How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition for E-commerce

8 September 2022 • 6 min read

If you’re selling products online, whether you’re B2C or B2B, then your business must have something unique to offer. Some have identified what this unique element is, but many more haven’t.

That means many businesses are failing to convert customer simply because they can’t communicate why they’re unique.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to develop a unique selling proposition (USP for short) for your e-commerce business. We’ll also show you the benefits of having a clearly defined USP and how you can promote it to your customers.

First, let’s define what a USP is, and what it’s not.

What is a unique selling proposition?

A unique selling proposition is a defining feature of a business that differentiates it from its competitors. Retailers often use their unique selling proposition as the hook in their marketing campaigns, website messaging, and across all touch-points with the customer.

To really succeed online, businesses will want to position their brand as the best possible choice for customers. However, often these USPs aren’t aligned with what the customer truly values most. So before creating your proposition, remember that your USP must be:

  • Confident
  • Targeted towards your customers’ values
  • More than a tagline

So, what are some examples of different types of unique selling propositions? We’ll get into that next as well as some tips for how to identify yours, but first, it will be useful to identify what a USP is not:

What a USP is not

Marketing offers like discounts, free delivery, customer service or returns policies are not unique to your business – so they are hard to defend as a USP.

Unique selling propositions go deeper than a simple offer. Your USP is instead a statement by which your business can hang your hat and identify yourself from the competition. It’s an ethos which the business hopes to fulfil with every interaction with its customers.

Why do I need a USP?

Retailers have lots of competition so it is absolutely essential that you have a distinct proposition to attract customers and help you stand out from the crowd. A USP should be more than just free delivery and great customer service.

You need a USP that is unique to you so it serves as competitive advantage. When crafting your USP, if find a competitor can say the same thing, then it’s not a USP.

Every business needs a USP because:

  • Differentiates you from the rest,
  • Helps customers choose who to buy from,
  • Makes your business hard to imitate,
  • Gives your business ‘stickiness’ in the minds of your customers.

Examples of unique selling propositions

  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  • The Rugged Mill: “We’re the quality outdoor outfitter”.

The Rugged Mill is founded on the premise of providing top quality outdoor products and our belief of providing the best customer service possible.

Matt Fusco, Owner, The Rugged Mill

The above unique selling propositions respond to different triggers within their customer base – and they are each targeting different areas.

M&M’s are specifically focused on the experience that the product delivers. Domino’s Pizza has touched on the product but also offered a price guarantee. FedEx talk up their superior service delivery. While WebSell retailer The Rugged Mill, has stressed the quality of their products – backed up by the respected brand names that they currently stock (like Patagonia).

Broadly speaking, there are 3 key areas in which you should build your unique selling proposition around – Product, Price, and Service/Support. Next, how to identify your USP.

How to create your own unique selling proposition

Creating your unique selling proposition can be a very useful exercise for small businesses to see where they fit into the competitive landscape, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. As with any big task, break it down into smaller parts.

There’s a good step-by-step guide we found on sitepoint, but we’ll break it down specifically for how an e-commerce business might go about it:

  1. Describe and identify your current customer base. Having a good understanding of who you’re selling to is the first step in creating any effective communication. If you’re an established business, you can draw on existing customer reviews or your customer data to draw conclusions here.
  1. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business. By identifying the weaknesses you can rule out the area you shouldn’t focus on in your USP. Narrow down your key strengths, whether it’s the number/quality of products available or superior service.
  1. Research the competition. In order to compete, you need to know what landscape your store exists in. Research your direct competitors and assess what they’re strong at and how they are communicating this.
  1. Identify potential differentiators for your business. Next, you have to turn the strengths you identified in step 2 into potential areas where you can differentiate from your competitors. Through your analysis from step 3, you will know where a potential gap exists.
  1. Combine and create. Combining all the work from the previous steps, brainstorm some potential unique selling propositions. Remember to cut it down as much as you can – the shorter the better. It’s effectively a 5-second elevator pitch for your business and should be able to be communicated in that time when said out loud.
  1. Identify all the areas you can promote it across the business. Now that you have a unique selling proposition, it’s time to come up with a plan for all the places you can communicate this to your customers: Website, Email, Social Media, PPC, etc.

Show the competition you mean business

A USP is more than just marketing copy. It’s your statement of how you intend to compete in your industry.

It’s where you identify a gap in the market for a specific type of message and make that your own. Most products aren’t totally unique by themselves, so it’s key that you’re trying to stand out in other areas.

Once you have your USPs defined, you can use it across all marketing messaging. For example, you could:

  • Create a banner on home page that shows your USPs,
  • Use that banner in all of your email marketing,
  • List your USPs in the bio of your social media channels,
  • Create in-store banners which show your USPs.

If you need help in creating and identifying your unique selling proposition or any other marketing questions, contact us to book a session with our e-commerce marketing team.

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