What the IA Channel Can Learn from Girl Scout Cookies

While the news may not rival Neil Armstrong’s “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a sea level change has occurred that should give all independent insurance agents pause to contemplate the ramifications.

This week, the Girl Scouts of America announced a new digital platform—Digital Cookie—that will allow Girl Scouts to sell cookies over the Internet. The platform is not a direct distribution initiative—sales must originate from a Girl Scout, and not all Girl Scouts will have access to it. The structure of the Girl Scouts involves councils at the local level that make decisions for the troop, and whether or not to implement the digital sales service will be a council-by-council decision. Girl Scouts enrolled in the program will also have the new option of taking in-person orders using an app and credit card reader with a tablet.

The Girl Scouts have an enormous distribution base, counting almost two million customers, with more than 80% of the girls selling cookies every year to bring in some $800 million annually. Aside from the ability to increase their reach by going digital, an important fulfillment aspect applies to the digital effort—it enables delivery of the cookies directly to the consumer, rather than waiting for the Girl Scout to deliver the cookies when she finally receives her order.

Aside from boosting sales, Girl Scout leadership points out the significant benefit in getting girls interested in digital initiatives at a young age. The Girl Scouts have always touted the cookie program as a way to lay the groundwork for good business and negotiation skills, and the digital program is modernizing those skills by using apps and teaching participants about online marketing. Scouts can customize their pages, using their first names only, and email prospective customers with links to click on for orders. They can even include videos explaining who they are and what they plan to do with their proceeds. The websites will not be accessible without an email invitation, requiring the girls to build client lists. And personal information is as safe as any out there for both the scouts and customers, using encryption in many cases.

During a week when Cyber Monday continues to draw a large number of holiday shoppers, the Girl Scouts’ foray into the digital world should serve as a motivating force for independent agents to harness the Internet as an important component of their distribution strategy.

Of course, providing sophisticated insurance policies is not as simple as selling cookies. But using the Trusted Choice brand and TrustedChoice.com to attract consumers is a great place to start.

Dave Evans is a certified financial planner and an IA contributor.