Girl Scouts rolls out digital cookie format, new cookies

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 170 views 

America's beloved Girl Scout cookies are entering a new age, as the organization announces that troops will now offer online sales through its Digital Cookie platform. The new ordering option will give scouts the chance to learn a number of important 21st century skills, while also giving faraway family and friends the chance to support their favorite Girl Scouts through cookie purchases.

The Digital Cookie Platform is a program that has long been in the making. It comes at the request of troops across the country, who have sought more efficient ways to market their cookies sales and expand their customer base.

"This is something that troops have been asking for, for a long time," said Jennifer Morehead, chief external relations officer of Girls Scouts-Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. "Girls today are online. … It is largely how they communicate. Now they will have the ability to sell, market, and communicate their cookie efforts in their element."

So how does it work? The primary element of cookie sales remains the same. Scouts make the initial ask, with the option to market their online cookie business by encouraging customers to visit their personalized, protected cookie websites through an email link. A unique mobile app will also be available to some, for in-person orders. The new platform will allow Girl Scouts the opportunity to use e-marketing to invite customers to their site to make purchases.

Once a sale is in place, customers will have the option of paying for their orders through the site with a credit card. They can choose between having their cookies shipped directly to them or, for those living nearby, they can opt to have a Girl Scout personally deliver their order. Customers will also have the ability to donate an order to the local Girl Scout council's chosen charity.

Skeptics of the modern model need not worry, as the traditional face-to-face sales method isn't going anywhere. Scouts will continue direct sales through personal asks of family, friends, neighbors, and more. Booths and roadside cookies stands will also pop up, as troops seek to drive up their sales in the weeks following the initial treat order.

"The primary thing people should know is that the overall cookies sales process won't change  a lot for troops," said Morehead. "The online capability simply adds a new layer to it. Families separated by distance can benefit from online sales. A Girl Scout here in Arkansas may have grandparents in Florida. Now, those grandparents can support their granddaughter's cookie efforts by simply going to her troop's site and ordering. It makes that aspect simpler."

Amber Bryant, leader of Van Buren-based troops #4358 and #4280, and mother to Girl Scouts Sarah, 12, and Hannah, 8, said online sales will streamline the process.

"One benefit of the online cookies sales will be that cookies are sent straight to the person ordering them," said Bryant. "In the past, Girl Scouts may have had family members in another city or state order them, but they had to handle the shipping of the boxes after they arrived. This will cut down on that step and eliminate a lot of time scouts have to spend packing and shipping boxes at the Post Office."

The Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas Council also stresses that proceeds from all cookie sales, both direct and online, will continue to support local troop efforts.

"As with the traditional cookie program, the net revenue earned from the cookie sale will remain with the Girl Scout council that sponsors the sale. Girls decide how to spend their troop cookie money and reinvest it back into their neighborhoods through community service projects and learning experiences, like travel opportunities.”

In addition to supporting overall troop sales, the digital cookie platform is designed to build 21st century skills, essential to the success of any Girl Scout.

"The revolutionary addition to the Girl Scout Cookie Program will enhance and expand the program’s ability to teach girls new skills for business and life," explained the Diamonds Council. "The groundbreaking platform will expand the iconic cookie program by adding a digital layer that broadens and strengthens the essential 5 Skills girls learn in the traditional cookie program, including goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. The future of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Digital Cookie will introduce vital 21st century lessons about online marketing, application use, and e-commerce to more than 1 million excited Girl Scouts."

For many scouts, the online platform is simply taking their online marketing efforts to the next level.

"Our girls have been doing online marketing for a while now, using tools such as Facebook to advertise their cookies," said Bryant. "I know my own daughters have taken pictures of the cookies and such, and posted on my personal Facebook page during cookie time to ask for sales. This will just build on all of that."

Girl Scouts will have the opportunity to earn additional badges for the skills they gain learning to market online. Such skills will prove useful in a world that continues to become even more technology-centered, giving Scouts an edge in business, science, and other fields.

"Digital Cookie tailors the traditional Girl Scout Cookie Program to fit the modern world, helping give more girls an important foundation in technology," noted the Diamonds Council. "It also gives customers a new way to help girls learn 21st century skills that dovetail with traditional door-to-door and booth sales to combine customer relationship and interpersonal skills with e-commerce training."

The Girl Scouts organization expects the  launch of the Digital Cookie program to be the first phase of a long-term program that will develop further over time. According to the Diamonds Council, future versions "will create better user experiences for girls and customers alike and a more robust customer interface." While the majority of the 112 Girl Scout councils nationwide will participate in Digital Cookie in the 2014–2015 cookie season, some councils will come on board later in 2015, using an updated version 2.0.

Girl Scouts-Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, which includes all troops in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith region, will begin using the platform at the start of its cookie-selling season on Jan. 10, 2015.

The 2015 cookies season will prove to be a big one for Girl Scouts. In addition to the announcement of the Digital Cookie platform, the organization will introduce new cookie varieties, including two delicious gluten-free options.

Rah-Rah Raisin, an oatmeal cookie packed with plump raisins and Greek yogurt bites, will be offered along with classics such as the Tagalong, Trefoil and iconic Thin Mint flavors.

Customers looking for a gluten-free variety will have much to celebrate as Girls Scouts rolls out the Toffee-Tastic and Trios flavors. Toffee-Tastic, which will be offered in the Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas Council area, is a buttery cookie with sweet, crunchy golden toffee bits. The Trios flavor is made of oatmeal and peanut butter, with chocolate chips. It will only be offered in select test markets.

Cookie prices will also increase from $3.50 to $4 per box.

Samoas, one of the best-selling Girl Scout cookies, will mark a major milestone in 2015. The always-popular caramel and toasted coconut-covered cookie, will turn 40 and will celebrate with an online birthday bash hosted by Girl Scouts in January.