industry has traditionally been slow to adapt to change. There are
still funeral homes without a website. To those of us whose livelihood
is based online, and better still spend the greater part of our working
day ‘plugged in’, the notion of life without the Internet just seems…well
Although many funeral professionals
have adapted to technology as part of their personal and professional lives,
we do still speak to funeral directors who will proclaim “people do not
look online for a funeral”.
We shake our heads and smile
because we do know that people turn to the Internet to plan a funeral and
to find a funeral home. In fact now that the Internet can be accessed
so easily from smartphones and tablets, the reach of the Internet has only
The age of the price-conscious
We live in a consumer society
today. The funeral industry had sustained as a trade where people
shopped first and asked the price later -- but no longer. Times have
changed. The economy has changed for one thing, and we as consumers
have changed. The World Wide Web at our fingertips has provided us
with easy resources to compare prices before we even step out of our door!
Yes, the funeral industry was resistive to this change at first.
It was not that difficult as most funeral homes did not even publish prices
on their websites. But then a change started to occur several years
Price comparison from the margin
In 2001 Everest – a funeral
price comparison and concierge company – was set up to offer Americans
the opportunity to access an easy ‘PriceFinder’ report on funeral homes.
For a small fee ($29.99) a 7-page report comparing up to 8 funeral homes
can be generated.
In the last 12 years the
price comparison marketplace has changed dramatically and there are now
online companies that offer funeral price comparison at no cost to the
consumer. Several chapters of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA)
even conduct annual price comparison surveys and publish these on their
Indeed some funeral homes
have gone so far as to conduct their own area funeral price comparisons,
and publish charts on their own website, especially if they can compare
their services to a local SCI funeral home!
So in the space of the last
decade funeral price comparison has entered the mainstream, and those progressive
funeral homes that are abreast of change, will now openly disclose funeral
prices on their own website.
services and pricing, this can
allow a family to commence their planning. Maybe even start the funeral
planning online. At US Funerals Online our visitor traffic
never stops, even between 12 am and 4 am we still have visitors using the
site to research funeral services.
The age of instant gratification
Another aspect of our consumer-driven
culture today is the desire for everything instantly. We have become
accustomed to that ‘click of a button’ access to information and to purchasing.
How has this affected the funeral industry? Funeral consumers want
access to information instantly, especially pricing, and those funeral
businesses that do not offer this may be missing out.
Take the family that return
from the hospital, or get the call about a death, in the early hours of
the morning. They can turn to the Internet to start considering arrangements.
If a funeral home has provided full disclosure of their
The age of information ‘on-the-go’
Our instant gratification aptitude
has tended to lean us to expect to access information ‘at our fingertips’
wherever we are. This age of handheld devices means that we can now
digest on-the-go – we are a snacking fast-food nation – who now take our
information on-the-move. With over 46% of American adults now owning
a smartphone and 25% owning a tablet, that puts a significant percent of
the adult population using handheld devices. The question that remains
is to drill down on handheld devices in relation to the funeral consumer
demographic. At US Funerals Online we have witnessed our handheld
device user-base grow steadily since January 2012, to now account for around
30% of our visitors.
Has your website gone mobile?
As we all become mobile browsers,
this has affected how we can view online information. Some websites
are just not compatible with a 2 inch screen size and designing a mobile
version of a website that can be viewed on a smartphone has breathed new
life into web design.
Mobile websites are profoundly
different from a traditional website and according to FrontRunner offer
“Magnetic content” as mobile marketing for the “always connected consumer”.
Mobile websites load quicker
and have a more simplistic design. They are specifically a ‘thumb
friendly’ slimmed down version of a traditional website, that enables the
mobile user to easily navigate and read the key content from a website.
As we adopt this technology,
the options are emerging to either have a mobile version of a website that
loads automatically for the user accessing on a handheld device, or provide
a manual option for the user to switch to a ‘mobile version’.
The stats are a little ambiguous
but suggest that those users who seek out information on a handheld device
will quickly leave a site if it is not smartphone-friendly.
The funeral app
Yes, believe it nor not, there
are now funeral apps. I know I raised my eyebrow too “who wants to
download a funeral app?” I queried, I just can’t see that featuring in
the App Store Top Ten.
In May 2012 Tributes.com
announced its new mobile platform for the viewing of online obituaries,
and YourTribute.com now offers a funeral info mobile app. However,
personally I don’t expect to see much competition for a funeral app, unless
it can somehow be combined with an instant funeral price-comparison database.
The age of telecommunication
I mentioned earlier about instant
gratification, and this should extend to instant telecommunication.
In this era of mobile telecommunication technology and complex digital
telephony – just about anything is possible and you can almost always be
reached by phone. You have a choice of cell networks and plans, various
VOiP offerings, toll free call forwarding, hosted numbers, answering services
and the ability to ensure that each and every phone call is answered.
The mobile phone is one piece
of technology that has fundamentally reshaped our connectedness.
It is not so many years ago that we could leave the house without it, or
did not need to accessorize with it, but now the mobile phone has become
one of the most integral modern gadgets. In fact Worldbank.org now
claims that three quarters of the world’s population has access to a mobile
These days we all expect
that instant connection, any time, any place, anywhere. If we have
a question we want to be able to ask it – immediately. In this age
of modern telephony and mobile technology, there is a demand for 24/7 availability.
If a family is funeral-planning and has a question they will expect to
call a number and ask that question. With today’s telecommunication
reach I think it is even possible to suggest that voicemail could become
There is no doubt that funeral-planning
in the age of the handheld device is evolving, and funeral homes will need
to re-assess how they are adapting to cater to a smartphone and tablet
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
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