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What is it that makes your shop sparkle against the competition? Whether it’s at the heart of a meticulously planned marketing strategy or buried in your original business plan, your unique selling proposition (USP) is key to your business’ success.
“Having a USP helps independent food retailers stand out and differentiate themselves from all of the other options that customers have for purchasing their food,” says Catherine Erdly of the Resilient Retail Club. “So whether it’s due to a speciality in a certain type of food, catering for certain dietary requirements, or just simply the wealth of knowledge and advice that customers can get from the staff, then having a USP is really crucial.”
Whatever stage you find yourself at on your business journey, from the seasoned pro to retail newbie, you’ve likely given your USP some thought. But are you using it to its full advantage?
Identify your USP
Thinking deeply about your USP can help you unlock sales, find new partnerships to pursue or even refresh your brand identity. And at a time when consumers are tightening their purse strings, considering the many ways in which your business meets their needs is important. So how do you do it?
To clearly define your USP, ask yourself what makes your business stand out against your top competitors:
- Do you stock local producers?
- Do you cater for a certain type of diet, be it vegan, gluten-free, etc?
- Do you import premium, undiscovered gems from Europe?
- Are you always the first to take a leap on emerging brands?
- Are you plastic-free?
- Do you offer specialised services like a deli or cheese counter?
Make a list and take a look at the competition to see how you differ. Next, think about what motivates your customers to keep coming into your store. Do they rely on your staff’s knowledge of products? Or perhaps you’ve noticed they are becoming more interested in sustainable options. By considering your customers’ values, you’ll uncover a rich tapestry of behaviours that spell out the real reasons why they buy your products instead of a competitor’s.
If you’re unsure, you can even try asking them directly what stands out to them about your business. Once you have your list of USPs and your customers’ motivations, match them up and rank them by most important to your business to least.
Take the next step
Your USP is more than a catchy slogan or a couple of words on your website. It’s the ethos behind why you do what you do – and once you understand this, you can incorporate it into the experience of shopping in your store, as well as allowing it to feed into how you communicate with customers.
“One of the best things to do is to utilise the multiplier questions,” says Catherine. These are: How? Why? Where? When? Who? What?
“Think about explaining how you cater for a certain dietary requirement, for example, or how or why you’ve chosen this to be your speciality, who your store is for, what the benefits are of shopping with you, or enjoying the food products that you have as your speciality,” Catherine says. “Build the narrative around that so you can be confident that your customer really understands what you have to offer and why it’s right for them.”
Building your shop’s narrative will help solidify your USP in your customer’s mind. For example, if you start highlighting the many ways your store is making environmentally friendly changes through your in-store signage and website, you can become the go-to sustainable shop. Or perhaps you want to be seen as the champion of local producers in your area.
You might need to rethink your shop layout, introduce tastings with local producers or zero in on the people and products you promote on social media. To become the venue at the top of consumers’ minds when they think of fresh and convenient local produce, consider how your website could work harder to showcase the provenance of your products, or even whether you could trial veg box deliveries. The options are limitless, and they will be unique to every retailer’s own USPs.
Once you have fully established and embedded your USP in your business, you can use your positioning to build rapport with customers in your target market – and in the era of the conscious consumer, it’s all about transparency and trust. As Heather Morris of product development consultant SH Foodie says, “Having a USP that consumers can believe is essential. Hype is out, honesty is in.”