How Strong Is Your Value Proposition?

Do you have a unique value proposition for your online store?

You do if you can answer this question:

Why should your ideal customer purchase from you rather than from anybody else?

I would even go so far as to ask yourself, what one thing about your company, your product selection, your customer service or your customer loyalty is so compelling, that even if a product was out of stock, or some functionality were broken on your site, a customer would stick around and buy something?

The folks at Marketing Experiments believe so strongly in the importance of the clarity of the value proposition that Dr. Flint McGlaughlin was bold enough to say if you get your value proposition right, you can get many other things wrong on your landing pages and still improve conversion dramatically.

Creating a unique value proposition requires you to differentiate your online store from the other retail options your customers may be considering, making you their best choice. You can present offers like free shipping, 24/7 live chat support or no hassle returns — but these are not unique value propositions — it’s unlikely you are the only shop that offers these perks.

You can have value-added offers in common with your competitors, but to have a strong value proposition, you must excel in one area over them. And once you have this value proposition established, you must communicate it clearly and support it with every other element on your site.

Check out a sampling of statements below, and ask yourself which ones are effective value propositions:

a. #1 Printer Ink Seller (Inksell.com)

b. We offer expert advice and lifetime product support (AllergyBuyersClub.com)

c. AltE is the premier retailer of renewable energy goods. We provide not only the expertise and the technical service the Do-It-Yourselfer needs but also a place for learning & sharing with others who have the same passion. We are Making Renewable Do-able. (Altenergystore.com)

d. Most popular online leather store (Leatherup.com)

e. The internet’s largest discount jeweler (Goldspeed.com)

f. Personalized Orders for Christmas are Printed & Shipped in 1-2 Business Days Guaranteed (Golfballs.com)

g. High quality, unique wedding favors that reflect your personal style (My Wedding Favors

Personally, I don’t feel any of the above are good value propositions. Here’s why:

#1 Printer Ink Seller” Why should I believe you? #1 for what? Volume of sales? Customer service rating? Largest distribution?

The Biblical proverb says “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.” There is wisdom in this proverb for marketers – the post-modern consumer will not believe your own “puffery.” As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin mentioned several times, you can’t convince today’s post-modern consumer that you are the best, the highest quality, the most popular or the largest without backing up your claims with facts. If everyone is saying they are #1 in XYZ, or the best, or the biggest, or the most popular – who do you believe? Probably none of them, and you’d trust the site that doesn’t boast anything at all.

Any way you can back up your claims with quantifiable proof, rather than subjective, qualitative statements (aka market-ese) will help. Numbers talk.

We offer expert advice and lifetime product support” Is this the only retailer in its category to offer this? Does it excel in one area of product support – a guarantee no one can beat? A service no one else offers? If that’s the case, make the customer understand that they can not get the same advice or support anywhere else.

AltE is the premier retailer of renewable energy goods” This statement falls under the “why should I believe you?” umbrella. “We provide not only the expertise and the technical service the Do-It-Yourselfer needs but also a place for learning & sharing with others who have the same passion”
Is your community the most active or most helpful for the renewable energy do-it-yourselfer? How can you back that up? Are you the only community that can also provide product advice and the ability to buy product?

Most popular online leather store” What makes you most popular? How can you back up this claim with customer testimonials, awards or industry endorsements? Should I care if you are the most popular but can’t offer me what I want?

The internet’s largest discount jeweler” I don’t believe you. I’ve never heard of you. What does largest mean? Do you have the best selection? How will you support this proposition with every other element of your landing page?

Personalized Orders for Christmas are Printed & Shipped in 1-2 Business Days Guaranteed” While this is clearly a valuable guarantee – it reassures the customer a personalized order will be produced quickly, it only speaks to customers who want personalized items (would be a great value proposition on personalized item pages). It’s not clear enough – will the item arrive in 1-2 business days? How long is the typical shipping time? How do you back up your guarantee if something goes wrong?

High quality, unique wedding favors that reflect your personal style” This is a nice statement, but it doesn’t communicate the uniqueness of the online retailer. I’m sure there are several other options that sell “unique” wedding favors that can accommodate one’s personal taste.

The goal is to communicate so much value to a customer that you eliminate the need to buy from anyone else. If you can’t, you’ll survive off of what Dr. Flint McGlaughlin calls “pockets of ignorance” – there may be someone who can deliver a better customer experience faster and cheaper than you, and your customer should really buy from them! But without knowing there is a better option, the customer buys from you. Dr. Flint asks, if you don’t have a strong value proposition, why are you in business?

Easier Said Than Done?

It’s easy to say “just figure out your value proposition” like it’s easy for Donald Trump to say “if you don’t have a wealthy father, then I suggest you get one.”

Many online retailers really don’t have anything Earth-shattering to offer above and beyond free shipping, 24/7 customer support, hassle-free returns, a decent selection of products and hopefully a user friendly website. It’s tough to position yourself in a way that can’t easily be matched by competitors.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give thoughtful consideration to what your value proposition could be and how to communicate it clearly on your website. The upside is, most online retailers don’t have good value propositions. So even with me-too guarantees and offers, you can at least minimize the motivation for a visitor to shop somewhere else by communicating what you do do well (yes, sounds funny but I meant to say “do do.”) Chances are, you’ll still win sales from “pockets of ignorance.” But your site and conversion won’t be optimal.

Check out Marketing Experiments’ full webinar on value propositions and this list of additional resources.

It’s easier to find a parking spot at the mall on Christmas Eve than it is to find examples of online retailers that have a really clear, well supported value proposition. We’re going to stay on the topic of value propositions this week. I’ve teamed up with Tony Valcarcel from Marketing Experiments to analyze 3 of the top online retailers’ value propositions and communication of them, so check in daily or subscribe today.

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23 Responses to “How Strong Is Your Value Proposition?”

  1. Yes – key point overlooked by many site owners.

    It’s worth remembering also that for multichannel retailers it’s about the differential value proposition compared to other channels – what I call the “Online Value Proposition” in my books.

    It’s also about the value-adds to support the buying process or shopping experience.

    In http://www.davechaffey.com/E-marketing-Insights/Customer-experience-management/Online-customer-value-proposition I list the 6 Cs to review as a checklist which in a retail context are:

    - Content (in depth and rich media)

    - Customisation (recommendations, bundling)

    - Convenience (delivery times and shipping costs)

    - Community (inc reviews and ratings)

    - Cost (compared to other channels and competitors)

    - Choice (range)

    This checklist works for other types of businesses too – which other issues?

    Dave

  2. It still amazes me how few sites leverage a unique value proposition (UVP) or at a minimum a Unique Campaign Proposition (UCP). Just last week we finished another test for a client were they saw a 33.80% increase in conversion rate due to adding a UVP.

    I don’t think there is a week that goes by that we don’t refer to this article http://www.clickz.com/838531 I wrote in March of 2001 about how to come up with your Unique Sales Proposition (USP). Don’t assume this is just for small companies or big companies, every one can benefit from this technique.

  3. Luke says:

    Nice one. I agree whole heartedly. When every business competing online can offer the same discount, service or reward, the only way we can differentiate between is by their story.

    A good USP should engage the prospect and make them want to discover the full story.

  4. Great article. We as consumers are inundated with “value” propositions like this, that I think we become a bit desensitized to the “We’re #1″ concept.

    Agree with Luke above that the USP should engage and interest the prospect. It always comes back to the idea of “What’s in it for me?”.

    -Kelly Lorenz

  5. Great comments guys – can anyone point out retailers doing the USP very well?

  6. @Dave Chaffey,

    That’s a great article, Dave. I like your approach to eCommerce value propositions, breaking them into smaller pieces:

    “1. The Product proposition – what is the product (details, colour, size etc.), what does it look like (product images), what is its availability and what are other similar and related products (up-sells and cross-sells)?

    2. The Price proposition – how much does it cost, including VAT and delivery charges, available offers (e.g. Buy 2 save 10% / add £15 to your basket and get free delivery), are any vouchers or promotional codes available?

    3. The Delivery proposition – when will it be delivered, how much does delivery cost, which carriers are used, what delivery options are available (e.g. how to obtain free / faster / cheaper shipping), what are the delivery terms and conditions, the returns policy, guarantees and gift options (e.g. wrap, message, don’t indicate price with delivery)?

    4. The Payment proposition – how can payment be made, what advice, information and reassurance is available on the payment process (privacy, security, data protection, guarantees etc), how can the company be contacted (to engender trust)?

    5. The Registration proposition – is registration required, is registration offered and if so, what are the benefits of registering?”

    And thanks @Bryan Eisenberg for linking to your article from 2001. Shows this has long been important! I like the guideline for differentiation:

    What is unique about your business or brand versus your direct competitors?

    Which of these factors are most important to your propects?

    Which of these factors are most difficult for your competitors to imitate?

    Which of these factors can be most easily understood by your prospects?

  7. Plentyoffish.com has the makings of a good UVP. They state, “We are the largest dating site in the world and we are completely free.” Then they back it up with some numbers:

    • Over 900,000 active daily users

    • 5 times larger than any paid site, meaning you’ll get more messages and interest on this site than all paid dating sites combined.

    Perhaps the wording and presentation are a bit “clunky”. But they’ve spelled out a benefit nobody else could claim.

  8. Thanks for another excellent article. I watched the webinar last week. I got so much out of it – I hope there’s going to be another in the future.

    As a result, we came up with a value proposition that we put into place on our site. We’re still working on the placement, the layout and the wording, but it’s a start.

  9. I like Igigi.com’s UVP

    “Sexy, Sophisticated Plus Size Clothing in sizes 12-32″

    almost all plus size women’s clothing is frumpy. And most plus size stores don’t carry the larger sizes – it’s unusual to carry all the way up to size 32.

  10. BigLots.com almost has one:

    “As the nation’s largest broadline closeout retailer, Big Lots has the power to negotiate the best deals in the business.”

    Unfortunately it’s buried in the footer menu. And “nation’s largest” is not backed up with any quantifiable proof. Also, claiming to have lowest prices is dangerous online. If you’re not always the lowest price (and how can you ever make sure you are) this hurts the credibility of your value proposition.

  11. Md says:

    Hats off to Getelastic blogging team… Value proposition shouldn’t be just about WE WE WE, it has to address shoppers need. I think showcasing the benefits to online shoppers will help retailers gain credibility and sell more… After all, everyone looks for WIITFM – “What is in it for me”

    @Dave Chaffey,

    Your book “emarketing excellence” is simply amazing. Thanks to you and PR Smith. :-)

  12. [...] we talked about value propositions that answer the question: “why should I buy from you rather than from anybody [...]

  13. LittleFish says:

    So if I need some help to create a value proposition for my business, how do I get some, with an affordable price?

  14. It’s true, value proposition is often overlooked, and I am probably just as guilty of this. There is so much competition on the net that you really have to let your potential clients know why they buy from you rather than your competitors.
    Great post/advice, will be coming back to it to put it into action.

  15. [...] Path’s Linda Bustos (@Roxyyo) asks, “How Strong is your Value Proposition?“  If the answer is, “not very” or “huh?” then you should read the [...]

  16. [...] And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Linda Bustos, an e-commerce consultant at the Get Elastic blog wrote: Why should your ideal customer purchase from you rather than from anybody else?I would even [...]

  17. [...] Closeouts is the best example of supporting a value proposition that I have come across in my travels around the [...]

  18. [...] bundles are a great way to increase average order size, deliver a value proposition and even creatively sweeten the deal when MAP (minimum advertised price) regulations apply to a [...]

  19. [...] How Strong Is Your Value Proposition? by Linda Bustos, Get Elastic (yep that’s me) [...]

  20. [...] important piece of text that is often missing from ecommerce sites is the UVP (unique value proposition, sometimes called unique selling proposition). This is a statement that clearly communicates the [...]

  21. Back that up says:

    #1 Subscribed Ecommerce Blog

    I don’t believe you. Can you back this up?

  22. [...] clarity of your value proposition is so important to conversion. (If you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Flint McGlaughlin or Bryan [...]

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