How McDonald's uses upsells and cross-sells to grow revenue


Jaap Vergote


February 3, 2023

McDonald’s upsell and cross-sell strategy is worthy of inspiration. In just a few short years of going all out, the fast food company has uplifted its sales and revenue to heights no one ever anticipated. If they can, so also can you!

The truth is that when planned and executed properly, upselling and cross-selling can improve customer retention rates, boost your store’s average order value (AOV), and uplift your sales. And you don’t even need to be a marketing guru to make the most of them; taking a cue from McDonald’s upsell strategy will do the magic. 

In this post, we will dive deep into upselling and cross-selling, dissecting McDonald’s approach to it and sharing some valuable lessons. Our hope is that by the time we are done, you will have learned a lot about cross-selling and gleaned insights to execute yours on your Shopify store effectively. 

Let’s get right into it. 

What really are cross-selling and upselling? 

In the simplest sense, cross-selling is the practice of getting customers to buy products that complement their original purchase. 

Say a customer comes and buys a swimsuit from your Shopify store. Just before the customer exits your website, you display a popup suggesting they also buy a beach hat to complement the swimsuit they just bought. That’s cross-selling at play. 

In the case of McDonald’s, their famous “Do you want fries with that?” is also a typical example of cross-selling. 

Essentially, McDonald’s is asking you to buy another product each time you buy fries. What a smart move. 

Besides McDonald’s, many other big names have woven cross-selling into their marketing. Case in point: Amazon. If you have ever checked out a product on Amazon, you should have seen this “Frequently bought together” or “You might also like” section.

What is upselling? 

Upselling, like cross-selling, also involves getting customers to spend more money in your store, with the goal to grow your AOV. 

However, this time around you are convincing them to buy products with higher value and not complementary products. 

For example, if you sell wristwatches in your store, you can convince a shopper who is about to complete checkout for a regular wristwatch to buy an Apple smartwatch, which, of course, is pricier.  

McDonald’s is also a master at upselling. If you have ever attempted to buy a menu from McDonald’s, chances are you were enticed to buy a large size menu, often at a volume discount. If that’s not a great example of upselling, we don’t know what is. 

Upselling and cross-selling tips you can learn from McDonald’s

Are you looking to take your upsell and cross-sell marketing to new heights? You have to learn from the pro’s. That said, here are some of McDonald’s upselling and cross-selling practices that are worthy of emulation. 

1. Get your upsell pricing right 

The reason why you usually wouldn’t mind buying Large Fries on top of your Big Mac is that it doesn’t cost that much. In fact, more often than not, MacDonald’s cross-sells products that cost less than the original order.  What can you learn from this? Cross-sell products that cost less than the original order. If possible, offer a discount. A buy more save more offer will come in handy here. 

Cross-selling products that cost more than the original order will only drive customers away. As a rule of thumb, when cross-selling, chose a product with a price half of the original order. 

Take a look at this cross-sell offer from Harry, a men’s grooming brand. 

We tried checking out a Craft Handle product and then Harry suggested we added these other products to cart. 

Notice that the suggested item cost just over half of the original product in cart. 

2. Get your upsell timing right 

Besides getting your pricing right, it’s equally important to get your timing right. Displaying cross-sells or upsell offers when shoppers aren’t ready for them yet won’t yield the kind of results you are looking for. The best time to attempt to cross-sell or upsell your customers is when they’ve started checking out. Better yet, start when they have completed checkout. If you do otherwise, you might scare them off. 

This is why the sales people at McDonald’s often asks if you will like a chicken nugget with your bugger after you’ve already paid for your order. That said, the best places to display your cross-sell offers include your website’s cart or post-purchase page. 

3. Don’t smother your customers with upsells

It can be tempting to suggest a phone pouch, charger, and a phone stand to cross-sell a customer that buys a Bluetooth earphone from your store. Don’t fall for it. You will only overwhelm your customers. 

And do you know what they will likely do when they get overwhelmed? Nothing! So, if possible stick to just one offer or product when cross-selling/upselling customers. 

Another common mistake you should avoid is making too many cross-sell or upsell offers at a time. It’s no use haranguing customers to try another cross-sell offer right after completing one. That pressure is unnecessary. 

In essence, don’t be pushy. 

4. Pick your upsell products wisely 

Imagine how odd-tasting eating a McDonald’s Big Mac with a sports drink. We don’t know about you but that’s pretty  bizarre combo. McDonald’s is definitely not doing that. 

The gist here is that you have to get your product combination right for cross-selling to work for you. A customer looking to buy, say, a pair of sneakers from your store will likely not budge a bit if you attempt to cross-sell a Bluetooth earphone. You’d be wasting your time. 

Pick products customers will most likely want to buy as an extra.

5. Use the right Shopify upsell app

Using the right tool will also be instrumental to your upsell success. And what better tool to use than UpsellPlus? UpsellPlus comes with a load of tools and features that make both cross-selling and upselling a breeze. 

You can start using Upsellplus for as low as $49/month and comes with a free trial. Why not add it to your Shopify store right away to take it for a spin?


Done right, cross-selling and upselling can help boost your sales, consequently improving your AOV. 

The tips we shared here are based on Mcdonald’s upsell and cross-sell strategy, and they will come in useful when you want to execute yours. 

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