A key figure at Amazon has put the online retail giant’s success down to its willingness to experiment – and to fail.

Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for global innovation policy and communications, cited the examples of early eBay competitor Amazon.com Auctions and zShops, an earlier service which allowed anyone to sell goods through its website.

He said in his keynote speech at the Retail Week conference in London that elements of these experiments fed into what everyone now knows as Amazon Marketplace 

"It's okay to be wrong, it's okay to make mistakes — it's okay to fail," Misener said. "The key … is the importance of failure in any sort of innovation.

"At Amazon, we have a lot of experience with failure. We have failed many times — some very public, colossal ones, some private. But we are failing and we will continue to fail. Many times we will fail going forward – I'm confident of that.

"It turns out now that fully half of the things sold on Amazon are not sold by Amazon but through other partners. It's introduced a new class of customer for Amazon – the seller customer.

"It was this willingness to fail and trying to get things right eventually finally that led us to this very beneficial way of doing business.

"The whole idea is this: if you really want to be innovative, you have to experiment. If you know the outcome of what you're going to do, it's not an experiment. It's more like a demonstration.

"If you're not willing to experiment you'll never actually innovate and if you want to experiment you have to be able to fail — in fact you should try to fail so that it fails quietly, not loudly externally.

"This willingness to fail, it's a big deal. I get that that's hard to adopt because you've got all sorts of people — maybe your boss, maybe an investor, maybe the press — looking for failures.

“That's not a very fun thing to go through. No one likes to fail.

“But if you accept that failure is necessary for innovation, it's actually quite important and it becomes a lot easier to deal with."