|We have been
in the throes of a digital revolution for some time now, and it has slowly
crept into a once very stoic funeral industry. Progressive funeral
homes have seen the opportunity to embrace digital culture and technology,
and how it can enhance their business offering.
Over ten years ago when we
first launched US Funerals Online, more funeral homes did NOT have a website,
than those that did. Many still believed that ‘traditional’ methods
of marketing were the only way for funeral homes, and that people would
not use the Internet to search for funeral services. How times have
changed in the last decade!
Frequently we now find that
funeral homes DO have a website, in fact, they may have more than one.
Those that are embracing technology will have visually engaging, informative
and interactive sites, many are now further utilizing all the Internet
has to offer with additional online advertising, online directory listings,
pay-per-click advertising and participating in social networking campaigns.
So what can we expect from
a funeral home in the digital age?
attending the funeral of a deceased
family member or friend. Add to this, constraints for time off work,
tightened restrictions on travel and economical impacts, and yes more people
today have to politely excuse themselves from attending services.
The ‘Virtual’ Funeral
- Web casting & live streaming of funeral services.
As we become a more dispersed
and transient society, the ability to stream funeral services and therefore
enable distant family and friends to participate without extensive travel,
is a significant way that technology will change the funeral industry.
The costs to travel across
the United States, let alone internationally, have prevented many people
We are also now such a visual
culture, with over half of Americans (53%) indicating that they watch digitally
streamed TV programming on a device, and with 78% of baby boomers being
online (according to a study by ThirdAge). This means there is a greater
acceptance, and a greater level of access, for people to participate in
live web streaming of funeral services.
There still seems to be some
discomfort in our culture with the notion of live web streaming of funerals.
Is it distasteful? Does it remove us from the immersion in the funeral
ritual and the grieving process? Personally I would argue that there
are pros and cons to this new technology. I thought Evan Selinger’s recent
post on Huffington
Post about his experience of an online funeral in the wake of Hurricane
Sandy made for an interesting exposition of how the technology impacts
on us culturally.
We are widely accepting of
dignitaries and celebrities having funerals streamed online or on TV, so
why not for the masses?
So how does live web streaming
of a funeral work?
In layman’s terms video equipment
is set up to video the funeral service, linked to a computer and software
that enables the video to be live-streamed. In most cases the web
cast is password protected, so only family and friends provided with the
password can access the streaming. The web cast remains online for
30 days in order that family and friends who could not participate in the
live stream can watch it, or people can re-visit the ceremony. Service
Corporation International (SCI) has added web casting at a number of their
Dignity Memorial locations, and web casting companies report a slow but
steady uptake of the technology. FuneralOne
who offer their ‘Life Tributes’ package to funeral homes across the U.S.
saw the number of funeral homes offering web casts increase from 126 in
2008 to 1,053 by 2010, clearly demonstrating an uptake of this technology.
Arranging a funeral or
cremation entirely online – no funeral home visit required!
Web casting may still be something
of a marginal ancillary service, but we are also witnessing another aspect
of how funerals are now offered online. More funeral homes and cremation
companies are offering the ability to plan and arrange services ALL online,
without ever visiting the funeral home. This online service is frequently
offered for those who wish to arrange a direct cremation service, or a
basic funeral. There are also cremation and funeral companies that
facilitate the preplanning of a funeral using an online portal.
Obituaries, Online Memorials
and the Facebook Legacy
Newspaper obituaries are becoming
somewhat obsolete as we all digest our media updates online. Online
memorials are now common, and are either offered by funeral homes as part
of their service, or can be purchased directly online from companies such
as Tributes and Legacy.
Even more interesting is
the advent of the life memorial many of us are now creating with our own
Facebook page. It is likely that this legacy we self-build will again
change the industry of online memorial sites.
headstone, and accessed
anywhere with a smart phone. This can metaphorically make a tombstone
become a ‘living’ interactive memorial.
‘Living Headstones’ -
QR codes and monuments that have ‘playback’.
We are all becoming more familiar
with those black and white squares adorning magazines, street signs and
coffee cups. QR codes (Quick Response) are starting to become embedded
into our culture. Cemetery markers have not really changed for centuries….until
now…with the technology to be able to impregnate a QR chip into a grave
marker. Now a detailed memorial of the deceased can be loaded onto
a chip, set into a
The examples above demonstrate
how technology is already reshaping the funeral landscape, as we know it.
As technology becomes more firmly embedded into our culture I am sure we
will see it revolutionize our death care rituals and our whole concept
of death and memorialization.
||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.
The Online Funeral [Wall
Street Journal] 11/6/2012
Over Half of Americans Have
Watched TV Shows Via "Streaming" [Harris Interactive] 11/13/2012
The Online Funeral [Huffington
Online funeral services
a growing trend [CBC News] 11/13/2012
Online Funeral Services
Grow in Popularity [Voice of America] 4/8/2012
For Funerals Too Far, Mourners
Gather on the Web [New York Times] Jan 2011
Funeral Webcasting: Horrifying,
or Totally Horrifying? [Gizmodo] Jan 2010