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4 TED Talks For Understanding Consumer Decisions

Who doesn’t love a good TED Talk? They’re super informative, they focus on big ideas, and the best ones can completely change the way you think about doing business.

Although there are a plethora of TED Talks specifically focused on consumer behavior and how it has larger ramifications for your ecommerce marketing strategy, we’ve chosen to highlight our top four favorites. Each provides an exhaustive overview of just how crucial it is to get into the minds of your customers and understand how they think. Some even delve into the science behind why the human brain is wired to make certain decisions with regards to buying behavior (don’t worry—it never gets too nerdy).

Without a proper understanding of why consumers make certain decisions, you’re playing a dangerous guessing game that will undoubtedly cost you precious time, money, and frustration.

Thankfully, the particular insights explored in each of these TED Talks will help inform how you think about your ecommerce customers. From there, armed with the confidence you need to make accurate decisions about your customers’ mindsets, you can integrate these ideas into all of your marketing,

1. Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice


In this first TED talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz examines the concept of freedom of choice. It’s a fascinating examination of what happens when having free rein to choose doesn’t necessarily result in increased happiness.

According to Schwartz, when consumers are given too many options to choose from, choice overload kicks in. Because of this, consumers don’t necessarily feel freer or more liberated. Instead, they become paralyzed and anxiety-ridden.

For marketers, this TED Talk serves as a crucial reminder that including a large number of options doesn’t always equal more satisfied customers. In fact, offering fewer choices actually makes the process of choosing a lot easier.

Key takeaway: “With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all. It’s very easy to imagine you could have made a different choice that would have been better. And what happens is this imagined alternative induces you to regret the decision you made, and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction you get out of the decision you made, even if it was a good decision. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.”

2. Dan Ariely: Are We In Control of Our Own Decisions?


Up next, our second recommended TED Talk comes from Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and author of the hugely popular Predictably Irrational. In his talk, Ariely chats in-depth about his research on decision-making—specifically, the idea that people aren’t nearly as rational as they think they are when making decisions.

Through occasionally unorthodox experimentation, Ariely looks into the irrationality that lurks behind many judgments and decisions. It’s a refreshing topic that’s seldom talked about, as Ariely expertly sheds light on the notion regarding why we don’t always behave with perfect logic and reason.

Key takeaway: “When we think about economics, we have this beautiful view of human nature. ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!’ We have this few of ourselves, of others. The behavioral economics perspective is slightly less ‘generous’ to people; in fact, in medical terms, that’s our view.”

3. Sheena Iyengar: The Art of Choosing


After writing The Art of Choosing, Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar took to the TED Talk stage to discuss why people thrive on the power to choose. After honing in on that power, Iyengar then transitions into her own tips for improving the decision-making process.

Like Schwartz, Iyengar points out that when people are given too many options, their decision-making skills suffer. Yet in spite of this paradox, Iyengar ponders why so many people continue to assert their autonomy in making their own choices. There’s lots to unpack here, so we’re guessing this is one you’ll be coming back to.

Key takeaway: “Though all humans share a basic need and a desire for choice, we don’t all see choice in the same places or to the same extent. When someone can’t see how one’s choice is unlike another, or when there are too many choices to compare and contrast, the process of choosing can be confusing and frustrating. Instead of making better choices, we become overwhelmed by choice, sometimes even afraid of it. Choice no longer offers opportunities, but imposes constraints.”

4. Joseph Pine: What Consumers Want


What do consumers want? Authentic experiences, according to writer and business coach Joseph Pine. Author of Mass Customization, Pine states that while all customers want to feel like they’re buying authentic products (and that they tend to rank experiences by how genuine they feel), it’s a tough sell. This is largely due to Pine’s belief that there’s no such thing as “authenticity” in the commerce world. He even argues that because authenticity is an internal feeling, every human experience is, in some way, authentic.

Pine describes the push for authenticity as the “experience economy.” It’s an idea that’s becoming all the more prevalent in an age where passing fads and impersonal interactions threaten to dilute customer relationships with brands.

Key takeaway:  “With the experience economy, it’s about rendering authenticity. . . . Rendering, because you have to get your consumers—as business people—to perceive your offerings as authentic. Because there is a basic paradox: no one can have an inauthentic experience, but no business can supply one.”

Learn How to Build a Great Customer Experience

Now that you’ve made it through all four videos, we hope they introduced you to some brilliant thinkers, scientists, psychologists, and professors. But more than that, we trust the takeaways from each video will impact the way you view consumer behavior in the larger context of the world of ecommerce marketing.

With these innovative TED Talks in mind, you’re ready to start thinking more strategically about consumer behavior as it relates to your own ecommerce marketing strategy. Hopefully, you can start building a fantastic customer experience with these behaviors in mind.

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