McDonald’s Corp. wasn’t always a multibillion-dollar, global fast-food goliath; it was quite the opposite during its humble beginnings. You may know the story, Maurice (Mac) and Richard founded the sleeping giant back during the late 1940s/early 1950s and decided to team up with Ray Kroc, who ultimately ended up pushing the brothers out of the business and bought them out in the early 1960s.
To its credit, McDonald’s was innovative from the start and continues to find ways to think creatively about its business. It pioneered the fast-food business through a limited but precise ordering menu, a walk-up ordering window, and, for a lack of better words, an assembly line of fast-food glory, churning meals out in just about the same time it was taking customers to place orders.
This first inspiration sparked many others to follow. McDonald’s introduced the drive-through in the mid-1970s alongside with breakfast menu items. The Happy Meal and Play Place come out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. New menu items took form after a backlash arose regarding the health and nutritional contents of the company’s food.
Then we arrive at the current day, where customers are offered free Wi-Fi, ordering via kiosk, and home-delivered meals. If there is one thing you can say about McDonald’s, it’s this: they continue to push the envelope and create new engaging services and menu items.
But along the way, there has been one innovation that maybe didn’t get the newsworthy notoriety it deserved, and that is the simple phrase: “Would you like fries with that?” This phrase has more to do with McDonald’s success than maybe anything else discussed above, and here’s why.
A ‘gum at the counter’ tactic for B2B sellers
By training their employees to ask if a customer wanted to order fries if they didn’t already order them with their burger, McDonald’s provided an opportunity for the customer to say yes. It’s the classic cross-sell, not to be confused with upsells (i.e., Do you want to supersize that?). This cross-sell tactic allowed McDonald’s to capture the “gum at the checkout counter.” They were able to increase their revenues and profit margins by completing a burger with French fries.
It seems simple, and it is, but this same logic can be applied today in the B2B ecommerce space.
McDonald’s is successful because they know most people love French fries as a side with their burgers, just like you know what your customers want or need with their business and industrial products. Regardless of what industry you’re in, there are products and services that customers need to procure in correlation. An ecommerce computer vendor likely wants to also offer you an extended warranty on the laptop you just purchased. An ecommerce healthcare supplier likely wants to know if you need to purchase tissues with the allergy over-the-counter allergy medication product that is in your cart. You can see the correlations here.
The key to finding success in building out an ecommerce cross-sell model is truly understanding the customer, what they want, when they want it, and how you introduce cross-selling into your sales process. McDonald’s knew the right time to ask customers if they wanted fries with their order was always right when the customer was done ordering.
Depending on what business you’re in, it may make sense to ask your own “Do you want fries with that?” question in areas like product-landing pages and online shopping carts. This can also work even after the order is placed with a dynamic targeted email that identifies a cross-sell product suggested to the user with a pitch like “We noticed you just placed an order for Product A—76% of customers that order Product A also order Product B—click here and add product B to your order today and receive both in 2 days.”
The art of cross-selling—and upselling
Make no mistake, cross-selling is an art, and it takes time to understand which channel, product and customer, etc. will best fit in with your messaging.
You’ll likely find some products work better than others, depending on a multitude of factors. Looking at areas around seasonality, for example, will be critical in the example mentioned above around tissues and OTC allergy medication.
Let’s say the script is changed and someone orders tissues without the OTC allergy medication; you may want to cross-sell that OTC product. But if it’s the middle of January, an OTC allergy product is likely not a good fit for the cross-sell, but a cold/flu medication may be. Factors like these must be managed as effectively as possible.
Cross-sells are a fantastic way for ecommerce organizations to increase key performance indicators like conversion rates and sales to drive growth, but this goes much further than that. Customers today demand exceptional experiences, and if ecommerce organizations can create these exceptional experiences by offering up products that customers may not be thinking of, they will start to create stickiness and loyalty.
So, the only ask I’ll leave you with is this. After you have built out your cross-sell categories and items, and you’re finally ready to pitch the “Do you want fries with that?” question to your customers, be ready to ask the next (up-sell) question after they agree to the fries:
“Do you want to supersize that?”
Justin Racine is a senior commerce consultant at Perficient Digital, a digital technology and services agency focused on digital transformation. He is a former director of ecommerce and marketing at distributor Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply Inc. Follow him on LinkedIn.Favorite