Example of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - ZapposTom Green, Co-Founder @ Verticode
December 2, 2022, 1 min read

Let’s look at Zappos, the online shoe retailer.

Shoe store

The Question to Answer

When the Zappos founders started the company they had a huge looming question they needed to answer “Are people willing to buy shoes online?” At the time very few things, mainly books, were being purchased online. Answering this question was the key focus of their Minimum Viable Product (MVP).


Instead of researching what % of Americans had specific shoes sizes and doing focus groups to determine the most popular shoe styles (leading them to buy a huge inventory of the most popular shoes and sizes) they launched a website for their MVP, with pictures of shoes that cost them next to nothing. Once a customer actually purchased a pair of shoes there was no inventory to ship, so they went to a local shoe store and bought the exact shoes that were ordered, they put them in a box and shipped them to the end customer.

Learning Customer Insights

During their MVP, they may not have made as much profit on each pair of shoes sold early-on, but they gained a lot of valuable data about what shoes sold well online and who these people were, so they could buy inventory more efficiently and they knew who to target with future advertising campaigns.

Saving Time & Money

The lesson here is that, at MVP stage, you don’t have to have the actual product you are selling to test out the business, you just need to have access to one - so you don’t need to carry inventory. In some cases you can sell something you don’t have and after a customer orders tell them you are out of stock. Then you can wait until you have enough orders to merit purchasing a larger shipment.

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