did. Create sections on your course page with headings like ‘Other learners also bought’. You have nothing to lose by presenting a variety of knowledge options to your customers. Go for it all the way.

Tip  3. Open a Limited Period Offer

When you tell someone, anyone, that there’s only a little of something left, there’s always a flurry of anticipation, followed by a burst of hustle. It’s human nature to want something in short supply, and that’s why limited period offers work so well. Feature a limited time offer on your thank you page promising customers a discount only if they make a purchase within a specific time frame. Then, let human tendencies work their magic. Studies show that limited time offers that come with a deadline work far better than loose, unquantifiable statements like ‘buy now’ or ‘only for a limited period’. You don’t have to wait to the post-sale stage to stitch a limited time offer into your strategy. You could feature it anywhere really; the add-to-cart stage, the consideration stage or the pre-consideration stage. Also, you needn’t drain your bottom line by offering large discounts. Even piddly discounts like 5% can tip customers over the edge.

Tip 4. Spread Your Offerings Across a Cost Spectrum

You might have courses across a range of prices, with some categorised as mass, and others as premium. If you have a sizeable learner base within your mass courses, you have a wonderful opportunity to migrate this segment of users to more expensive learning plans. Essentially, your cost of acquisition for premium courses becomes zero for these users. Communication tools that you can use include email, SMS and e-newsletters. Your upselling approach can be extended to new users just as well. By splitting up your courses into say, $10, $20 and $30 buckets, you can call out to potential customers by saying that your courses ‘start at $10’. Then, once you’ve got their attention, you can go on to give a full-fledged feature breakup. You’re probably no stranger to the table comparisons that many websites feature to differentiate plans; a red cross for yes and a grey-out for no. As a customer evaluates his options, it’s likely that he will gravitate to a more expensive course.

Tip 5. Apply Add-to-Cart Popups

You may have noticed that on some websites, you’re not taken directly to your cart when you add a product. Instead, the website throws a flash message at you asking you whether you’d like to buy a relevant add-on to your product. Now, think of how well this could work in an eLearning context. Once a learner has added a course to his cart and clicked on ‘Add to Cart’, apply a popup featuring a complementary course. There are several tools you could use to do this; Sumo is one of the better ones. When you do create overlays, it’s best to use past purchase trends of customers to increase relevance. Of course, when you create an overlay, you must give your user options to bypass the upsell. Along with a confirmation that the selected product was added to cart, include options to continue shopping, go to cart and start billing.

The Power of Upsells and Cross-Sells

By using a superior technology like Pinlearn for your eLearning platform, you can lend your user interface a gold finish that is hard to find with most technologies in the market. Pair that with a solid upsell and cross-sell model, and you’ve got big money. Granted, you won’t see equal traction with all customers, but those that respond will bring more money to the table. Be careful to create offers that don’t hamper a customer’s experience on your eLearning platform and you’re good to go!

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