Can I build an online shoe retailer with no shoes?

Can I build an online shoe retailer with no shoes?

Turns out you can - or 'could' should I say. This is Part 1 in my series of concierge MVP examples from well known tech startups.

This is exactly how the billion-dollar online clothing retailer Zappos started in 1999 - before founder Nick Swinmurn spent thousands of dollars buying inventory to prove that his idea of selling shoes online was viable.

Note: This post is the second post in a series of examples of Concierge Minimal Viable Products (MVPs). If you missed my first post you can check it out here.

Breakdown of his experiment

  1. Firstly he visited his local shoe retailer and began taking photos of each product.
  2. Created a website and added the inventory details and images of the shoes.
  3. Ran a Google AdWords campaign to drive traffic to his website
  4. Once a customer placed an order he would then go back to the retailer and purchase the shoes and ship them to the customer.
Original Zappos website

A few things to note. This isn’t a scalable process but that’s not the point. He was looking to test the desirability and the process with limited downside but infinite upside. Secondly, back in 1999 hardly anyone sold or bought shoes online - this was a risky idea that required validation. And lastly, he was most likely making a minor loss on each pair he sold, but again he knew this wasn’t the end goal but instead a means to validate the feasibility and desirability of his product.

When the time came to build out his own inventory, he was armed with the confidence of a proven concept.

He was able to cheaply test his hypotheses, gauge consumer demand, and get early feedback on its website.

At ucreate we speak with entrepreneurs in the early stages of ideating a new digital products and looking to bring an early concept to market. It’s our job to advise them not only on how best to build their software but also on what they should build. A Concierge MVP is just one example that can be used to test consumer demand and validate logistical assumptions.

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