Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Fake Door examples

You can test your customers interest by asking them to buy something that doesn't exist. Let's see how.
Keyboard with buy it now button

If you ask someone ‘would you buy X?’ or ‘would you use Y?’ they’ll probably tell you that they will. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of questionnaires where you say what you think the person asking wants to hear, just so you can get on with your day. If you answer ‘no’ then it might mean more questions, and you don’t have time!

Countless times, founders have relied on this type of interaction to convince them to put a product to market. Sometimes it can work, if the questions are asked appropriately, and asked of the right people. But doing this properly is a huge task and even some experienced companies get it wrong and end up with data that isn’t useful. More often than not, the interpretation of the data is also subjective and open to false positives. Nobody liked it? Well, you probably didn’t ask the right people. One person loved it, though – so that’s fine. I’m sure it’ll be OK. Sound familiar?

Faking it

One sure fire way to test your hypothesis is to get your customer to put their money where their mouth is. But how?

Back in the early days of the internet when online shopping was a novelty, a company called Zappos (a huge online shoe retailer, now owned by Amazon) wanted to prove that people would buy shoes online. They took pictures of shoes in random physical outlets and put the pictures on their website. Customers would either buy them or not – and those who did, proved the concept. A simple message would say ‘sorry this item is not in stock’ or a refund could be sent to the customer. This needn’t create a negative brand association, because you can create your ‘fake door’ under a different brand.

Have a think – have you ever seen an advert for something, gone to purchase it, only to find it’s not available? You may have been a victim of the Fake Door test.


A natural progression of this method is the Kickstarter model, where customers are asked to ‘pre-buy’ the item, de-risking the expenditure for the founder and creating a guaranteed market. You can do the same, and it needn’t be hosted on anyone else’s site – the principle is the same.

Over to you

See the extra reading links for more examples. Can you share your favourite example in the comments?

© University of York
This article is from the free online

Enterprise: Everybody’s Business

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now