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Upsell & Cross-Sell – Ecommerce Principles for Airports

13 Jul 2023
Marc Ive

Is your airport making the most of its upselling and cross-selling opportunities? These tried-and-tested techniques have long been used in the retail industry to drive additional revenue, and when implemented correctly, they can do precisely the same for your airport.

But upselling and cross-selling isn’t just about selling more to your customers. It’s also about providing a better experience for your customers, winning their loyalty and transforming them into valuable brand advocates.

Here we’ll discuss the differences between upselling and cross-selling, the benefits of each and how to implement them successfully within the customer lifecycle.

What is upselling?

Upselling is a strategy for promoting ancillary products and services, upgrades, extras – a little slice of luxury. So, for example, an airport that offers a valet service to a customer using its long-stay car park is upselling. So is a hotel that gives a discounted upgrade to a returning guest or a coffee shop employee who tempts you with marshmallows on your hot chocolate for an extra 20p. It could also mean offering an extended warranty, a bigger or higher-spec product version, or an ongoing subscription instead of a one-off purchase.

In digital marketing, upselling is a timely suggestion that there might be something better or more appropriate available to the customer. It’s a great way to offer them more value than they expected while unlocking additional revenue from existing airport customers.

Benefits of upselling

When carried out correctly, upselling can increase revenues between 10 and 30% and is considered 68% more affordable than acquiring a new customer.

However, we must stress that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about upselling, and to many, this ecommerce principle comes loaded with uncomfortable connotations. The thing is, nobody likes a pushy salesperson. But with the use of accurate, focused customer data, upselling is more than just a money maker. While it’s true it can increase your airport’s revenue, it can also significantly add to the customer experience and improve brand loyalty.

The importance of customer data when upselling

Successful upselling requires a detailed and complete picture of the customer. Unfortunately, this is where airports sometimes fall short. When customers purchase flights, parking and other additional services through an online travel agency or airline, airports miss out on vital passenger data. As a result, airports have little to no idea of their customer demographic.

For this reason, airport ecommerce websites are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but essential. Selling ecommerce products like flights, holidays and hotels through your airport website, along with reservations like airport parking, lounge and security fast track, will enable you to own your customers and collect their marketing permissions and data.

All of this is within easy reach using the Rezcomm Marketplace and our vast range of ecommerce, marketing and business modules to connect with customers, build trust and unlock revenue.

Upselling vs Cross-selling – What’s the difference?

Upselling and cross-selling are both ecommerce principles designed to drive more revenue, but it’s essential to recognise the differences between the two.

We’ve already touched on that upselling involves offering an upgrade or premium version of a customer’s chosen product or service. For example, if a customer has purchased an airport lounge reservation, your airport might want to upsell them a glass of champagne to improve their experience and increase their spend. Or, if a customer has booked parking through your airport website, you might want to upsell them a space closer to the terminal building.

Upsells must be relevant to the customer’s initial purchase and transparent. Customers must understand the implications of buying a more expensive product, and if you are upselling a subscription, the terms must be clear. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for online upsells to involve bad practices – such as leaving a box checked, which means the customer is entering into a recurring payment every month. This deceptive tactic will likely put customers off for good rather than turn them into brand advocates.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is where a customer is offered a product or service that compliments their initial purchase or purchases. On retail websites such as Amazon, you’ll often see cross-sells products labelled ‘recommended for you’ or ‘you might also like.’ And it works similarly for airport websites. For example, when a customer books a flight with your airport, you might suggest that they also book parking with you to ease their stress before departure. Or maybe even a hotel room, so they can rest the night before.

With cross-selling, the products or services don’t necessarily need to be directly related to the first product purchased by the customer. You’re offering an additional product or service, not an upgrade. It’s like when a fast-food restaurant employee asks, ‘would you like fries with that?’ Cross-sells are a helpful suggestion that increases revenue and strengthens the brand-customer relationship by offering products or services of genuine use or interest to a particular person.

While upselling and cross-selling are two separate techniques, airports can use them in tandem to maximise profits and offer customers the best experience possible. Below we’ve outlined how to make upselling and cross-selling work for your airport. Plus, the many ways you can integrate these techniques into your customer lifecycle.

How to make upselling and cross-selling work for your airport

1. Collect the data

The key to successful upselling and cross-selling is to identify what’s most important to each of your customers, and that’s why it’s essential to collect and analyse their data. Information, such as previous purchases, the content customers interact with on your website, and their buyer behaviour will help you target them with the best and most relevant upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

An airport ecommerce website selling flights, hotels, holidays, parking reservations and other travel ancillaries is a data goldmine, and it’s easy to launch with a plug-and-play marketplace, like Rezcomm. Using our system, airports can sell customers all the travel products and services they need in a single basket. It’s a win for customers, who enjoy the convenience of a ‘one-stop-shop’ with a brand they trust, and it’s a win for the airports, who can go on to collect, analyse and optimise customer data instead of losing it to the airlines.

With Rezcomm, data collection is quick, easy and compliant. Our intelligent Analytics module rules out data gaps and enables airports to benefit from 100% accuracy, tracking everything from revenue and conversions to customer behaviour. Linked with our Reporting and Forecasting module, airports can effectively measure performance, report on revenues, analyse their product range and gain real-time visibility across their entire operations.

2. Make it personal

Today customers expect a seamless online experience, and they expect it to be personalised. In fact, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers a tailored experience, and 70% say that how well a company understands their individual needs impacts their loyalty. So, if you want to win customers and keep them, it pays to make your upsells and cross-sells personal. Again, this takes us right back to the importance of good data. Without it, you can’t possibly know your customers well enough to offer a personalised upsell or cross-sell that converts.

When quality data is combined with effective analytics, you can generate insights into customer preferences, which ensure the right products are shown to the right customers at the right time.

For example, say booking data tells you a customer has a lounge reservation with you, and they’ve upgraded their parking to a space closer to the terminal. It’d be wise to assume you could successfully cross-sell them other ‘luxuries’ to enhance their experience, such as security fast track tickets or even pre-booked Duty-Free, delivered to the airport lounge. Try introducing the cross-sell with a phrase like ‘we thought you might like this,’ so the customer perceives it as a gentle, personal suggestion rather than a pushy sale.

3. Build customer relations and grow lifetime value

For any consumer market, the real profits are not in the first sale but in the ongoing customer relationship that leads to a lifetime basket value.

Brand loyalty leads to customer retention. As you get to know your customers, the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell can benefit your airport with increased revenue while offering value for money and a great, personalised experience for the customer.

There’s also the useful down-sell technique. Whenever a customer abandons their cart or clicks away from a purchase, the down-sell can be used to offer a cheaper product to convert. In many cases, the lower cost option has a higher chance of being accepted.
The goal here is customer acquisition. The initial sale value is somewhat sacrificed to get that customer on board. However, once a relationship is established, that customer’s value is likely to increase. You bring new customers into your back-end sales funnel and upsell to them later once you have built up trust and interest.

Also relevant to down-selling, the ‘contrast principle’ is based on the idea of showing the customer a higher-priced product first. This strategy makes the price of the less expensive option seem like more of a bargain and can leave the customer feeling they have been offered a better deal than if you begin by upselling from the lower to the higher-priced item.

This point highlights that marketing is very much about perception, whether that’s of a good deal, a trustworthy company, a quality product or service. Offering relevant, personalised upsells, down-sells, and cross-sells can be a great way to increase sales and engage the customer with a satisfying purchase experience. Provide your customers with good-value solutions to their problems, but never try to trick them into spending with deceptive marketing techniques. Remember, loyal, happy customers will become invaluable assets as brand advocates, driving long-term success for your airport.

This is important when you consider that the most trusted source of advice is that of other travellers, with 64% of marketers agreeing that word of mouth is the most effective channel. Think of upselling as the start of a self-feeding cycle that turns customers into advocates, which helps to attract more customers and generate more sales.

Having a system for leaving ratings and reviews, like Rezcomm’s KPI & Feedback module, is essential for creating advocacy. All upselling should aim to improve a customer’s travel experience because the better the experience, the better the feedback they will leave.

Integrating upsells and cross-sells into the customer lifecycle

There are many points in the customer lifecycle that can be optimised with upselling and cross-selling opportunities:

Moment of purchase

The customer has decided to purchase your airport and enters your ecommerce system. At this point, a well-timed pop-up window that either offers an upsell in the form of an upgrade or a cross-sell with other products they might be interested in can help increase their basket value before the purchase is complete.

Upsells and cross-sells can also be seamlessly integrated into the booking journey using the Rezcomm Marketplace. For example, once a customer has shown interest in a particular product, the Rezcomm system will offer an upgrade suggesting a better product for a minimal price increase. The goal here is to educate the customer about the possibilities of an improved experience at the airport and only for a minor increase in cost.


While the customer counts down the days until their flight, it’s the perfect time to engage with them via email marketing and encourage them to make additional purchases with your airport. Airport marketing emails should be helpful, not ‘salesy.’ The email marketing content must offer value to your customers and answer any questions they might have about their upcoming visit to your airport.

You can also use airport marketing emails to upsell and cross-sell any products or services that your customers may have forgotten, such as fast track, lounge or parking. This improves the customer experience by adding a level of reassurance to their travel plans and raises awareness of the full range of products and services available at your airport.

Don’t forget you can use Rezcomm’s handy Email Sending service to automate personalised marketing emails, ensuring the right content reaches the right customers at the right time.

Additionally, with the Rezcomm Marketplace, airport customers can use the Manage My Booking feature to take control of their bookings and reservations. Essentially, they can see what they have already purchased and, more importantly, spot any gaps in their itinerary where they might be missing a product or service. This is another great opportunity for your airport to upsell a better product or cross-sell a service and unlock revenue based on the customer’s current reservations.

At the airport

Communications needn’t stop when passengers reach your airport. Use push notifications to support passengers through their journey and check if there’s anything else they need, like a fast track or queueless journey ticket they can book via their mobile phones. If they’re using your airport lounge, upsell them an extra hour with a discount to improve their experience and increase loyalty.

It’s also worth attaching retail vouchers to their reservation tickets to cross-sell retail and food and beverage at your airport. Offering a discount with the cross-sell will entice customers into your stores and restaurants and encourage them to spend more money with you.

Don’t forget to collect feedback from passengers using QR code scanning at your airport. The more customer data you have, the easier it will be to target relevant upsells and cross-sells at passengers in the future.

Missed opportunities

Even if a passenger didn’t book flights, parking or lounge through your airport and has turned up without giving you any of their data, all hope is not lost! Using WiFi Data Capture, you can ask for passengers’ marketing permissions when they use your in-terminal WiFi and reward them with discount vouchers for your retail stores and restaurants. It’s also the perfect opportunity to direct them to a landing page to raise awareness of the various products and services they can buy from your airport.

Return home

Just because your passenger is returning home doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enhance their experience with useful cross-sells. Perhaps the passenger would like to click and collect groceries from one of your airport retailers to take home with them? Maybe they’d like the groceries delivered to the door? Perhaps, they’d prefer to pick up a takeaway from one of your airport restaurants on arrival? Time your airport marketing emails with their return home and make sure it’s easy to pre-book the products and services they require through your airport ecommerce website with Rezcomm.

Return home emails can also ask for feedback while making the customer aware of other things they can book from the airport or encourage them to rebook with a special offer. This cross-selling technique is friendly, helpful (because it ultimately wants to improve the customer experience), and can kick-start the booking process for the customer’s next holiday.

Loyalty loop

When the customer considers booking another flight with your airport, you can use their purchase history, website interactions, feedback and preferences to tailor personalised upsell and cross-sells during the booking journey. The customer will value the fact you know them and what they like, and in return, their loyalty to your airport will grow. A loyal, happy customer is not only more likely to continue spending money with your airport time and time again but also recommend you to others.

Drive airport revenue and brand advocacy with Rezcomm

When carried out successfully, upselling and cross-selling can do so much more for your airport than simply generating more revenue from a single customer. Offering a better, personalised experience ensures happy customers, builds deeper relationships and ultimately creates the brand advocates you need to drive your airport business forward.

Ready to take your airport’s ecommerce and digital marketing strategies to the next level? Chat to our experts, watch our video or request our brochure to uncover the potential of the Rezcomm Marketplace.