There Are Only 3 Ways to Increase Online Sales (Are You Optimizing For All of Them?)

There Are Only 3 Ways to Increase Online Sales (Are You Optimizing For All of Them?)

There are three ways to grow sales – online and offline both. Only three. However, most companies focus only on one – and are missing out on revenue opportunities.

So what are these 3 ways to increase online sales?

  • increase the number of customers,
  • increase the average order size,
  • increase the number of repeat purchases.

#1: Increase the number of customers

This is what most businesses do and try to get better at.

Image credit

You do this by solving a real problem, being remarkable, driving relevant traffic (free and paid), boosting conversions, using referral programs and so on. It’s the most expensive part of increasing sales.

Since this is what I mostly write about on this blog, I’ll move on to the next 2 ways to increase online sales.

#2: Increase the average order size

They say the most profitable question of all times is “Would you like fries with that?” you hear at McDonald’s. And that captures the essence of this point.

When you get people to that stage when they’re ready to buy from you – you can ask them to buy more things, and there’s much less friction. The reason being that getting customers to that buying point is the hardest part of the sales process. They need to trust you and believe in the value they’re getting, they need to convince themselves they need or want it, and that that’s the right thing to buy at this moment.

Once they’ve reached that step and made a conscious decision to give you money – they’re also giving you their trust. So in that moment you are able to sell them more.

Upsell a product that cost ~60% less

Question: When somebody buys a shirt, should you upsell them a tie, or the whole suit?

The right answer is “tie” – it’s (usually) cheaper and hence seems like a small thing to add. If you’d try to upsell something more expensive, you’d counter the same kind of friction as you did with the initial product (doesn’t mean it can’t work, it’s just harder).

The time-tested 60×60 rule says that your customers will buy an upsell 60 percent of the time for up to 60% of the original purchase price. Any upsell you offer must be congruent with the original purchase. This means that when they buy shoes, you offer to buy shoe care products, not a key chain.

Ever registered a domain name through GoDaddy? Let’s see how many things they’ll try to upsell you:

Here’s the list:

  1. different extensions (.net, .info etc),
  2. domains you searched previously,
  3. “variations you might consider”,
  4. premium domains,
  5. country/region specific domains,
  6. “add 5 more domains and get bulk pricing”
  7. popup banner with “get 3” or “get 5” additional extentsions for a deal,
  8. email plan.

Yes, that’s 8 attempts to upsell you! I agree that GoDaddy is excessive, but it’s been working for them. You should at least try to upsell 1 thing.

Quantity discount

Buy more, save more!

Vistaprint does this:

Offer an upgrade

Remind people that for just a little more $$$ they can get a fancier product.

Most people won’t need more than 16 GB in their iPad, but “just in case” and “it’s just $100 more” will help them make more money.



Offering something to go with the initial product for a special price is a great way of increasing the average order size.

Amazon frequently recommends you get a bundle:

Notice how in addition to offering the bundle, they’re also pitching Amazon credit card (upsell!).

I throw marketing seminars each time I go to Europe – and whenever I offer an online marketing course to go with the seminar fee (for some extra $$$ – but a very good deal), around half the people take the offer. Bundling ftw!

Complementary product

“Do you need batteries?” Sometimes you can get the extra sale by reminding them of a new need they will have because of buying the product they have already decided on.  This can be an easy sale because it is rational, “makes sense.”

This is how the Phoenix Pendant does it, on the page that appears after the customer has clicked the buy button:

One interesting thing they do here is tell you not to buy it if you don’t need it.  This can reduce friction – if a customer is expecting to go straight to checkout and then they get smacked with an upsell suggestion, it’s nice to word it in a way that makes them feel under less pressure and more in control.  The people at the Phoenix Pendant tell me that 60% of customers take the upsell.

Longer commitment

Charge monthly? Get them to sign up for a longer time period. GetResponse lures with a 18% annual discount:

Extended warranty

If you’ve ever bought a gadget, you’ve been probably offer an extended warranty for a price. Even though statistically speaking it’s a bad deal for the buyer, it provides peace of mind.

Amazon example:

Add-on services

Ever go to Chipotle? You can get a good burrito for a decent price, but they offer to add tasty guacamole (right in front of your eyes) for $1.80 more.

Get customers to add small things to their order for a small fee. They might just add up if you know what I mean.

Here’s how PSD2HTML does it:

Expedited delivery

If you sell physical products or do custom work (be it software development or engraving jewelry), you can get people to pay more for faster service.

HP ships your purchases faster if you pony up additional $39:

#3: Increase the number of repeat purchases

It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than to get a new one. You’re spending a ton to acquire them – it’s much cheaper to keep them than to go off finding new ones all the time.

You don’t want to keep all of them – just the profitable ones. So you need to be able to identify which ones are costing you, and which ones are bringing you bacon. (Some you might want to offload because of the emotional cost of servicing them, i.e. difficult customers that you spend a lot of support hours on).

Here are some ways to keep the existing customer buying:

Offering promotions and reminding customers of what you offer 

Send targeted follow-up emails to customers offering them a related product or service (you can do this automatically with a good email autoresponder and shopping cart). Notifying them of deals is also great.

Wine Library is constantly sending me wine offers over emails (’cause I’ve bought before). Every now and then I’ll take it:

Companies do this with email marketing, but also all social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) – get customers to follow you on one of these and offer special deals for just the followers.

Here’s an example from Modcloth Facebook page:

Free shiping for a year (locking customers in)

Do you use Amazon Prime? It’s when you pay a fee to get free 2-day shipping for a year (+ some other benefits). Free 2-day delivery is nice, and so are free streaming movies. Appearently more people used the 2-day shipping now than their free Super Saver Shipping. People like it.

However, by giving you this deal they’re essentially locking you in. Why buy from anyone else if Amazon ships it for free (get it in 2 days)? does the same thing:

If your customers buy frequently the kind of products you sell, come up with an incentive to keep buying only from you.

Offer coupons with the order

Do you know what’s the open rate of transactional emails? Three times higher than commercial email!

According to Experian’s Transactional Email Benchmark Report

  • The average revenue per transactional email is 2-5 times higher than standard bulk mail
  • Transaction rates are 8x higher than bulk mailings for order confirmations and 4x higher for shipping and returns/exchanges
  • Customers tend to open transactional emails repeatedly
So when customers place an order with you and receive the “Thank you for your purchase” email – make sure you include some marketing in that email, such as a coupon code.
They just completed an order, so they probably won’t buy immediately – hence a coupon code with an expiry date is a better idea than offering an additional product (you should have offered that as an upsell before completing the purchase).
I bought a gift for a friend, and the confirmation email had a coupon in it:

Save credit card details

I shop on Amazon all the time. The few times when I don’t buy something from Amazon is when I’m after something specific and Amazon doesn’t have it.

Of all the reasons I prefer Amazon, the biggest one for me is that my credit card details are already stored there. If I’d go buy from an online store I’ve never visited, I’d have to enter all the payment and shipping details – all over again! No, thank you – Amazon it is!

No it is not just me talking — data shows a sharp jump in per account spending (and the trend is upward):

(Note: don’t copy Amazon blindly. What works for them, will not necessarily work for you. They can get away with a lot of crap.)

People are inherently lazy. Your job is to make buying from you as easy and convenient as possible.

Customer experience

People remember experiences. If the experience your website provided sucked, they won’t come back. Investment in user experience pays off.

Somebody on Quora suggests that provides a great experience. I did a search on Twitter and it could be true:

Service is the new selling

This is directly related to the last point. Once you get the customers in, provide a superior support and service experience. You can always impress people with excellent service since the average is very low.

Once you provide excellent service, people not only recruit new customers for you, but they’ll be sure to repeat the experience.

Release a new, better model every year

iPhone, anyone?


When trying to increase your online sales, don’t forget the other two ways besides getting new customers. Optimize for all three ways and enjoy growth thanks to untapped opportunities.

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  1. Great article, Peep. I wrote about this a while back on my site. Ultimately, I created a quick calculator for you to understand how combining the 3 growth areas doesn’t increase linearly, it will exponentially add to the bottom line. If you’re interested the calculator (spreadsheet) can be found at:
    I hope I’m not out of line by adding the link. I think you’ll find it compliments what you wrote here. Anyone who wants to grow their business needs to understand how these 3 areas dynamically effect business revenue.

    1. Thanks for another great article Peep – and Matt Fox, that’s a great spreadsheet too – I’ve been looking for something like that for ages. Thanks guys :-)

    2. Peep Laja

      That’s a great resource, Matt!

    3. Thanks a lot. This is one of my favorite business subjects.
      You did an excellent job explaining it.

    4. Excellent article Peep!
      It is very useful for first time netpreneurs.
      Thanks for excellent resource Mark!

  2. Ha ha I’ve never picked up on the Chipotle up sale of guacamole until now. I take’em up on the offer every time I go. Interesting. Thanks for all your great content Peep.

    1. Peep Laja

      Haha, they’re smooth over there at Chipotle!

  3. great article peep…
    very informative and actionable..

    1. Peep Laja

      Jay has certainly drawn attention to it, but it was preached also 100 yrs before him :) If we couldn’t write about things that have been written about before, nobody would write a single word. (+ most people have no idea who J.A. is)

  4. This is a great article! Thanks for the info Peep! I really like how you present your point with examples (and images). I like the example about GoDaddy, you visit their site to buy a domain name and they try to sell you a website, an ssl certificate, all domain extensions for your domain name, a shopping cart and so much more. I always wonder if that doesn’t affect their sales.

  5. This is a fantastic, valuable article. Thank you.

  6. Really great article – I’m glad I found it. Even when working on websites is your career, you can forget or overlook some of these things. It’s important to always look to the leaders (Amazon, etc) to see what’s working for them and figure out if/how you can apply that in your own business.

  7. Agreed – Companies often put all their efforts into “collecting” clients, while not investing enough in the offers themselves! the opportunities go to waste and then you wonder “but I have so many clients!”, why is my business not enough profitable?

  8. Please stop writing blog post. These posts make me believe that I am a nerd, dumb and knows nothing about SEO. Your posts are making me sick :(

    Awesome mate. Please do not stop. Hope your awesomeness will not stop here :)

  9. Great article. So many good examples that go beyond obvious.
    I actually wrote about the concept on my blog (in Croatian) using Reach, Frequency and Yield as terms, but this article gives much better picture about the subject.

    The point I want to add here is that companies pay too much for the acquisition of new customers, usually through advertising, before fully exploiting, or even touching other two options. That eventually hurt total lifetime value of the customer and leads to the fail of the project.

  10. Great article!
    I just wouldn’t say that those are the ONLY three ways to increase online sales as I see there other two:
    – Increase desire: free shipping, discounts, trust seals, great products…
    – Reduce effort: less checkout steps, guest checkout, good usability…

    Both of them are ways of increasing sales that you all know and I believe wouldn’t fit in the 3 strategies above.


    1. Peep Laja

      Hey Flavio

      The two ways you list are tactics that apply for three ways, but in the end they still increase the number of customers. It’s not a separate “way”.

    2. You are right. Sorry.
      Boosting conversions is part of getting more customers.

  11. I think your point is absolutely valid – we tend to focus on getting new customers and completely neglect existing ones – huge mistake, I know. As many other things in (online) marketing it’s THAT simple. Yet, too few people ever think about it.

    I found the 60×60 part of the article invaluable, for I didn’t know the rules of upselling. I believe I now know better how to sell!

    Thank you!

  12. Great article but I think there are numerous other ways to increase online sale, anyways good job.

    1. Peep Laja

      Name one that doesnt fall under these 3 categories.

  13. Hi, Peep Laja!
    Thank you very much. I have learn many thing from your post. I am new in online business and I hope your post will help me to bran my site!

  14. Hi Peep Laja,

    First of all, Thanks for sharing such a great information.

    I found these tips very helpful. I had worked on following your tips and all are really great. I’d like to add one more point here which I experienced ..that is live communication with customers when they land on our website. This is possible by using live chat software. Its affordable and fast communication method. For the live chat, you can have Live2Support live chat on your website.

  15. I agree with your article, so much focus on online selling is put on increasing the number of customers. Some really great examples used here, I think that all businesses, even those who don’t have an e-commerce site can benefit from what you suggest. Thank you for posting!

  16. Fantastic information here. Thank you so much for providing your insights. One question – I own a sucessful niche B2B online store that we started 8 years ago. We’ve grown every year however competition is fierce and growth has slowed. All of your tips make perfect sense however I think only a few will resonate with B2B customers. Many of our buyers are employees and many tend to spend differently than if it was their own money. It seems to me that most of these strategies are focused more on B2C. For example, we have routinely found our customers do not use coupons regardless of how valuable they are. Same goes for upsells, BYGO, special savinggs, etc. Do you have any suggestions more focused on B2B?

    Thank you for your consideration

    Dave Visco
    The 5S Store

    1. Peep Laja

      Most B2C things apply to B2B as well. More than half the examples in this post are about B2B. Naturally each business is different and there is no one size fits all solution. If your site is, then you have a huge growth potential as your site is a very leaky bucket.

  17. hi , I extremelly like the fundays, I sure wants to work on the above said article.

    Thank You
    Renna Malhotra

  18. Hi,

    Thanks for the info, but I have a question, I am running a Job Portal. Now what should I do on my website so that employer will buy paid subscription or buy resume. Apart from this students can also view study material, so is this a good idea to make the study material paid.

    Waiting for reply.
    Thanks in advance

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There Are Only 3 Ways to Increase Online Sales (Are You Optimizing For All of Them?)