retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Looking for insights on how to deal with generation issues around job skills or how about omni-channel marketing? It may be time to contemplate what’s happening with everyone’s favorite seasonal cookie sales force - the Girl Scouts.

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Girl Scout Cookies. Sure, I have downed far too many thin mints (at times in a single sitting) and yes, I have bought my share of many of the Girl Scouts’ varieties. But my reason for buying the cookies is simple:

For most of my adult life I’ve had a neighbor child who was a Girl Scout and I bought cookies to support their efforts.

Now that the Scouts are going to high tech sales I think we have to really pay attention to this because the implications for business lessons are important - both for management and marketing.

Let’s start with a point Kevin has made twice on this story: that the girls themselves probably know a whole lot more about building on-line sales than their troop leaders. There should be no arguing with that and every business manager could and should relate.

The simple reality is that for the foreseeable future we will all be hiring young people who are better at technology than their managers. That’s the perk of being digital natives in a time of constantly evolving technology.

There’s another side to this that matters to businesspeople. While younger people have unquestioned technology skills, they are clearly suffering some lack of interpersonal skills. One of the great challenges facing business is how to train future generations in basic people skills.

So the balance the Girl Scouts are facing is one that all business can mirror: how do we blend technological and traditional skills by both teaching and learning at the same time. The challenge the Girl Scouts face is one every business needs to also consider.

Yet we need also recognize that the balance of selling on line and door-to-door means the Girl Scouts are mirroring the challenge of omni-channel business balance that is clearly the way of the future. Only in this case, the Scouts may be way ahead of the trend.

There’s a song taught to all Girl Scouts that may best explain omni-channel thinking:

Make new friends and keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold.

That might be the anthem of omni-channel thinking right there.

What all businesses seek to do is exactly what the song suggests: find new customers and keep the old because they literally are silver and gold. The challenge is finding a way to attract the new without disenfranchising the old.

One of the biggest challenges of omni-channel operations is finding a way to create a seamless experience so the customer is delighted no matter how they transact business with you—on line, in store, by phone or even with a drone.

The Girl Scouts may not be blazing the trail here, but their experience may well be worth watching.

Pass the cookies…and the lessons!

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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