toms marketplace imgThis week, shoe retailer, Toms, took their one to one donation model to the next level by launching Tom’s Marketplace. This online store is designed to help other businesses who have a mission of improving peoples’ lives. It features over 200 products from 30 different companies and charities.

Besides the obvious benefit it provides by highlighting those companies that give back, I found their take on product recommendations really interesting. Instead of recommending items based on its relationship to the product the consumer is looking at, they take into account the consumer’s social values and concerns as well.

shop by causeIn the marketplace, a user can shop by cause, type of item, region or brand. However, what I found compelling was the implications for recommendations on other sites. As a regular online shopper myself, I would like to know which products come from companies with a social purpose.

Social Purpose for Onsite Recommendations

If I am on the Nordstrom website, looking at down vests, I might we swayed to buy Patagonia over Burberry if the recommendations included a symbol or information that described their social responsibility programs. The same might be true for everyday product purchases on Amazon or Safeway.com. I might choose to purchase more environmentally friendly dish soap if it were included in my recommendations and highlighted with a green or recycled material symbol. In the future I think recommendations can be used to not only help consumers find personalized relevant products but also to improve the world around us by supporting socially responsible companies.