Why Your Online Store Needs a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to Thrive

Why Your Online Store Needs a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to Thrive

You’ve finally decided to go ahead with that crazy ecommerce business idea and decided to setup your online store.

However, after some market research you realize that a potential consumer has dozens if not hundreds of other online destinations they could choose instead of you. So, then why would they buy from you? That’s the question you need to answer as you start formulating your unique selling proposition.

It can drive you crazy. Especially, if you’ve never thought too deeply about it. What is it about your online store that would make a potential customer shop there and not elsewhere?

There’s got to be something about what you do that helps you stand out from the pack, otherwise, how are you ever going to stay in business? Call it “positioning”, “differentiation”, “mission statement”, “vision statement”, or insert any other business terminology in there and it all comes down to the same thing. Why would a customer choose you and not a competitor?

Part of determining your unique selling proposition is understanding the value that your product brings to the market. One of my favourite books, “Business Model Generation” defines a value proposition as the following:

“It solves a customer problem or satisfies a customer need. Each value proposition consists of a selected bundle of products and/or services that caters to the requirements of a specific customer segment. In this sense, the value proposition is is an aggregation, or bundle, of benefits that a company offers customers.” 

The beauty of that definition is that it forces you to take a holistic approach to your value proposition when it calls it an aggregation or bundle of benefits, meaning it doesn’t have to be just one thing. Otherwise, you’d resort to citing one of these common value adds (which are really just boosters to what you have to offer):

  • “Free” or fast shipping
  • Discount codes
  • Gracious return policy
  • Great customer service with live help
  • and anything “everyone” else is doing….

However, rather than go down the “me-too” route, you’re going to want to carve out a unique space in your customer’s mind, one that’s reserved just for you. That may sound like a difficult or intimidating thing to do, but it’s critical – especially with Amazon a click away.

Finding Your Winning Difference

To figure out what makes your business unique, spend some time trying to uncover what makes your story remarkable and revealing any hidden benefits that you products may have. Start by asking yourself the following questions to discover where in your business that unique selling proposition can come from:

  • What materials is your product is made from?
  • Where did those materials came from? Who created them or produced them?
  • How are your products manufactured and assembled?
  • Who are they manufactured and assembled by?
  • What are the unique benefits your product offers?
  • What’s your personal story and how does it add value to your products?
  • What do you have to offer that no one else does?

Once you’ve come up with answers take a look at how you can build your “unique business story”. I’ve listed a few examples of online stores who do a great job at showcasing what it is that makes them unique to give you an idea of where you can go with this.

Bee’s Wrap Sells a “Unique Product”

Bee’s Wrap Sells a "Unique Product"

Bee’s Wrap founder Sarah Kaeck created an alternative to plastic wrap for food storage on her family farm in Vermont for her own needs. Little did she know that she would be giving people around the world also concerned with the environmental impact and health safety of plastic a means to try something different and hits home on all those values. The end result was a fabric infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin, and built to be the perfect alternative to plastic.

  • USP: The “new” old fashioned alternative to plastic wrap

Hiut Denim Co. Sells a “Unique Story”

Hiut Denim Co. Sells a "Unique Story"

Here’s a story for you. Cardigan, a small town of 4,000 people has a jean making factory where 400 of them are employed. After making jeans for three decades, it one day closes and all those good people are laid off. What comes next is the origin of a new jean making company, Hiut Denim Co. that puts a premium on quality and has “Grand Masters” who are skilled in the ways of making jeans. The catch is, they only product 100 jeans a week. In other words, they offer hand crafted, limited edition jeans as well as the opportunity for customers to support a local economy.

  • USP: Do one thing well, our town makes the highest quality jeans

DODOcase Sells a “Unique Concept”

DODOcase Sells a "Unique Concept"

It’s no secret that physical books have been getting hit hard both in demand and distribution resulting in the decline of things like the art of bookbinding. So, how does DODOcase keep the traditional alive while adapting to the digital era? Simple, make accessories for our digital devices like iPhones and iPads using the same bookbinding methods used to make books. Add local and handcrafted manufacturing in San Francisco and what you end up with is unique and high quality Apple accessories in sea of “me-too” competitors.  How can you combine wo seemingly unrelated products and bring them together to create something entriely new and unique?

How can you combine two seemingly unrelated products or ideas and bring them together to create something entirely new and unique?

  • USP: Preserving traditional bookbinding techniques through American made cases for digital devices

Holstee Sells a “Unique Company Manifesto”

Holstee Sells a "Unique Company Manifesto"

It’s not every day that a company that started off selling t-shirts with a holster stitched on decides to dedicate itself to helping people live more mindfully. Since originally launching Holstee in 2008, the company has grown into offering uniquely crafted products and exclusive design prints while cultivating a community around its manifesto. It encourages people to do what they love and stop wasting time on everything else. Something that clicks with a generation in flux striving to find their mark in the world.

  • USP: We live and breathe our core value: “do what you love”. Buy our products, join our mission.

Black Milk Clothing Sells “Unique Apparel Designs”

Black Milk Clothing Sells "Unique Apparel Designs"

How does a self-taught fashion designer selling leggings out of his kitchen go on to creating a global brand raking in millions of dollars? By designing products so unique that they are impossible not to talk about. From prints that include everything from muscle suits, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and galaxy designs on your leggings, swimsuits, and full on bodysuits to several other eye-catching designs, Black Milk Clothing has been able to effectively carve a niche for themselves. They have also created a social media-powered community of raving fans that engage and interact with each other.

  • USP: Bold and outrageous products that you only buy from them and access to a community of like-minded individuals.

Greats Brand Sells Sneakers at a Unique Price

Greats Brand Sells Sneakers at a Unique Price 

Early last year two men ventured out to disrupt an entire industry, they saw a massive opportunity in creating a direct-to-consumer men’s line that offered premium quality sneakers without the premium price tag. The result was the Greats Brand, and online store which sells retro men’s footwear that ranges in price from $59-$99, and aims directly at global sneaker brands with cheaper yet high-quality goods with a radically shorter product development life-cycle. With the company’s sights set on becoming the Warby Parker of footwear, they’re out to be yet another game changer in their industry.

  • USP:High-quality sneakers at low-value pricing resulting in disruptive industry standards

Mr. Gugu & Miss Go Sell Membership to a Unique Community

Mr. Gugu & Miss Go Sell Membership to a Unique Community

What if buying a product from an online store also served as an initiation into a community? That’s exactly what Mr. Gugu and Miss Go, a European brand that wants the entire continent to look fresh, brave, original, and self-confident does. Taking advantage of social platforms like Instagram, it promotes and sells not just apparel, but an attitude and way of life, in addition to belonging to a global collective of “Gugu People”.

  • USP: Bring self-confidence and originality to Europe, join the club and wear the clothes


Those are just a handful of companies that have figured out their winning difference and how to make their products resonate with their target audience.

But the real question is, what’s so unique about what you’re selling? In other words, why does your company or brand matter?

Answer these questions honestly and sincerely and you’re bound to get a unique selling point that will not only stick out in your target consumer’s mind but will have them coming back time and time again.

If you know of any other ways that e-commerce companies can stand out in the minds of consumers, let us know by commenting below.

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Credit: Humayun Khan