Posted By Lee Senderov
Monday, December 6, 2021
Earlier this year, our Foundation Partners marketing team embarked on a three-pronged research project to better understand the online habits of the post-COVID deathcare consumer. After conducting hundreds of online surveys, one-on-one interviews and focus groups, we partnered with CANA in November 2021 to present the results in a webinar entitled, “How Consumer Attitudes Toward Online Deathcare are Changing.” Our presentation team included Sally Camm, whose firm Astound Commerce conducted the research, Luke Frieberg, president of eFuneral, Foundation Partners’ Vice President of Marketing Scott Ankerholz and me.
Our panel of digital marketing experts shared five broad consumer trends impacting deathcare and outlined steps you can take today to stay ahead of the curve. If you missed it, no worries; simply click here to watch the recording and download the slidedeck.
FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE OUR FUTURE
After hundreds of surveys and conversations, five key trends emerged that are impacting the deathcare purchase journey.
Consumers are increasingly focused on wellness, which encompasses not just physical but mental, spiritual and environmental concerns as well. As a result, younger consumers (under 45) want to engage in a different, more positive conversation about death and deathcare. In general, they have a broader definition of death preparedness than previous generations. Instead of who will get what, the conversation is more about how they can have their affairs in order — emotionally, spiritually and relationship-wise — so they can enjoy their lives now and ease the burden on family members.
With this in mind, you may want to expand your preneed marketing efforts to include younger families. Additionally, your services don’t have to stop after memorialization or permanent placement services are done. Today’s families appreciate aftercare services, like grief support, assistance obtaining death certificates and other “concierge” services that help them navigate the myriad of tasks required to close the affairs of a loved one.
As the focus on religious funeral services wanes in the U.S., families are opting for services that celebrate the life and uniqueness of the individual. Nearly a third of consumers who completed our online surveys reported that religion did not factor meaningfully into how they considered making funeral arrangements. As more funerals become joyous occasions and celebrations of life, we have the opportunity to unleash our creativity to help families say farewell to loved ones in style. This will create new revenue streams as we reimagine funeral services.
During our in-person interviews with both at-need and preneed consumers, 95 percent cited transparency as one of the major reasons for their choice of a deathcare provider. In their 2020 Funeral and Cemetery Consumer Behavior Study, The Foresight Companies found that 75 percent of consumers said they want pricing available online and will not do business with providers who are not transparent. Fifty-two percent said they will ONLY do business with companies that provide online pricing options.
But these consumers are not just looking for price transparency; they also want process transparency. Why? Because process transparency puts them in charge and, during the highly stressful at-need time, it allows them to maintain some semblance of control when their lives have been changed forever. Consumers have become accustomed to tracking their online transactions and their expectations during the deathcare journey are no different. Deathcare providers who can offer up-to-the-minute notifications of things, like when loved ones will be cremated and when those remains will be ready for delivery or pick-up, will have an advantage over their competition.
4. OMNICHANNEL SERVICE
Today’s consumers want an integrated, seamless journey across digital and physical experiences – online, by phone and in person. While recent consumers of deathcare services report that in-person remains their preferred method of arranging, we saw a greater willingness among those who have not yet purchased to turn to online arrangement options.
Luke Frieberg shared a case study in which an eFuneral partner encouraged families to review their options on their website before the arrangement meeting. Some of these families completed their purchases on the website, while others came into the arrangement meeting with more clarity around their decisions. Of those families that completed their purchases online, 93 percent upgraded the casket generating additional revenue. Overall, the cost of arrangements made online were 20 percent higher compared to purely in-person meetings and resulted in additional revenue. The firm also reported that families were more relaxed and that funeral directors had a better experience when meeting in person after providing this online option.
5. TIME STARVATION
Time, and the lack of it, was a primary concern in our interviews, particularly among the at-need consumer. At a time of high stress, especially during COVID, consumers look for us to remove the friction from the decision-making process and to do it in a timeframe that suits them. One of the key ways consumers save time is by doing online research themselves to narrow the selections before they call. Our online cremation consumer survey also showed that both cremation users, and non-cremation users, value the convenience of online arrangements and the ability to browse options on their own terms. Both consumer groups reported that they were either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experience.
ARE YOU ADOPTING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES?
Industry research, including our own, overwhelmingly indicates that Americans are more comfortable than ever blending tradition with modern preferences. As more families search online for deathcare information and funeral homes, having a website that presents information and options that are clear, transparent and easy-to-use is essential. eCommerce options have gone from a “nice to have” to a “must have” in today’s environment. Consumers say they want us, as the experts, to show them the entire process they are going to experience so they can be prepared, informed and make better decisions that they can feel good about. 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 for us to reimagine funeral services in a way that reinforces our value to grieving families.