With the vaccination rate increasing and the CDC beginning to loosen its guidelines, people are starting to ponder what the new “normal” might look like. Will buying our groceries without personal interaction become the standard? Could the schools of the future be built around remote learning technology? And when it comes to the world of an Undertaker, will we find consumers returning to traditional services?

A 2020 study of consumers conducted by The Foresight Companies looked into the individual attitudes and perceptions regarding the death care industry. With over 2,500 respondents it was learned that nearly 70% of consumers today want a different experience than what the death care industry has presented them in the past. It further went on to show that based on the responses from the data, it is estimated that over 2,000 funeral homes will go out of business over the next 2-5 years due to their unwillingness to accept this change.

Yes, a scary next few years ahead for the sales clerks at the grocery store, classroom teachers and those dim-lighted traditional funeral parlors. Much like that of individuals in retail food and school districts, we do find a few modern undertakers adapting to these changing demands. As for the traditionally rooted funeral directors that are not accepting what statistics are proving, they obviously missed the funeral of Prince Philip. Here is a man who is bound to centuries of tradition yet a 2003 Land Rover escorted his casketed remains to create a personalized experience for all to remember. The media did countless stories on this and many across the world witnessed what was revealed from this most recent consumer survey: funeral service is becoming completely reimagined. The undertaker of today must specialize in tweaking tradition to create a one of kind tribute in order to showcase a life lived.

Consumers have hinted at this desire for many years now. We’ve witnessed modern day undertakers implement food and drink into their offerings, play unique music in the background of services and even arrange for Second Line New Orleans Bands to escort the traditional funeral procession. Motorcycle hearses have been used in place of formal hearses, cremated remains have been formally positioned in the ocean rather than the ground and the traditional urn has been transformed into personalized items, such as a usable fishing lure. Through technology, modern undertakers have even taken a standard ceremony and transformed it into what appears to be a MPT (Maryland Public Television) prime time documentary. And now with a Royal opting to reshape the traditional means of transportation from a horse drawn gun carriage to a modified Land Rover unique tributes are all but cemented into the future of funeral planning.

It now rests solely on the consumer to talk about what made their loved one special so that their funeral professional can plan a one-of-a-kind experience. Simply put, consumers will need to determine if they are working with a funeral firm that is one to last, or one of the past. Is the staff making your experience and satisfaction their top priority? Is your undertaker focusing on a life lived by asking open-ended questions so they can better determine how they can be of assistance? Is the staff attentive to specific needs and open to exploring ideas in creating a unique experience? Are they taking what is being shared and providing creative approaches to honoring that person’s life? Or is there solely a focus on disposition methods and standard funeral options?

Does the funeral home have internet connection and offer e-commerce opportunities for the event? Yes, some funeral homes today still do not have internet. And even more disappointing, after COVID, they still do not offer a high-definition camera for live streaming a ceremony or even have the capabilities to offer e-commerce opportunities to their community. Be sure to ask about this very early on. Consumers do not want to get too far into the planning process only to learn they’ll need to hot spot from their own cellular device or even worse … bring in their own iPad to film the ceremony for the out of state Uncle to watch through a social media account he’s not familiar with.

Your modern-day undertaker should become a trusted advisor to help bring ideas from “what if” to the reality of a creative and memorable experience. Take a chapter out of the life of Prince Philip, a Royal molded by centuries of tradition for 99 years, who altered the expected Royal escort to a personalized vehicle that showcased a passion he had while living. Together, let’s continue to reshape the funeral industry, and see that everyone is provided the opportunity Prince Philip had: a unique, one-of-a-kind touch to a final farewell.

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