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Feb 18, 2008 | 4 minute read

User Generated Cross-Sells? Why Is Nobody Doing It?

written by Linda Bustos

Customer ContentToday, we all know how important customer reviews are to retailers and customers alike. They help convert buyers by building trust and confidence in the product, they reduce returns, draw long-tail search traffic and are a simple entry into on-site communities for ecommerce websites.

But there was a time when no one had them. It makes you wonder what we're missing today that we don't know we're missing.

Let's take another effective merchandising tool: cross-selling. Currently, ecommerce marketers are banking that their personal cross-sell suggestions or algorithmic-based recommendations will be relevant and attractive to shoppers. This *can* be really hit and miss. But what if we gave customers a crack at cross-selling?

Polyvore is an interactive social shopping site where fashionistas can exercise their passion for fashion by creating "sets" using real products, and share them with the community. Users can pair outfits with accessories, cosmetics and even home decor items.

Polyvore Set

This is powerful merchandising reminiscent of fashion magazines. You get a much better picture of how these items look amazing together than a stack of thumbnails in a sidebar.

When viewing someone's creation, you can click on links to the store where the items came from and purchase. The item thumbnail, price and store link are right there. You can also browse the creator's other sets, or browse by color.

The application is fun and interactive, you "build" your set by clicking and dragging items in your editor.

Creating in Polyvore

So we see the potential for clothing or home decor retailers (build your room). Rampage apparently has an "Outfit Builder" already that lets customers play around with creating their own outfits. I'd love to get in there and try it out, but for some reason my 3 attempts to create an account have all failed.

But Rampage could take this fun, fashionista function further by making it social like Polyvore has. To encourage site visitors to create "sets," in the same way you would encourage customer reviews, you could offer incentives like:

  • A contest for a gift card (most popular sets each month)
  • A percentage of sales on purchases made from your set if you post it on your blog, Facebook or MySpace (affiliate program with widget)
  • Accrue points for participation, and after creating X number of sets, you can trade your points in for special items or discounts

If you don't sell products that lend themselves to this type of creative community cross-selling, you could still do something cool. I think it would be a great idea to give customers the option to "give back to the community" by leaving feedback on why they purchased one thing with another.

This is what I mean:

1. Customer places several items in her cart. They may or may not be related to each other.
2. After checkout, customer is taken to a thank you page, offering points or discount on future purchases in exchange for providing comments on why the items were bought together -- if they were meant to use together or if they were in some way complementary.


  • Items bought were the childrens' books "Goodnight Moon," "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"
  • The purchaser was a grandmother who wanted to have some of the classics on hand at home when she has her grandchildren sleep over on occasion.
  • She bought them together because they were books she read every year to her first grade class when she was an elementary school teacher. So she knew they were age-appropriate and kids love them.This information would be submitted anonymously or with a first name, but would add credibility to "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" which is purely algorithmic and doesn't answer the question "why did they but these things?"After the next customer adds one of these items to the cart, a page of cross-sells would be shown with the contributor's comments:

    Customers Who Bought Good Night Moon Also Bought If You Give A Mouse A Cookie Because:

    "I'm a grandmother and former first grade teacher. These books were classics and beloved by my students year after year. I plan to keep them at my home for when the grandchildren visit."

    Kathryn T.

    There are many possibilities for how to design and program this. I suggest a layout like Amazon or with a mini-cart next to cross-sell suggestions, as shown in a recent post on Continue Shopping links.Amazon Cross Sell LayoutOf course there's viral potential too - send sets to friends' email or cell phone, post on social media profiles etc.What do you think about this idea? Pros/Cons?