Young Upstarts

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Is A USP A Thing Of The Past?

by Sean Blanks, marketing director of

A USP doesn’t necessarily need to be unique.  Instead, it’s worth thinking of your USP as the one thing you set your stall by: the offering you protect at all costs which in turn helps you maintain your customer base and market position.

For us it’s ‘free next day delivery’.  You’re right, it’s not sexy and it’s not unique.  In fact, it might also seem very obvious.  But we do guarantee next day on everything ordered by 5pm and we never, ever fail.  Everything we do as a company ensures the promise we make to our customers at the checkout is kept.  It’s a point of principle for us that we keep our word, and the reason why our customers keep coming back.

What’s more, it underlines our peerless customer service.  It underscores our low price promise, with no hidden extras at checkout and our knowledge of our customer base – when they run out of ink, they want it replaced quickly!

Choosing your USP.

Don’t agonize over your USP.  It should be obvious, especially if you are a retailer.  Definitely don’t waste time getting the exact wording right.  Identify your USP, articulate it shortly and sweetly, and crack on with delivering.

Struggling to pinpoint one?  It’s worth looking at the competition to see who’s doing well – and then draw inspiration from their model.  How can you match the feature that’s appealing to their customers?  Can you extend it one step further?

Be realistic.

Don’t imitate a USP if you can’t successfully implement it.  One of our competitors completely replicated our service offering, going as far as to copy our website word-for-word.  However, they were unable to keep up with the orders they generated.  So despite ripping off the features we had spent the last ten years honing, they still failed.  And failing to deliver on your USP is something customers won’t forgive you for.

Similarly, has a remarkable offering: free next day delivery if you order by 10pm.  It’s a brilliant tool for driving evening conversions.  However, it’s one we can’t match.  We’re currently at the mercy of the postal service and unfortunately we can’t leverage the power Next has.  It is a standard we can strive for though.

Evolving your USP.

Free next day delivery was not the USP with which we launched the company.  Our original brand position was focused on value and this is still very much a core principle. However, as free delivery became a standard in retailing, we recognized the need to evolve our USP.

Before embarking on an evolution, test the impact it will have.  Will your customers value it and will it add value to your business?  For example, we piloted free next day delivery for a limited period to ensure the service that had become expected by the customers for e-fashion, would be appreciated by office supply purchasers.  The results spoke for themselves.  Our conversion rate rocketed.  Meaning both parties were winners: our customers got a simplified and improved product offering, and our business grew as a result. PLUS we had identified a new USP on which we could hang our hat to further distance us from the competition.

To sum up, a USP is still integral to the success of your business.  It gives you a focus and a reason for your customers to seek you out over the competition.  But it doesn’t need to be unique.  You simply need to be committed to its delivery and to deliver it consistently.  It needs to be a point of principle – as well as good business practice.


Sean Blanks is the Marketing Director of, the UK’s largest dedicated printer cartridge company.  By taking a systematic trial and improvement approach, Sean and the company’s Managing Director, Ian Cowley, have created a double-award-winning Sunday Times Fast Track 100 e-retailer which manages 30,000 orders a month; ranks above all its competitors on independent shopper surveys on sites including Google, Pricegrabber and Shopzilla; and is the UK’s fastest growing printer supplies retailer in terms of sales.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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  • Visakan @ ReferralCandy

    Agreed. Simple done really, really well is better than complex, complicated or “unique” done moderately well.

    I like to use Dropbox as an example. They remove all the unnecessary frills and make it really, really simple. Then they make it work really well. A competitor might do the complex/complicated thing, but the point is that you just have to do something well. You don’t need to be fantabulously “special”.

    Quality is a uniqueness altogether.