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Girl Scout Cookies online: Good for business and better for girls?

This year, the organization is 'doubling down' on tech, according to its CEO, and bringing on investors like Dell and Visa.

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    In this Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 file photo, girls listen during the Girl Scout Troop 582's cookie training session at Beach Vineyard Church in Panama City Beach, Fla. As the Girl Scouts' membership continues a sharp decline, its leaders are betting on technology to reverse the trend, including a major expansion of its year-old program enabling Girl Scout cookies to be sold via mobile apps and the girls’ personalized websites.
    Heather Leiphart/The Panama City News Herald/AP
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It's that time of year again, when New Year's dieting resolutions are challenged by Girl Scout Cookies sales. And for a second year, a box of Thin Mints is as easy to buy as the click of a mouse.

The Girl Scouts of the USA took their iconic cookie sales drive online for the first time last year. Out of the 194 million boxes sold in 2015, about 2.5 million boxes, equalling $10 million worth of Girl Scout cookies, were sold online, according to the organization.

This year, the organization is "doubling down" on tech, according to its CEO, and bringing investors onboard.

Recommended: STEM Heroines: Math role models for girls

Visa and Dell have provided an estimated $3 million to expand the online and app platforms to help the Girl Scouts sell more cookies and, in the process, learn about math and technology, The New York Times reports. The investment has gone toward adding games, videos, quizzes, and music to the 'Digital Cookie' platform, as well as to giving workshops about math and technology, part of the software and financial services companies’ motivation to get more women in the technology industry, according to the Times.

The expansion of its online presence comes at a critical time for the Girl Scouts. Membership, as well as cookie sales, are both in decline.

About 1.88 million girls are members now, a 6.2 percent dip from last year, and a drop from 2.1 million three years ago, the Times reports.

Tracking with the decline in scouts, cookie sales have dropped over the past several years as well. Last year, the organization sold 194 million boxes (about $776 million in sales), including both online and in-person sales, but that was 1 million fewer boxes than in 2014.

Anna Maria Chávez, chief executive of the Girl Scouts, said that technology is vital to the organization’s future, in an interview with the Times.

“We are doubling down on technology,” Ms. Chávez said. “More digital features will encourage more girls to participate in online cookie sales, and we are introducing online tools to make it easier and faster to recruit scouts and adults, including simplifying the process to become a girl scout.”

Known as Digital Cookie, the organization says the initiative isn’t only about pushing more Thin Mints, but about teaching girls more about modern technology and entrepreneurship. While scouts can still knock on doors and sell cookies outside of grocery stores, they can also set up their own websites and send e-mail blasts to their contacts, who can then place their online orders via Visa Checkout. This year, the Girl Scouts will have access to analytics tools, as well as games to bolster tech skills and teach business principles, Fortune reports.

There are ample opportunities for the next generation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. A report by the US Department of Commerce in 2013 found that only 24 percent of jobs in STEM disciplines are held by women. But women's earning potential in such high-growth fields is, on average, about 33 percent more.

“Girl Scouts is creating the next set of entrepreneurs. We want to help equip the work force of tomorrow,” Trisa Thompson, the Dell's vice president for corporate responsibility told The New York Times. “If you catch girls young enough, you can spark the fire.”

[Editor's note: The original post incorrectly identified the source of the last quote.]

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