Definition: A unique selling proposition is the defining factor or characteristic that sets a company apart from its competitors. Online and offline retailers aim to clearly communicate their unique selling proposition to shoppers in marketing campaigns, product descriptions, and all other customer touch points.
Businesses want to sell their products or services as the all-around best option, but ultimately most propositions tend to fall into one of three categories. Note that companies are not limited to just one of these, though it can be hard to effectively communicate more than one proposition at the same time.
Each type of proposition is focused on a different value, and what the customers care about should dictate what propositions a company focuses on. Establishing a buyer persona helps uncover which propositions will be effective.
Establishes the business's claim as the provider of a product or service superior to what their competitors provide. For example, a company selling rare used books can differentiate themselves based on unique, highly-coveted products that can't be found elsewhere.
Target Value: Quality
Cost plays a role in every buying decision, but it is often the focal selling point when selling to comparison shoppers. Price-based propositions don't discount their quality: rather, they emphasize value. This appeals to customers who are looking for a reason to spend less.
Target Value: Affordability
Some customers are looking for peace of mind and reliability when they make a purchase. While product and price clearly play a role, what can really sell them is reliable support. These include return policies, technical help lines, extensive online resources, or some combination of these factors. A support-based proposition is selling a reassurance that no matter what happens, the customer will be taken care of. Support is especially important for merchants who cultivate an ongoing relationship with their customers, such as those with subscription services.
Target Value: Social connections
The process of determining a unique value proposition varies based on the state of a business.
New businesses need to establish their unique selling proposition as early as possible — and begin communicating this to customers as soon as a connection is made. Creating a good first impression and demonstrating your USP from the moment a shopper lands on your website or views a marketing asset it crucial to capture their interest.
Companies with proven experience have a slight advantage, with easier access to social proof points such as testimonials and customer reviews. As businesses accumulate more data about who their customers are and what's important to them, it's entirely possible to shift a unique selling proposition to suit the findings.
"Our unique selling proposition is, 'affordable furniture of great quality with elite customer service.' Clearly defining our USP to our customers has allowed us to quickly expand our furniture store since opening in 2010."
- Maribell Smith - Marketing Manager, Discount Direct Furniture & Mattresses