How do you improve the lives of your customers?
This question is an absolutely fundamental one for every online retailer.
If you don’t have a clear understanding of the value you provide, you’re putting yourself at an immediate and unnecessary disadvantage. It’s likely that everything from your site design to your positioning and marketing will suffer as a consequence.
Furthermore, if you’re just starting out, it’s even more essential to hone in on exactly what you offer to potential customers.
Creating and testing a strong value proposition will likely yield significant improvements across all of your key metrics, from your overall conversion rate to your average order value.
In fact, we believe that testing of value propositions should be a key part of any ecommerce optimization strategy. At Growcode, we’ve consistently found that testing of value propositions leads to exceptional results (like +23% gain for one of our clients).
In this post, you’ll learn how to create and test a value proposition that speaks directly to your target market.
We’ll also delve into practical examples from some of the web’s most successful ecommerce stores.
1. What is a value proposition?
A value proposition is simply a statement of the different ways you provide value to your customers.
It answers a crucial question that every ecommerce customer is asking: “Why should I buy from you instead of your competitors?”
It details how you solve major pain-points experienced by your potential customers and how you improve their customer experience by adding further value.
It can refer to specific benefits, like fast and free shipping, or more general emotional experiences, like ease and convenience.
Amazon, for example, solves the fundamental issues of poor product choice and slow shipping by providing a diverse selection of products available with expedited delivery.
But it also further improves the customer experience with a host of extra benefits, like one-click delivery, gift-wrapping, time-saving features like wish lists and saved items, and an enticing loyalty program (Amazon Prime).
On a practical level, your value proposition will be expressed as a simple statement describing which problems your store solves, positioning yourself against the competition and highlighting key features.
Etsy, for example, provides an opportunity for customers to buy handmade products. One of the major complaints in the ecommerce space is that mass-made products lack the personal touch and specialness of handmade products. By providing a marketplace that connects buyers with artisan sellers, it provides a neat solution to this problem.
2. What are the differences between a value proposition, a USP, a slogan and a mission statement?
There’s a lot of confusion around terminology when it comes to this topic. And the truth is there are no exact definitions. In fact, terms like “mission statements”, “slogan”, “USP”, and “value proposition” are all related and feed into each other.
Let’s take a quick look at some key terms:
USP – A value proposition is not a unique selling proposition (USP), which refers to a specific unique feature of your online store. But your USP will be included in your value proposition in terms of the unique value it provides. One of Amazon’s USPs, for example, is one-click purchasing. The value that this feature provides is ease and convenience.
Mission statement – A mission statement is a customer-facing description of the aims and philosophy of your company. It describes what you hope to achieve in the industry and how you hope to do it. E.g. Microsoft’s mission is: “To help people around the world realize their full potential.”
Slogan – A slogan is a short, often one-sentence phrase that summarizes your value proposition as quickly as possible.
Both mission statements and slogan are important. But they derive from your value proposition. They’re not the value proposition itself.
So how do you go about crafting a “killer” value proposition? We outline a specific process below. But first, here’s a short checklist to help you get closer to that winning mix:
- It should speak directly to your market – A good value proposition is based on a solid understanding of your market’s psychographic and demographic details. Products, price-points, and added benefits that provide value to millennials, for example, probably won’t be as appealing to baby boomers. Always begin from solid data about your target market.
- It should include what customers already expect – What do customers already expect from ecommerce stores in your space? Your value proposition should replicate the most important benefits that consumers take for granted. Not including these elements will likely set you at a competitive disadvantage. Speedy shipping, an easy returns policy, and a rewards program, for example, are common to most successful online stores.
- Your value proposition should encompass at least one clear USP – The benefit provided by your USP is one of the strongest parts of your overall value proposition. You should include at least one USP that sets you apart from your competition, whether it’s the ability to cheaply buy high-ticket products like Warby Parker, convenient wholesale purchasing like Alibaba, or extensive choice like Amazon.
When a client comes and asks for our help in increasing their website traffic, we always revert back to business basics.
We sit down and help them re-discover their unique selling proposition. They are often lost for words when you run them through the hypothetical of:
I’ve just landed on your website, it looks just like every other website. So why should I buy from you?
It’s our opinion, that unless you have a unique and compelling offer, there is little point in sending a user to a digital asset like your website.
Callum Mundine – Digital Marketing, OneEgg.com.au
- Your “mix” of value should be unique – While you may offer many of the same benefits as other retailers, your “mix” should be unique. What do you offer that other retailers don’t?
- It should be “obvious” – When a potential customer sees your value proposition, they should instantly think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want!”. Don’t over-complicate things. Your VP should be simple, clear, and immediately resonant.
4. Where Should You Communicate Your Value Proposition?
Your value proposition should be evident to customers irrespective of where they land on your site. We recommend three key places to include information about your value proposition:
- In the header – Including your value proposition in your header, such as in the form of a slogan or key features like Zalando’s free shipping and returns, ensures that it’s visible across your whole store and that most customers will see it.
- On the homepage – Your homepage is prime real estate for showcasing your value proposition.
- On your product and checkout pages – Reiterate your value proposition across the whole customer journey. Hone in on those aspects that are most applicable depending on what the customer is doing, such as free delivery at checkout.
Creating a powerful value proposition that moves the needle isn’t easy.
But it’s not impossible. So it’s important to cover all the necessary bases.
Here’s the five-step process we recommend:
1. Define your market’s problems and delights – Note the inclusion of both problems (like expensive delivery and limited product choice) and delights. Along with alleviating pain, a good value proposition provides customers with greater and more “delightful” benefits. Many companies now donate a portion of each sale to charity, for example. This doesn’t solve a major pain-point but it is a nice added benefit.
2. Hone in on underserved markets – Including elements in your value proposition that cater specifically to underserved markets enables you to catch those “easy wins”, broadening your potential customer base significantly. Many ecommerce stores, like Amazon, offer special discounts to students, for example.
3. Include unique selling propositions – What features do you provide that are unique to your ecommerce store? Furthermore, what specific value do they provide? Warby Parker, for example, sends five pairs of glasses to customers to sample, providing a greater degree of hands-on choice than competitors.
4. Create a statement of your value proposition – Everything comes down to your value proposition statement. Once you’ve listed the problems you alleviate and the benefits you provide, accounted for underserved markets, and identified your USPs, it’s time to bring everything together into a few sentences. A statement of your VP is also useful for aligning your whole company, ensuring that day-to-day activities are geared towards fulfillment of your proposition.
Use the following template to build your VP:
a. A statement made up a few sentences that summarizes your overall VP. This is where you communicate the key value-points of your VP.
b. Bullet-points that outline USPs, supporting features, and smaller benefits.
c. Small “booster” features that you provide that will appeal to specific segments of your market and customers with unique problems (such as shipping to remote places).
5. Put together convincing design, marketing and packaging materials – How will new customers become aware of your unique proposition? Does your slogan, marketing strategy, mission statement etc. mirror your commitment to your VP?
Specifically you will communicate your value proposition in the following places:
a. On your website – On your homepage, in your header and on your product pages.
b. In your promotional materials – Such as in your newsletter, online advertising, discount offers etc.
c. Whenever you have a physical interaction with a client – Such as when a package is delivered.
6. Don’t forget to test your Value Proposition!
Here’s a big one that many people overlook! Once you’ve put together all the pieces of your value proposition, it’s crucial that you test it.
Here are a few easy ways to gauge the effectiveness of your new value proposition:
- Run on-site A/B split-tests – Running split-tests through which you target different offers and messages to the same segments allows you to hone in on your most in-demand value proposition, especially if you’re split between two options or your current proposition needs to be more concise.
- Organize a focus group – One-to-one feedback is often the best way to validate an untested value proposition. Organize a focus group, made up of your ideal customers, and ask them if your value proposition alleviates their pain-points.
Online retailers with great value propositions: 5 practical breakdowns
It’s always good to learn from companies that have already created fantastic value propositions. The success of these established and fast-growing online retailers is in large part due to the fact that their value propositions are so unique.
Here are five examples of online retailers that we think have superb VPs:
Example #1: Warby Parker
What is Warby Parker’s value proposition?
- Warby Parker provides savings of time and money by delivering low-cost frames directly to its customers’ doors.
- The opportunity to sample numerous products in a market that’s dominated by expensive, high-end retailers that don’t allow customers to try multiple products without going into a brick-and-mortar store.
- Free shipping and returns.
- The use of high-quality materials for a mid-level price when most competitor products are either high-quality luxury or low-quality cut-price models.
If you’re in an industry, where products are identical, or very similar to the competition, you need to work even harder to differentiate your business through a unique value proposition.
This has never been more applicable since Amazon is looking to eat up even more of their share of the ecommerce landscape – and sometimes they’ll do it at a loss.
You may need to offer more than one thing to stand out too, we offer: free fast shipping, free gifts with each purchase and no hassle warranties for any issues.
We’ve tested it and our conversion rate drops off dramatically if we don’t offer the above.
Christian Sculthorp, Store Owner, Vaped.com
Example #2 – Amazon
What is Amazon’s value proposition?
- Amazon provides a unique mixture of choice, speed, and convenience.
- Few online retailers offer the sheer scale of products (you can buy everything from the latest bestsellers to open top fire-pits) along with fast shipping and ease of purchase through one-click buying.
- Amazon’s loyalty program, Amazon Prime, is also exemplary. Few other loyalty programs offer as comprehensive a set of features – free shipping, music, videos, and more – like those available through Prime.
- An array of “added benefits” like free shipping, the option to donate to charity.
Example #3: Crutchfield
What is Crutchfield’s Value Proposition?
- Crutchfield’s value proposition rests on the package of services – such as warranty support, lifetime customer service, returns, in-person advisors, and more – that it offers to customers.
- Customers can access dedicated advisors while shopping for products, a feature offered by very few online retailers.
- Products also come with a lifetime customer support package, a 60-day returns policy and a 60-day price guarantee.
Example #4: Sunshine.co.uk
What is Sunshine’s Value Proposition?
- UK-based travel agent Sunshine.co.uk’s value proposition combines cheap holidays with an array of added benefits.
- Customers are provided with superior protection when compared to products from most Sunshine.co.uk competitors – such as passenger refunds when there is a problem with a flight or accommodation provider.
- Customers also have access to a range of money-saving benefits such as discounts, package deals and the option to place deposits of hotels and pay the balance later.
- Part of the beauty of Sunshine.co.uk’s value proposition is that it fits beautifully with its target market – budget-shoppers who have likely saved for a long time to purchase a holiday and are eager to take advantage of protections and price plans.
Example #5: Mizzen and Main
What is Mizzen and Main’s Value Proposition?
- Mizzen and Main’s core value proposition rests on the unique product it offers. All shirts sold through its ecommerce site are made with a fabric that solves several key problems associated with traditional dress shirts – it wicks sweat, is machine washable, stretches, and is breathable.
- They use language that resonates with masculine audience: “The Best Damn Dress Shirt”.
- Mizzen and Main also offers all the extras you would expect with a premium clothing company, such as free shipping and complimentary returns.
Your value proposition is fundamental to your business. A great proposition gives customers a reason to shop with, refer you their friends, and keep coming back. It will align your whole company – including your marketing, sales and customer service departments. It also will help you create high-converting promotional materials and build a loyalty program that deals directly with your customers’ needs and wants.
Whether you’re an established company eager to gain a greater market share, or a startup thinking about positioning, there’s no substitute for a winning value proposition.