Are you a Samoas or a Do-si-dos person? Do you prefer Trefoils or Tagalongs? Or maybe you're all about the classic Thin Mints. Whatever you like, the classic Girl Scout cookies will now be available online.
For the first time, the 100-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA is selling its snack merchandise through personalized websites and mobile apps. While the old-fashioned, in-person sales will not go away, the organization says the new program, called "Digital Cookie," will teach girls lessons in online marketing and app usage that are important to 21st-century salesmanship.
"For almost a century, the Girl Scout Cookie Program has been teaching girls to be leaders in the world of business and finance, and we intend to ensure that legacy continues in the digital age," Anna Maria Chávez, chief executive officer of GSUSA, said in a statement. "Digital Cookie is a game-changer for Girl Scouts, and a quantum leap forward in the evolution of the cookie program, coupling traditional sales activities with an online sales experience that teaches skills like online marketing and commerce, all in a digital space that puts an emphasis on learning, fun, and safety. If you buy Girl Scout Cookies online this year, you could be helping to prepare the next female leader of a global tech giant who changes our world forever."
Girls will now be able to set up personalized websites, inviting customers to shop via e-mail, pay with a credit card, and have cookie boxes shipped directly to their home. Girls can post videos online explaining who they are and what they plan to do with the money raised. Alternatively, other girls will make sales through a mobile app for smartphones or tablets that allows for sales tracking and for the sale of bundles of different kinds of cookies.
But safety is a top priority, especially seeing as many scout parents have expressed unease at their children embarking on a form of Internet entrepreneurship. All sales must be approved by a parent or caregiver. Girls use only their first names on their web pages. And clients' personal information is protected, in some cases relying on encryption.
In addition to adapting a longstanding tradition to the modern business landscape, the scouts appear to also have the interests of customers in mind with the new move – specifically, customers who have trouble locating the cookies they love between January and April, the typical selling season for the Scouts.
"The No. 1 reason people say they don't buy our cookies is they couldn't find a Girl Scout," said Kelly Parisi, chief communications director of Girl Scouts of America, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. "We needed a new way to approach the consumer."
And since Digital Cookie will sync with Facebook, it's likely people will have people in their friend circle with a Girl Scout cookie connection. Translation: you'll probably be able to find a way to buy Thin Mints this year. Online sales also give the Scouts the ability to ship cookies anywhere in the world, according to Bloomberg, which notes the importance of cookie sales at a time of declining membership in the organization and a multimillion-dollar pension deficit.
The organization expects more than 1 million scouts to begin selling online, bolstering the scouts' estimated $800 million in annual sales. Girl Scout cookies routinely dominate cookie sales in the first quarter of each year, before disappearing come March. In 2013, for example, the scouts' sales amounted to $785 million, making them the third best-selling cookie in the industry.
All proceeds from the digital sales will stay with the Girl Scout council that sponsors the sale. Girls decide the best uses for the money and reinvest it in their communities through service projects and learning experiences that include travel.
"As a result, customers who purchase Girl Scout cookies are not only getting a delicious treat – they are also making an important investment in their communities," a news release states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.