Competition is the natural order in business, especially for ecommerce 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.
A unique selling proposition, more commonly referred to as a USP, 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.
Forming an opinionated and deliberate USP helps focus your marketing strategy and influences messaging, branding, copywriting, and other marketing decisions. At its core, a USP should quickly answer a potential 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:
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.
Specific marketing offers—like 10% off, free shipping, 24/7 customer service, or a strong return policy—are not USPs. Convincing and effective though they may be, they’re not unique on their own, nor are they positions that are easy to defend as any of your competitors can copy them.
A unique selling proposition is a statement you choose to embody that differentiates your products and your brand from your competitors.
A USP is also not just the header copy on your homepage. It’s a position your small 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.