TOMS Offers a Different Way to Shop

Nov 06, 2013

TOMS, the company that gives one pair of shoes away for every pair purchased, has broadened its horizons. The company has found like-minded companies to participate in an online marketplace.

"When we started seven years ago, we basically created the one-for-one model," TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie told VentureBeat. "People thought it was stupid and crazy, but since then we have sold 10 million shoes and seen social entrepreneurship growing as a movement. But there is still no centralized place for consumers to shop for products with purpose behind them."

A message on The Marketplace home page reads: "We believe commerce can be about more than just profits. But it takes more than belief to make this a reality. So we’re giving other social entrepreneurs a platform right here on our site to help them succeed. Introducing The Marketplace, a new destination for making a difference."

Companies participating in The Marketplace, according to TOMS, are "social entrepreneurs" offering products in a wide variety of categories including accessories, bags, clothing, home goods, jewelry, sports equipment, tech and more. Thirty different brands are offering 200 products for sale on the site.

[Image: TOMS Marketplace]

Shoppers can go on The Marketplace and read about participating companies and watch videos before deciding which sellers to support. The search function enables shoppers to find items by brand, product category, region of the world, and social cause.

Are consumers looking for a different way to shop a la TOMS Marketplace? Will social entrepreneurship become more or less prominent in the coming years as younger generations start retail and consumer brand businesses?

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12 Comments on "TOMS Offers a Different Way to Shop"

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Debbie Hauss

I believe consumers will continue to be drawn to different and innovative ways to shop. Socially conscious, environmentally friendly and charitable causes in particular will continue to grow in popularity. The new AmazonSmile program is one example of a creative way to make shoppers feel good about their purchases.

Joan Treistman

Just the other day we commented on AmazonSmile. TOMS is offering something similar. We’ve seen people respond with money, goods, and services during times of crisis. With heightened awareness of the ongoing need for intervention and support in the US and globally, consumers will appreciate the opportunity to contribute and direct their shopping dollars for good causes. And I do believe that social entrepreneurship will become more prominent because social media will allow it to get the attention of those who wish to support the effort.

Jeff Hall

TOMS is at the forefront of the social entrepreneurship movement, and I believe this new marketplace is one example of how such purpose-driven brands are exploring win-win synergies, for consumers attracted to their mission, as well as their own visibility and growth. We are starting to see an evolution from social cause marketing, such as Gap’s (RED) campaign, to social cause brand building.

Max Goldberg

TOMS Marketplace is a great idea. Consumers, particularly Millennials, are looking for ways to do good. By creating the Marketplace, TOMS is providing one stop shopping in a number of categories. This should increase overall traffic and sales.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
3 years 11 months ago

Consumers are looking for something perceivably better than what exists today. They also like game playing and going on retail scavenger hunts. Combine these factors with the growth in texting and it is predictable that more retail and consumer brand businesses will emerge.

Ed Rosenbaum

TOMS Marketplace and similar sites will become more prominent in the years ahead as the Millennials become the dominant online shopping group. Yet another group showing us older folks a new way to shop.

Ken Lonyai

Really cool idea! It’s great to see a formal expansion of the model TOMS created. Definitely this form of entrepreneurship will grow and have a more meaningful place in the hearts of younger shoppers that have grown up in the age where everyone gets a soccer trophy.

In terms of retail and brands, the one-for-one business model is only sustainable with limited products in limited markets. For example: Manolo Blahnik would be hard pressed to make the concept work. Other less generous social entrepreneurship models may work too, but I’m doubtful this form of business will ever reach even one percent of market share.

Gene Detroyer

I teach Entrepreneurship and I am still not sure I understand “Social Entrepreneurship.” But, when the business schools at Harvard, Columbia Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, et al offer majors in Social Entrepreneurship, things are changing.

While TOMS may be tapping a niche today, it is a niche that is going to grow as demographics change. Today’s young people are different and different in a very good way. They care about the world. They are global thinkers.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

Full disclosure upfront, I have a daughter who worked for TOMS for a number of years. I am a HUGE fan of TOMS, not just because of my daughter, but because of their integrated business and marketing model.

TOMS has spent virtually nothing on traditional marketing and advertising. Through their one for one model, they built their brand through word of mouth marketing by appealing to social values. The approach works particularly well with Millennials who are much more social value conscious. But TOMS is also generating substantial sales in traditional high-end department stores where Gen X and Boomers shop.

As Ken Lonyai points out, the true one for one business model will not work for many established brands. Blake Mycoskie literally built TOMS from the ground up based upon the model of giving away a pair of shoes for each one sold. You have to design and source products in ways to achieve that.

TOMS has moved from just shoes to eyeglasses. So the one to one model will scale. It’s great to see TOMS Marketplace is creating a Launchpad and marketing for others to build upon social entrepreneurship.

Martin Mehalchin

TOMS Marketplace and AmazonSmile in the same week confirms this as a trend to watch. TOMS is definitely more “all in” on doing well by doing good than Amazon is. Smile is a program at Amazon, while TOMS and many of its Marketplace companies are built around social entrepreneurship.

Retailers who are not doing this yet should be actively looking into how they can build civic or non-profit causes into how they do business.

W. Frank Dell II

Social-minded enterprises are not new. Ben & Jerry’s set a new standard by contracting with local suppliers and giving away a percentage of their profits. Enterprises with a social mind will grow in numbers, but not necessarily market share. Consumers will support some causes, more so when there is a personal attachment. One needs to think of this as an alternative to charitable fundraising. But the key is the consumer must get product value.

Eric Chester
Eric Chester
3 years 11 months ago

While boomers continue to search for the best deals and best personal service, Millennials are going out of their way to patronize retailers who are practicing conscious capitalism. That isn’t to say that they, too, aren’t looking for good deals, but if a product is competitively priced and is committed to a worthy social cause (like TOMS) they will get behind them, be loyal consumers, and become advocates for the brand by spreading the news far and wide.


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