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ARTICLE InspirationSeptember 24, 2015

Five TED Talks for every e-commerce professional


Do you need some inspiration to help take your online business to the next level? These five talks from some of the biggest names in e-commerce and business provide plenty of inspiring ideas and examples of innovation. Plus, they should also inject some fun into your work day.

TED Talks launched in 2006, broadcasting short talks (less than 20 minutes) from some of the world’s greatest thinkers to a global audience. In 2012, TED Talks celebrated its one-billionth video view, and it continues to provide a global platform for leaders and innovators to spread their ideas and messages and for its audience to access those ideas for free.

We have rounded up five of the best talks for e-commerce retailers to listen to – from online trailblazers, marketing masterminds and business gurus. 

1. Jeff Bezos: What matters more than your talents (596,200 views)

Bezos is as close to a rock star as you get in the world of e-commerce. He launched Amazon, the world’s largest e-tailer, in 1994 and went on to turn the online shopping sector into a multi-billion dollar, global industry.

In this 2010 address at a Princeton University graduation, Bezos argues that an individual’s character is reflected in the choices they make over the course of a lifetime, rather than in the gifts or talents they are born with.

He also details why he decided to leap into online retailing. “I got the idea to start Amazon 16 years ago. I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 per cent per year; I had never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast. The idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles – something that couldn’t exist in the physical world – was very exciting to me.”

He goes on to explain how he found the courage to leap into e-commerce, without any guarantee that his gamble would pay off and reap the sort of rewards his career has brought him. Watch the full talk now. 

2. Mick Mountz: What happens in those massive warehouses? (212,900 views)

Mountz founded Kiva Systems, which revolutionised the productivity of workers in e-commerce warehouses by building robots to help them pack and ship inventory. Amazon bought Kiva Systems in 2012 for over $700 million. In this 2011 TEDxBoston talk, Mountz explains what exactly is happening with all those robots that scoot around in massive warehouses.

His fascinating talk details how “pick workers” in inventory warehouses used to spend about 60 to 70 per cent of their day wandering around warehouses looking for different products, often walking as much as 10 miles (16 kilometres) in the process. He thought that the process would work better if the products came to the workers, instead of the other way around, so the idea of using robots in warehouses was born.

“I wanted to make the pick worker the centre of the problem and to provide them with the tools to solve it,” explains Mountz.

He says introducing robots and mobile shelving into warehouses also ushered in parallel processing in a number of other areas of warehousing and has made warehouses a more interesting and enjoyable environment for workers. Watch the full talk now.

3. Debbie Sterling: Inspiring the next generation of female engineers (320,000 views)

Sterling, a Stanford-qualified engineer, founded GoldieBlox in 2012, which is aimed at inspiring girls to explore careers in engineering, technology and design. GoldieBlox now retails through its own e-commerce store, plus its products are stocked by some of the biggest retailers, including Toys“R”Us.

Sterling’s determination to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths led her down a route of toy design – and ultimately online retailing.

In this 2013 TEDxPSU talk, Sterling charts her journey from an undergraduate engineering student – when she didn’t even know what engineering was – to becoming inspired to build a toy for girls that would encourage them to build and create, while also telling them a story.

Sterling went on to build a prototype and despite a number of setbacks, she eventually put it on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, with the aim of raising $150,000 over 30 days to fund an initial production run of 5,000 toys. Sterling hit her goal within four days and went on to order 120,000 toys from the factory.

“Within days, I had stores calling from all over the world,” she recalls. “Engineering is for people; we are designing things for people. Our toys are now hitting the doorsteps of thousands of girls around the world.” Watch the full talk now.

4. Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man (2.4 million views)

Sutherland is the Vice-Chairman of one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, Ogilvy & Mather, and is a regular contributor on the subject of media to a number of international publications.

In this fascinating and often hilarious TEDGlobal 2009 talk, he examines why intangible value can influence opinion and purchasing decisions. Sutherland explains how value is usually relative and when it comes to humans, persuading them to do something is usually more effective than trying to force them into a particular behaviour.

Online retailers can learn from Sutherland’s insights into how and why people place a value on a product or service, which he highlights by using the example of the relaunch of the Shreddies cereal brand in Canada. Watch the full talk now.

5. Cameron Herold: Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs (1.3 million views)

Herold is an entrepreneur who was instrumental in turning 1-800-GOT-JUNK in the US into a multi-million-dollar company. In addition, he has founded and led multiple companies and now coaches CEOs around the world.

In this 2010 TEDxEdmonton talk, Herold argues that parents and educators should be helping children to grow up with a passion for entrepreneurship.

“If we could get kids to embrace entrepreneurship at an early age, we could solve so many of the world’s problems,” he says.

He cites his experience growing up in an entrepreneurial family and offers ideas and strategies for parents who want to instil entrepreneurial habits in their children, including banning pocket money. “I teach my kids to look for things that need to be done around the house and then we negotiate on what they will get paid,” he says. Watch the full talk now. 

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