Even if you have an offline store, your online unique selling proposition (or unique selling point) can be different from your offline USP. Your target market can be entirely different online, including age, education level, location, and so on. Online shoppers also have unique concerns and objections that you can address. It isn’t necessarily what you sell, but how you sell it.
As your market extends beyond the confines of your location, so does your competition. Setting yourself apart online can be challenging, but it certainly isn’t impossible. If you have a unique niche and/or target market, defining your unique selling proposition and value proposition is half done already. However, it’s important to remember that the product or service itself doesn’t have to be entirely unique at all, it (and your company) just has to stand out.
“A business can peg its USP on product characteristics, price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution) or promotional strategy,” explains the Entrepreneur Magazine Encyclopedia. “These are what marketers call the “four P’s” of marketing. They are manipulated to give a business a market position that sets it apart from the competition.”
Setting your business apart isn’t only about attracting consumers in general, it’s about attracting the RIGHT consumers. A unique selling proposition will define and attract your ideal customer. The process can also inspire new ideas to further differentiate yourself.
Find Your Unique Selling Proposition for Online Business
Your offline USP must be clear in your online marketing copy, website content and social media posts. Any slogans that have arisen from your USP can be used online too. Then, you can build in the wants, needs and expectations of digital consumers. To define your online unique selling proposition, you need only to view your product or service from the perspective of online shoppers.
The building blocks of your online unique selling proposition may include:
- Customer service
- Multi-channel options like returns or “pick up in store”
- Bundled products
- Distribution and shipping
- Payment options
- Exceptionally user-friendly website & ordering process
- Digital content
Price really isn’t part of your unique selling proposition online. There will always be someone who offers it cheaper. Focus on value. Base that value on benefits and how your product or service solves a problem for consumers, or otherwise improves their life. Infuse that with how your company offers a unique online experience.
Identifying Your Unique Selling Points
Feature everything you offer that adds value, not only to your product but also to the overall shopping experience.
- Do you provide free product updates on your website?
- Is your user manual online?
- Can you offer customer support through live chat on your site, by email, or on social media?
- Is your customer service team in Canada? Are they bilingual?
- Do you accept both credit cards and PayPal?
- Are there extra security measures in place to keep personal and financial information safe?
- Do you offer free shipping or a choice of shipping methods?
- Do you facilitate returns?
- Can people get a deal if they buy more than one of your products?
- Do your images reflect your personality?
- Does your unique voice come through in your copywriting?
Make an effort to be exceptional and make sure your website visitors know about it.
Additionally, your USP can be tailored to appeal to specific demographics. The challenges of being a Canadian new mother could be very different from those of a new mom in China, for example. The Internet offers a world of unique and endless opportunities to brands willing to embrace them.
Opening your doors to other countries means learning to speak to consumers there. Language is only the beginning of what international engagement entails, but successfully launching beyond Canada’s borders can pay off. North America is only a portion of the global ecommerce market. For example, a 2018 report from Forrester Research claims the Australian ecommerce market is worth $31 billion. The ecommerce market in India is up to $27 billion and growing faster than any other Asian country. China has become the largest ecommerce market in the world.
Appealing to the Canadian market specifically will help to increase domestic online sales. A bilingual website and customer service, as well as prices in Canadian currency, for example, make you much more appealing to the many Canadians who prefer to shop domestically.
Research, Research, Research
Competitive research and analysis can be both enlightening and inspiring. You can’t set yourself apart from the competition until you know them inside and out. Don’t worry about massive online stores that are the cheap department stores of ecommerce. Research the top competitors that most closely match what you do and what you offer. Those are the competitors you have to differentiate yourself from.
The more you sell, the more you can learn about what customers love about your product. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they like and what they feel should be improved. Additionally, check out reviews on your competitors’ websites to find out where they’re falling short and how you can lure those customers to you.
There is also value in researching successful online businesses in general. Top brands can be examples of both the best way to do things and the worst way to do things. You can learn how they became successful while also devising ways to set yourself apart and compete with them. Start with business ranking tools like SimilarWeb, which offers rankings for Canada and specific industries.
Your USP and Digital Marketing
Defining your unique selling proposition will be invaluable when it’s time for digital marketing. You need to have a firm grip on what you’re selling and who you’re trying to sell it to, in order to precisely target the needs of your ideal customer. Each online ad should clearly target a single need that your product or service fulfills, in a way that is most likely to grab your ideal customer.
Examples of Canadian Unique Selling Propositions
If you’re looking for stellar examples of Canadian businesses, look no further than Canadian Business Magazine’s Profit 500. Check out the websites of these successful companies and identify their unique selling proposition. Note how they use it to attract, intrigue and convert. If they have an offline presence as well, compare it with their website to figure out what they do differently online. It’s important to also identify where you think they fall short, because that’s where competitors can pick up the slack.
Once you’ve identified the best of the best, search for them on Google and social media to see how they’re using their USP in their marketing.
Your Evolving USP
Your USP can, and should, evolve over time. As you come to know your customers better, patterns and commonalities will emerge. You may discover that you attract a certain demographic or that your target market has a unique problem you’re able to solve. This will make it much harder for competitors to copy your success and it will solidify customer loyalty. Truly listening to consumers and customers and acting on their feedback provides a competitive advantage that’s tough to beat.
An effective unique selling proposition can grab website visitors in the precious few seconds you have to make an impression. That alone can be the difference between success and failure online. That means you have to present your most unique and valuable selling points as concisely, clearly and quickly as possible. You want it to be the first thing everyone sees and thinks about. It should be on your website, in your promotions and in social media posts. It should be supported and reinforced by your content.
Like most aspects of online business, your USP must be in a perpetual state of evolution. Examine it regularly, keep an eye on your competitors, and tweak accordingly. It helps you become a moving target that your competition can’t shoot down.
Discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group!
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.