Girls Scout Cookies go digital

Discussion
Dec 19, 2014

After nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts for the first time will be able to sell their famous cookies online. Starting in January, a new platform, "Digital Cookie," will allow Girl Scouts to sell cookies via a mobile app or a personal website.

On its website, Girl Scouts of the USA said that, far from abandoning door-to-door or sales from booths outside retailers, Digital Cookie "expands and enhances girls’ experience by giving them a fun new way to learn 21st century skills while providing another channel through which to sell cookies."

In particular, digital selling provides hands-on experience with online marketing, app use, website customization and e-commerce.

Overall, the digital component "strengthens" the five essential life skills Girl Scouts gain from the legendary cookie selling program: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

Sarah Angel-Johnson, who directs the digital cookie effort, told the New York Times, "Girls across the country now can use modern tools to expand the size and scope of their cookie business and learn vital entrepreneurial lessons in online marketing, application use and e-commerce."

Under the Digital Cookie platform, Girl Scouts invite customers to visit their personalized cookie websites via e-mail. Videos are encouraged as part of the selling process. Buyers have their order processed, paid for and confirmed at point of sale. Credit card payments are available for the first time. Also a first, shipments can be made directly to customers. Buyers still have an option for delivery from a Girl Scout.

In another digital option, in-person orders can now be taken using a mobile app. The new service is expected to increase what’s estimated to be the nearly $800 million in annual cookie sales.

The change came after numerous requests over the years and was partly delayed due to concerns over creating a "fair and equitable" way for girls to compete without parental meddling. Some parents have set up illegal e-commerce websites for their children. The widespread practice of having parents bringing order forms to work is also frowned upon.

Safety from cyber-bullying, predators and other web dangers was the other delay. Each Scout’s parent or guardian approves everything on a girl’s web page. While she feels adequate enough protections are in place, Krista Hicks, a parent of one girl scout from Mechanicsville, VA, told the Portland Press Herald she believes the experience still "gives them more education and chances for thought about what the dangers that are out there."

Do you think the move to e-commerce will alter the art of Girl Scout cookie selling for the better or worse? What “life skills” does digital selling offer for Girl Scouts versus the traditional selling model?

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20 Comments on "Girls Scout Cookies go digital"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Great for the girls who can use modern technology instead of the old order form. But if she doesn’t come to my door asking me to buy, I’m not buying. It’s the experience of dealing with the scout (and her dealing with me) that’s important—it’s not about the cookies (OK—it may be about the Thin Mints a little).

Bob Phibbs
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Increase personal skills? Sounds delusional. Selling cookies helped normalize young women to push them out of their comfort zone. I don’t see how going digital does anything but isolate them. My vote is this is a big mistake for their futures.

Dick Seesel
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Working in a large office for many years, I recall Girl Scouts’ moms and dads bringing sign-sheets and posting them on their office doors (or cubicle walls). They were enabling their daughters to drive more cookie sales without the sort of door-to-door personal interaction that the program was probably designed to encourage. But the problem with “door-to-door” is that it didn’t acknowledge the reality of dual-income families, fewer people at home and so forth.

You can argue that the sign-up sheets devalued the spirit of the program, but they probably generated more revenue (and funding for GSA) as a result. Taking the program “digital” is a further acknowledgement that people’s shopping habits continue to evolve, and that the skill sets worth developing in tomorrow’s women leaders are evolving too.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

My vote is bravo for the Girl Scouts! It should never be just about selling the cookies.

I agree with Stephen Needel. If the Girl Scouts are equipping young women for today’s society, organizing and customizing their own websites is a critical skill. The girl still must figure out how to get customers to come to her website—something many retailers are still trying to figure out!

It will be a very interesting life lesson for both the Girl Scout and her parents to see first-hand the pros and cons of trying to sell online versus selling in person.

Warren Thayer
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Anything that helps light the fire for a budding entrepreneur is fine in my book. I’m sure there will still be plenty of door-to-door, but I also believe this digital addition to the mix will help teach new, real-world skills. And it’ll no doubt ultimately make more money for the Girl Scouts. I’m in favor of that, too.

Tom Redd
Guest
7 years 5 months ago
BEING MY LAST—yes LAST RetailWire comment of the year (I hear the cheers) I need to be like I am known for—precise, accurate, smart, large-wordish, and (of course) like Al and the gang, “fun.” I am a Girl Scout Cookie FREAK! So going digital for me is good. For the obese and for the kids it is not much of an ADD in “life” or “life skills,” but for the girls that can be changed. Online or digital is the future of all retail—along with door-to-door and stores. There is a way for GSA to get the girls/leaders/management more involved in the overall business process of order management. In their groups and regionalizing the sites. AAA Services uses regionalization in their web addresses. GSA could use TROOP number look-up to regionalize the sites and let the kids build more of the site, monitor inbound orders and try canned ideas to improve regional sales. With websites this is all possible and not that complex. A few great software/hardware and consulting operations COULD join up with RetailWire… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

I like Girl Scout cookies, but I haven’t seen a Girl Scout at my door in 20 or 30 years. I have always bought my cookies at the office, from the mother or father. There aren’t may lessons in that.

Once upon a time, Girl Scouts went door-to-door and so did the Fuller Brush man. Times have changed and so should the “lessons.”

Ben Ball
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Today’s youth don’t need any more help developing their digital skills! (Who do you ask for help when you can’t get Netflix to stream to your HDTV via Chrome?)

What they are desperately lacking is personal interaction and people skills. This move will further isolate Girl Scouts from one of the few motivations they have to learn that. It’s an obvious no-brainer in terms of selling more cookies and doing it more conveniently for all. It’s a shame in terms of developing young girls into more complete people.

Bah! Humbug!

Zel Bianco
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

I think this is wonderful. While I hope girls continue to sell cookies in person, as that affords plenty of life skills in itself, the technical skills that can be learned are incredibly valuable now and will continue to become more valuable in the future.

Girl Scouts will still need to create a strategy to reach the most people, how to appeal to people and monitor money as they always have, but now they can be introduced to the basics of web design (is it too much to hope that when they customize their websites they will also get an introduction to HTML and CSS?) and web safety.

Ian Percy
Guest
7 years 5 months ago
Does anyone else feel that something has gone terribly wrong here? Error number one: We think it’s about the cookie. Wasn’t the whole idea to develop the relationship and business skills of our girls and to use the profits to enhance their development even more? The cookie is a good product but it’s just a product, a means to a greater end. If the goal is just to sell cookies, let corporate make a deal with Costco and be done with it. Error number two: A focus on digital selling makes this a largely mindless process. No need to relate to people, develop persuasive skills, be responsible, learn how to handle money or much of anything else. Nor will digital selling create a level playing field between privileged and not-so-privileged girls. Some rich kids will have their own webmaster. Error number three: Parents with no insight. Much of this “progress” was driven by parents thinking the cookie drive was their “business” rather than their daughter’s. If they could, some parents would run out on the… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Stephen Needel expressed my thoughts to the fullest. Including the Thin Mints. But the girls do not come to our door. We “visit” them at Publix.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
7 years 5 months ago
I watched the “parents and family” overview on the Girl Scout site. Without watching all the other videos and reviewing all the instructions my first impression is that the Girl Scouts have put in a huge effort preparing for this program. While I lament the decline in the personal selling experience the reality is that many of the offline sales are already being done by parents bringing a shopping list to their office. That may not be the intent but it has always been my experience. I think the emphasis on building individual websites and parent monitoring may be too focused on the individual. It seems that one of the things the cookie experience should develop is a sense of teamwork. Just as in real life, some individuals will enjoy the technology, some will enjoy the personal contact, and others will enjoy making sure everything gets done. I worry that the program not only further reduces the personal selling experience but that it also reduces the sense of teamwork. Quarterbacks need blocker and tacklers. Maybe… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

One of the reasons I buy Girl Scout Cookies is because the girls come to the house or office and sell to me. In the process they learn people skills. I have no problem with them showing me my selection on an iPad, smartphone or other device. I love that the app may allow the transactional part of the sale to go smoother. Let’s keep the tradition, but just bring it up-to-date. Bottom line, I hope the Girl Scouts don’t take the personal touch out of the process. Selling door-to-door is a life lesson. It creates confidence, polish and more.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Like many of us I find myself buying these cookies every year not just to support the girl scouts but because they taste so good. It all started before I was old enough to be a Boy Scout and it will continue for the rest of my life. The problem is sometimes finding the little storefront operations. Fewer and fewer companies have the inclination to support these types of organizations for more and more reasons. And then there is the issue of logistics in that many commercial areas are either remote or simply impractical for the temporary cookie and/or candy stores. E-commerce is not only a way to expand into impractical locations with potential but it can and will expand into new markets for this and other groups needing our continuing support. I just hope they don’t stop the little cookie stands that are fun to shop.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

I think this program presents some great opportunity for Girl Scouts to use their creativity and innovation to drive more sales. They can leverage proven strategies that much larger organizations have made successful, yet they can personalize their own presences for their audience. This is a good thing for consumers in this busy time, and takes the pressure off of both shy Girl Scouts approaching LIVE people, as well as shy customers who want to enjoy their products!

Lee Kent
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Kudos for the Girl Scouts to go digital but not so much to the ecommerce bit.

Selling Girl Scout Cookies is about exposing the girls to the art of selling. Yes, I know that a lot of selling takes place in ecommerce too, but hey, we all need to start with the basics of human contact.

You can’t build a great marketing campaign until you understand your customer…and that’s my 2 cents!

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Having the Girl Scouts selling their cookies over the internet is right on target. This is a learning lesson for today’s retail environment. Let’s just see how they solve the omni-channel issue of door to door vs. e-commerce sales. Who gets the credit for the sale? Maybe retailers can learn from this.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

It will be higher sales but the girls will lose the opportunity to learn and strengthen interpersonal skills. I have two young girls at home that can imagine, design, market and sell a product because of their girl scout experience.

I believe digital selling will not offer girls who are not already digital anything new—it will teach the parents a few things.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
7 years 5 months ago

Scouting has always been about life skills and leadership. The move to digital doesn’t change or mitigate their mission—it reinforces it.

I can imagine a backroom where the Girl Scouts are teaching the GS executives and their own parents how it’s done. Bravo for moving into the real world.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
7 years 5 months ago

When I saw this idea, I thought it was great.

Ralph Jacobsen said it better than I could: ” … this program presents some great opportunity for Girl Scouts to use their creativity and innovation to drive more sales …” (and I add, as well as develop more skills and affinity for how the internet works—something that will never diminish).

Ralph said, “They can leverage proven strategies that much larger organizations have made successful, yet they can personalize their own presences for their audience.” Also true.

I also wondered how this program can deal with the possibilities of cyber-bullying, predators and other web dangers. Will the Girl Scouts be delivering to people they don’t know, but who found them on the internet?

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