After almost 100 years of selling through traditional, in-person methods, the Girl Scouts of the USA are going digital for their famous annual cookie campaign.

The Girl Scouts’ new platform, Digital Cookie, supports both web and app-based sales. Scouts can take orders, process credit cards, and track sales on the mobile and tablet app, or sell cookies online through a customized, private web page they distribute to potential customers via email.

To protect the privacy of the scouts, the pages are only accessible if you receive a private link directly from the scout, and all content on the page — including personalized video sales pitches — must be approved by a parent.

The digital upgrade is good news for customers too; cookies ordered through Digital Cookie can be shipped directly to your doorstep.

According to Kelly Parisi, Chief Communications Executive for Girl Scouts of the USA, the transition to digital sales was a no brainer.

“We are girl-led and girl-driven. We go where girls are, and girls are digital natives,” she said. “The digital component will enhance the sales, and the byproduct will be a larger social imprint from the girls.”

The organization spent three years developing and testing the digital platform to ensure it was safe, scalable, and smart, while still promoting the tenets of education and entrepreneurship that have been core to the program since its inception. Digital Cookie will empower scouts to develop new skills in e-commerce, digital marketing, and mobile application use, but the platform is meant to supplement, not replace, traditional methods like door-to-door sales or stands set up outside of supermarkets.

By reaching more customers and making it easier to complete a transaction, the Girls Scouts of the USA are expecting the expansion into digital to drive a significant increase in the already enormous haul from cookie sales: an estimated $800 million a year.

The Girl Scouts’ announcement contributes to the gargantuan trend of traditional retailers expanding their own e-commerce platforms to respond to evolving consumer needs. And digital retail is still growing exponentially: Black Friday 2014 online sales increased 20.6% over Black Friday 2013, even though total sales for the day dropped 5.2% from last year.

But for both e-commerce giants and digital newcomers, there’s still room for improvement. With 80% of the online population making digital purchases, a strong e-commerce presence is no longer optional. And though mobile sales are estimated to have grown 74% in 2014, only 25% of respondents in a recent consumer survey said they had downloaded and were satisfied with a retail app.

Traditional retailers should follow the Girl Scout model by developing a robust, omni-channel e-commerce platform that leverages digital to expand reach and simplify support for consumer needs. Keep it safe, scalable, and smart, and your customers will follow.

(Originally Published on the Centric Digital blog // December 1, 2014)