Competition comes as something natural with any business. That’s even more of a given for e-commerce brands where it’s not just about local competitors that you need to worry about. Customers are overwhelmed with options, and they want to quickly understand what makes one product or brand different than another. Knowing the right way to position yourself and your products can mean the difference between standing out and blending in. That’s why it’s crucial for you to understand how to identify a unique selling proposition (USP) to help guide your branding and marketing decisions.
What is a unique selling proposition?
A unique selling proposition is the one thing that makes your business better than the competition. It’s a specific benefit that makes your business stand out when compared to other businesses in your market. It plays to your strengths and should be based on what makes your brand or product uniquely valuable to your customers.
Having a USP helps focus your marketing strategy and influences messaging, branding, copywriting, and other marketing decisions. At its core, it should quickly answer a potential customer’s most immediate question when they encounter your brand: “What makes you different from the competition?”.
A compelling USP should be:
- Assertive, but defensible: A specific position that forces you to make a case against competing products is more memorable than a generic stance, like “we sell high-quality products.”
- Focused on what your customers value: “Unique” won’t count for much if it’s not something your target customers truly care about.
- More than a slogan: While a slogan is one way your USP can be communicated, it’s also something that you can embody in other areas of your business, from your return policy to your supply chain.
It’s not necessarily what you sell that has to be unique, but the message you choose to focus on that your competition doesn’t.
A unique selling proposition isn’t:
Specific marketing offers—like 10% off, free shipping, 24/7 customer service, or a strong return policy—are not USPs. A unique selling proposition is a statement you choose to embody that differentiates your products and your brand from your competitors.
It is also not just the header copy on your homepage. It’s a position your business takes as a whole that can be incorporated into your products, your brand, the experience you provide, and any other touch point your customers have with your business.
Writing a unique selling proposition
- Make a list of all the potential differentiators of your brand. And get specific. Breakout products and compelling marketing messages rely on precision: they solve the exact right problem and communicate that benefit to customers in their own words.
- Research the competition. Who are your competitors and what are their USPs? Look for gaps where you can potentially introduce your brand differently. Products in the same category can be positioned in wildly different ways.
- Compare your most unique angles against your audience’s needs. Are there any customer needs that haven’t been filled? Do you see any pain points that you can appeal to that your competitors haven’t?
- Compile the data. Take the information that you’ve learned, and sift through it to single out your strongest USP.
- Think about viable ways to apply it across your business. Applied properly, a USP can be woven into different areas of your business, from your brand name to your return policy to reinforce the idea to your customers.
Defining your competitive edge
A USP isn’t just a persuasive line of copy on your home page. It’s ultimately how you position your products or even your entire business to the rest of the world.
Your products don’t need to be wholly unique in and of themselves for you to have a strong unique selling proposition. Instead, look for a spot in the market relatively untouched by the competition.
There may be a dozen ways you could sell your products, but your USP is the big idea that best positions your brand according to what your customers care about and what your competitors aren’t.