5 Funeral Service Trends that Can Boost Your Business


5_Funeral_Service_Trends_to_Boost_Your_Business

Successful funeral professionals stay on top of industry trends, ensuring that they are offering their client families the very best options for end-of-life care. But it can be challenging to focus on only those funeral service trends that are truly going to expand your market share and help you better serve your community. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the five trends most likely to boost your business. 

Therapy Animals

In August 2017, Smith Funeral and Cremation Services acquired a new staff member – a seven-week-old Goldendoodle puppy named Tuck. After nearly a year of training, Tuck became a licensed grief therapy dog and now attends many funerals and visitations to help visitors process their loss. “He'll lay his head on someone’s leg or his paw on someone’s lap,” observed Jason Chambers, the firm’s co-owner and President. “It’s almost like he bears some of that burden himself to help people who are here grieving. Somehow he understands more than I ever thought possible.”

Tuck is already a familiar face at the funeral home and is well known throughout the community. His picture appears on the funeral home’s online staff listing, and he even has his own Instagram page. “It’s just something we can do that's a little extra,” explained Jenni Bryant, Tuck’s owner and a funeral director at Smith. 

Funeral professionals are starting to take note of the beneficial role animals can play in the grieving process, as many consumers – more than a third, according to the NFDA’s latest consumer awareness study – are extremely or very interested in having a therapy dog attend the funeral of a loved one. If you’re looking for a creative and impactful way to better serve your client families, consider “hiring” a grief therapy dog for your funeral home.  

Online Reviews

My husband and I recently had our first baby, an adorable little boy who is already showing signs of inheriting his parents’ stubbornness. Parenthood is completely new to us, and we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. Fortunately, we have a good support system, a healthy sense of humor and Google – thank goodness for Google.

We are certainly not the only ones who rely on the internet to help make sense of new experiences and inform new buying habits. Consumers increasingly look to the internet first when researching purchase decisions, and that includes funeral planning. Your online presence matters, especially when it comes to reviews. 

In 2017, online reviews impacted nearly 70% of all purchase decisions. Eighty-four percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as referrals from people they know, and nine out of 10 consumers will read an online review before they visit a business in person. If you want to expand your market share to reach new families, word-of-mouth is a great place to start. Consider working with a marketing partner who can help manage your funeral home’s online reputation.

Green Burials

When cremation rates started to increase dramatically in the late 1990s, funeral businesses struggled to balance evolving consumer preferences with standard operations. The growing pains were – and still are – significant. Funeral professionals who have always prided themselves on restoring dignity to decedents through skilled and thoughtful restoration have had to find new ways to effectively serve client families.

Thirty years have passed, and we’re starting to see a new trend that presents a similar challenge. The NFDA reported in 2018 that 48% of consumers are interested in exploring environmentally-sound burial options. Like cremation, green burials represent a new way of thinking about those services traditionally offered by funeral providers. Once again, funeral service professionals face a challenge – and an opportunity to serve families in new and different ways.

Rather than fixating on the services you’re not providing to these families, focus instead on the needs you can meet – thoughtful celebrations of life, memorial keepsakes and all the intangible support you provide through your professionalism and expertise. As was the case with cremation, funeral professionals who proactively engage with consumers now will be better positioned to be the provider of choice for families who choose green burial options in the future.

Crowdfunding

Consumers are not as financially solvent as they used to be, and more and more American workers are living paycheck to paycheck (nearly 80%, according to a new study from CareerBuilder). Last year, the Federal Reserve released a staggering report: 44% of adults cannot afford a $400 emergency. Considering the average cost of a funeral well exceeds $400, it should come as no surprise when families who do not have the benefit of a fully-funded advance funeral plan struggle to pay for the services of their loved one. 

Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe have started to recognize this need. The site has raised more than $330 million for memorial and funeral expenses, accounting for 13% of their total fundraising and securing a place as their fastest growing campaign category. Their business model is simple: Users explain their need, set a fundraising goal and use social media to request support from friends and family members. But, like many vendors outside the industry, GoFundMe is not always an ideal match for the unique needs and sensitivities of the funeral profession.

While advance funeral planning is still the best way to avoid financial strain when a loved one as died, having a crowdfunding service available at your funeral home can serve as a helpful backup option for families who face financial difficulties after an unexpected loss. Consider offering this as an optional add-on service at your funeral home – there are many vendors that provide crowdfunding solutions designed for funeral service, including a number of Homesteaders’ marketing partners.

Online Sales

While pre-need funeral funding isn’t a new trend, it is still a critical component of any funeral home’s long-term financial health. Giving consumers the option to plan – and pay for – their funerals in advance should be part of the base service level of any funeral provider. However, it is no longer enough to simply offer advance funeral planning when a consumer walks into your funeral home.

A 2017 study from BigCommerce found that 51% of consumers prefer to shop online. The same year, KPMG International found that the primary reason consumers prefer to shop online is the ability to shop at any time of day, any day of the week. But all too often, funeral providers view their website as a static information source rather than an interactive lead generation engine.

Consider the impact you could have on your community if you offered consumers a way to plan and pay for funerals in advance, all from the comfort of their own home. Even if a consumer doesn’t complete the purchase process, you could collect invaluable information about their preferences, making it that much easier to tailor your pre-need team’s services to meet their individual needs.

Fortunately, Homesteaders’ subsidiary eFuneral® offers just that – an easy-to-use pre-need storefront that integrates your funeral home’s brand, offerings and prices so digitally-minded consumers can plan and fund their funeral and sign their pre-need policy electronically. Their service offers a way for a new generation of consumers to experience the very best your funeral home has to offer, all from their home computer or mobile device. Click here to learn more about their services.

In a profession as rich in tradition as funeral service, it can be a challenge to incorporate new products and services into your existing business model. But remember that funeral businesses that are adept at responding to shifting consumer buying habits are the best positioned to retain their business and secure high customer satisfaction.

What funeral service trends interest you? Let us know in the comments below. 

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