2022 What’s Ahead for Funeral Service?

December 30, 2021
By Patti Martin Bartsche

Read the full article on the American Funeral Director website.

As the new year dawns, few industries are more dynamic and challenging than the death care. All around we see experimentation and change in a time when the future of funeral service is evolving.

As we begin 2022, we asked some of death care’s experts and innovators to share their predictions for the year ahead. They share their visions of the future of cremation, memorialization, technology, what a post-pandemic world looks like, and more.

Kent Robertson, President, Foundation Partners Group

The past two years have been nothing short of transformational across a broad range of U.S. industries and the death-care space is no exception. The age of virtual deathcare has arrived as more and more families are beginning their deathcare journey searching online for information and services. But how have consumer expectations changed and what additional information and services are they looking for? And most importantly, how do we engage families and build trust throughout the online experience?

Because the answers to these and other questions will guide our profession in 2022 and beyond, earlier this year the Foundation Partners digital team embarked on a three-pronged research project to better understand the post- COVID consumer. The results were both predictable and insightful. After hundreds of conversations and surveys, we found five key trends that will impact the death-care consumer journey in the years ahead.

  • Wellness. Wellness culture has been a growing trend across all age groups for the past 10 years and has expanded to include not just physical wellness but also emotional, mental, spiritual and environmental considerations. As a result, younger consumers want to engage in a different, more positive conversation about death and deathcare.
  • Individuality. As reported in the National Funeral Directors Association’s 2021 Cremation and Burial report, Americans are more comfortable than ever blending tradition with modern preferences. As religion in people’s lives continues to decline in the U.S., families are opting for services that celebrate the life and uniqueness of the individual. This is especially true for families that choose cremation. Nearly a third of cremation consumers in our 2021 study said that religion did not factor meaningfully into how they considered making funeral arrangements.
  • Transparency. During our in-person interviews with both at-need and preneed consumers, 95% cited transparency as one of the major reasons for their choice of a company to handle their death-care services. They’re not just looking for pricing transparency but also process transparency, including things like up-to-theminute notifications of exactly when loved ones will be cremated and when those remains will be ready for delivery or pick-up.
  • Omnichannel service. Consumers want an integrated, seamless journey across digital and physical experiences – online, by phone and in person. While recent consumers of death-care services report that in-person arrangements remain their preferred method of arranging, we see a greater willingness among those who have not yet purchased to turn to online options.
  • Time starvation. Time – and the lack of it – was a primary concern among consumers we interviewed, particularly among cremation consumers. At a time of high stress, especially during COVID, our job is to make a very difficult time easier and more efficient, allowing the families we serve time to focus on celebrating the decedent.

These tech-savvy, questioning consumers will put pressure on all of us to do better in 2022. It’s a challenge that presents unlimited opportunities to unleash our creativity and to reimagine funeral services in a way that reinforces our value to grieving families.

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