What a Unique Selling Proposition Is (And Isn’t)
Competition is the natural order in business, especially for e-commerce brands where it’s not just your 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 all entrepreneurs 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 a statement you choose to embody that differentiates your products and your brand from your competitors. Forming an opinionated and deliberate USP helps focus your messaging and influences branding, copywriting, and other marketing decisions.
At its core, a USP should quickly answer a customer’s most immediate question when they encounter your brand:
“What makes you different from the competition?”
Your USP plays to your strengths and should be based on what makes your brand or product uniquely valuable to your customers. Being “unique” is rarely a strong USP in itself. You have to differentiate around some aspect your target audience cares about, otherwise your messaging won’t be nearly as effective.
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. You should be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.
What a unique selling proposition isn’t
Specific marketing offers—like 10% off, free shipping, 24/7 customer service, or strong return policy—are not USPs. Convincing and effective though they may be, they’re not unique on their own, nor are the positions that are easy to defend as any of your competitors can copy them.
A USP 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.