With the Girl Scouts, cookie sales take a digital twist

ShopTalk Video: Girl Scout Cookie Sales Go Digital

Members of the Girl Scouts Hornets' Nest Council demonstrate Digital Cookie, an online-selling platform and mobile app for cookie sales.
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Members of the Girl Scouts Hornets' Nest Council demonstrate Digital Cookie, an online-selling platform and mobile app for cookie sales.

For 16-year-old Maddie Healy, selling Girl Scout cookies used to be all about ringing doorbells and filling in paper order forms.

While she still follows these traditional practices for selling those Thin Mints, Trefoils and other customer favorites, Girl Scouts of the USA has a new tech tool to build sales – and expand girls’ entrepreneurship skills, too.

It’s called Digital Cookie 2.0 – an online-selling platform to track customer orders and information, and a mobile app that handles credit card sales. That app is especially handy now for Healy and others with the local Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council, as troop members take to storefronts and retail centers on weekends during “cookie booth sales” happening through March 6.

Through this digital approach, girls are learning business lessons in e-commerce, marketing, customer outreach and budgeting. Cookie sales help troops pay for trips and service programs.

“It’s easier for me because I can see when new orders come in,” says Healy, a member of Troop 17509 and a student at Myers Park High School.

Niav Lorenzo, 10, of Troop 1999, clicked on a page displaying a graph of her 400-plus cookie sales – including boxes to an uncle in Detroit, who can have his boxes shipped. “It shows all of your progress,” Niav says.

Scouts say customer interaction is still personalized, through emails to customers, and an opening letter on girls’ Web pages explaining their sales goals.

“I can send them thank-you notes,” says Healy – or, business-savvy reminders:

“‘There’s still time to order cookies.’”

Prepping girls for tech jobs

It’s the Girl Scouts’ second year of using the platform, created through a collaboration with computer-technology company Dell and financial-services company Visa. Digital Cookie 2.0, which debuted in December, builds on the basic, earlier version by allowing girls to build pages, add video describing their goals, and send emails to customers inviting them to view their pages. Scouts under 13 are required to have a parent involved in the Web page and to approve orders.

There are also online games, videos and quizzes. Girls can earn a Digital Cookie badge.

Although local councils can decide whether to use the platform, its creators want those who do want to be involved to have access to the technology. Dell recently committed $2.5 million through 2018 to provide hundreds of thousands of girls access to the Digital Cookie program, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“By supporting Girl Scouts’ Digital Cookie program, we’re helping girls expand their existing cookie businesses and preparing them to be future female business leaders,” Trisa Thompson, vice president of corporate responsibility for Dell, said in an email to the Chicago Tribune.

“We need strong, smart, tech-savvy women in laboratories, startups, elected offices and boardrooms, and this is a great start for girls to learn exactly what they’re capable of.”

Locally, Girl Scout organizers are aiming for about 2 percent of their 13,000 girls to use the Digital Cookie platform. That would be a boost from last year’s 1 percent participation level, according to Colleen Young, vice president of brand marketing and product sales with the local Hornets’ Nest Council.

Door-to-door sales not going away

Last year, Girl Scouts sold 194 million boxes of cookies, the Chicago Tribune reported. Stewart Goodbody, director of communications at Girl Scouts of the USA, said 2.5 million boxes were sold through the digital platform, resulting in about $10 million in revenue, according to the Tribune.

Those numbers suggest that the traditional ways for scoring sales – from making the rounds in the neighborhood, at church or school, or parents’ workplace colleagues – aren’t going away. “I still think she’s learning more (going) door-to-door than with Digital Cookie,” such as learning social skills, says Kerrie Lorenzo, Niav’s mom and troop leader.

“A lot of teenagers don’t know how to talk to adults,” adds Ruth Healy, Maddie’s mom. “To be successful, you still have to be able to talk to folks.”

Still, the parents and Scouts say the digital sales platform helps girls build on some of the coding and Web design skills they’ve already learned through Scouting – all helpful for college, and possibly future careers.

The two sales styles “are merging very beautifully,” Maddie Healy says. “It’s very different from when I started out as a Girl Scout.”

The Chicago Tribune contributed.