With Digital Cookie, Girl Scouts USA Takes Online Cookie Sales National

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Girl Scouts, one of the oldest and largest global communities for girls, has completed a tech overhaul that lets its U.S. troops enter the age of e-commerce.

Arguably, “the number one reason that people don’t buy Girl Scout cookies isn’t because they’re not craving a Thin Mint or a Samoa. It’s because they don’t know a Girl Scout,” Fast Company reports. The wait is over: Girl Scouts USA is launching a national online cookie-selling platform.

The Digital Cookie e-commerce program lets scouts set up their own sales pages to take online orders for direct customer-shipping, and uses the existing Girl Scout Cookie Finder app to process orders on mobile devices.[more]

As the Digital Cookie website notes, the goal isn’t just to make cookie sale fundraising more efficient and convenient—it fulfills the organization’s mission to empower girls:

“Digital Cookie helps take the five essential life skills girls learn through the traditional cookie program to a whole new level—introducing critical lessons about online marketing, application use, and ecommerce to more than one million excited Girl Scouts, in real-time.”

Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez calls it a multi-year “tech renaissance” for the 100-year-old organization. Or, as Fast Company puts it, the push is “really a case study… of how to take a century-old iconic brand and make it relevant and customer-focused while maintaining traditional values.”

Despite a decline in membership for the past ten years, there is still a waiting list of 30,000 girls eager to become Scouts. The challenge isn’t finding interested girls, but adult volunteers, with a scarcity of troop leaders and supporters inspiring the national organization to simply the onboarding process from two months to 70 minutes.

Another hurdle is how to maintain security and privacy for kids entering the unruly world of social media as the Scouts solicit customers via email or Facebook to visit their websites. The solution: Every Scout’s parent or guardian must approve everything on a girl’s web page, and girls under 13 must use an anonymous designation.

“A lot of people have asked, ‘What took you so long to get online?’ We spend a lot of time thinking how do we make this safe, scalable and smart,” said Kelly M. Parisi, chief communications executive for Girl Scouts USA.

The Girl Scouts has refreshed its look in recent years, introducing a new look and logo in 2010 and redesigning its cookie box in 2012, the year the organization turned 100, along with a refreshed voice and messaging platform in the last year.

Earlier steps at the local level towards national digital sales include the Cookie Club, a password-protected website for sending e-cards and taking pledges to buy cookies. Payment and sales were still done old-school, face-to-face, however.

By 2013, National Girl Scout Cookie Day, the organization’s annual fundraising push, had its own iPhone and Android apps to help locate sellers, a dedicated blog, a one-day contest on Facebook and a Twitter hashtag: #onemorebox.

“Girls have been telling us that they want to go into this space,” said Sarah Angel-Johnson, chief Digital Cookie executive. “Online is where entrepreneurship is going.”

The cookies sell for about $4 a box on average, while the Digital Cookie initiative requires an investment of more than $15 million for the first few years. But as Chavez told Fast Company, “This is not just a technology solution. It’s a new business model for our movement.”

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