The problem with writing any blog post or article about technology is the shelf life. After hitting publish, there is only a limited amount of time before everything mentioned in the piece becomes old news. These days something can be innovative and dated within the same calendar year – that is just how fast we, as a society, move. When it comes to funeral home technology, luckily, the pace is a little bit slower. This, contrary to popular belief, is not about falling behind or a failure to adapt. No. There is just no other industry like death care. So new tech cannot be taken out of the box and used. Instead, it must be carefully molded to suit today’s funeral profession and meet the delicate needs of families.
Moreover, every funeral home and community are unique. So there is no template for death care businesses to move forth and navigate the digital landscape. It doesn’t work that way. Funeral home technology is its own unique thing, and every firm must make it work for them. No matter what new gadgets, devices, apps or software get released – the applications will be different. How these things are used by funeral professionals to serve their communities will depend on demographics. However, every firm can benefit from using technology to the fullest in the sense I just mentioned. The following trends will reshape the death care landscape this year, and every firm should pay attention.
While reading, think “how could I use this for my firm?” Or “how could this help me better serve families in the community?”
We’ve all heard the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, according to Forrester Research, one minute of video is the equivalent of, get this, 1.8 million words. For reference, most average sized adult books are under 100,000 words. By this measurement, even a small video speaks volumes (and volumes) about your brand and has the power to tell more than just one story. Whether it is showcasing your facility or creating a quick video for social media – nothing can do more to help you connect with consumers.
By now, most funeral homes are putting plenty of effort into ranking on Google. But did you know that YouTube is the second most popular website on the internet? In fact, multiple sources (Cisco being one) have suggested that 80% of all consumer traffic on the internet will be driven by video in 2020. As a result, it is time to consider creating a video strategy for your firm. Whether you have the budget for high-production professional videos or are looking to produce your own videos using a smartphone, it is worth the investment.
For obvious reasons, I am a massive advocate of targeted digital marketing. That being said, we have reached a point of saturation in the world of online advertising and consumer interaction. One might venture to say that it is a bit too much. People now know they are being tracked, followed, targeted and profiled. Sure, these things can make the buyer’s experience more tailored. But consumers everywhere are starting to speak up for their privacy. Almost 50% of North Americans are now using an ad blocker. Also known as the 21st-century version of the “no flyers” sign on a door. People want to feel like they are making their own decisions, without being guided towards certain products and services.
So how does this impact funeral homes? It entirely depends on what you do for marketing. However, it is important to continually examine how much you are respecting people’s privacy with your marketing. No matter what.
Make the privacy of families in your community a priority. This means avoiding buying email lists. It means thinking twice before cold calling or passing out pamphlets. This year, try and create more organic relationships, without having to buy or spy. You can stand out from the crowd without being that firm.
In last year’s funeral home technology trends post, I spoke about the emergence of voice search. This year, voice search and voice assistants are going to be an even bigger deal. With the explosion in popularity of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, consumers have made it clear that this technology is here to stay. According to OC&C Strategy Consultants, 13% of all households in the United States had a smart speaker in 2017. By 2022, that number is expected to rise to 55%. The figures are even more staggering when it comes to voice search. In 2018, comScore found that half of all searches will be done using voice search by as early as next year.
No matter how you slice the cake on this one, voice search has to be a big part of your marketing moving forward. Old school SEO will not be enough to satisfy this need. Ranking on page one is incredible, but these voice-driven devices will only relay the most helpful responses to their users. Also, they are not just looking for necessary information with voice search results. Google measures that 39% would like to explore options to find specific business information using these devices. If you only put time into one trend in this post, I suggest doing some research into this one. Of course, if you need some guidance, our search engine optimization experts would be happy to help.
An influencer is someone with a large social following who has the power to inspire and, in turn, influence others. This includes style icons, celebrities, athletes and public figures to name a few. Each has the potential to generate brand awareness for most any business they choose. Influencer marketing is the practice of leveraging these individuals to bring in more business and reach more people. This is done by taking advantage of their vast networks of followers, fans, and connections. One endorsement is all any company needs to grow. For funeral homes, influencer marketing may be the key to building a local (or even regional) audience. Word of mouth is powerful. When people are introduced to something by someone they trust like a friend or family member, they’re more likely to be interested. The same goes for influencers. They have successfully built a following of fans and followers who listen to them and are actively engaging with the content they post. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers rely heavily on recommendations made by influencers they trust.
First, identify some people who may be influencers in your community. Then, reach out to them and let them know what you are all about. Indeed, not everyone will want to promote the local funeral home one-off. So get creative. Maybe host an event with them present or interview them about the importance of pre-planning. Take pictures with them, ask them to comment on your posts. This is perfectly okay and can have a wonderfully positive impact on your business. If people in your service area start seeing this person (or these people) working with your firm or talking about death, then it may create many new opportunities to connect. Pro tip: don’t do this just once. Continually strive to work with prominent members of your community and raise the profile of your funeral home.
This one is tricky. Some firms still rely heavily on their showroom as part of the funeral arrangement process. While other’s have chosen to primarily showcase available products online. Both are right and both work. A discussion about eCommerce as an emerging trend is faulty. It has been around for a long time now. However, there is a new type of eCommerce emerging – and it is not an online story per se. It’s an experience.
Websites used to be solely about providing information. Now, the best sites offer visitors an experience much like the one they would get walking through the front door. It must be visual, engaging, inviting and informative. The new kind of eCommerce is about having a website that creates a shopping experience, regardless of whether anything is actually for sale, or not.
Try having pricing information readily available or incorporating a quote builder or catalog of services. You could also play around with having different visuals (perhaps an explainer video) to give families a greater understanding of who you are, how you can help and what your facility looks like. How your funeral home website translates the in-person interactions you take pride in is the most essential part of having a site. For most people, it will be the first impression you make with them. So make it count. Don’t believe me? According to Minnesota-based company SWEOR, 75% of consumers judge the credibility of a business based on their experience with the website.
Like most things on this funeral home technology trends list, direct messaging, in all of its forms (texting, social media messages, personalized emails), is not specifically funeral home technology. It’s applications though, will prove to be enormously useful for funeral homes in the near future. No matter how you market, whether it is through direct mail, over the phone or via email – nothing is as useful as direct messaging. Now, there is a catch – you need to establish an avenue with which to message people before anything else.
Start collecting phone numbers and sending text messages. Directly message people on social media platforms if they follow you or engage with your brand in any way. Instead of thinking of people as potential customers, think of them as possible connections, first. For funeral homes, merely introducing yourself and letting them know that you are there for them is enough to create a lasting impression. In a world where people are constantly bombarded with mass messages, bulk emails, and commercials, a simple and personalized message can go a long way. Make an effort to incorporate more direct messages into your marketing and outreach strategy this year.
There is so much new tech out there that this post could have been three times longer. Even then, each specific point could be expanded upon. We could discuss applications for funeral homes and death care businesses ad nauseam.
As a dedicated funeral home technology and marketing company, we understand the challenges facing the death care businesses of today. Finding a way to use all of the latest technology while upholding a tradition of service can be a tricky journey. However, we are here to help and invite you to reach out to us for any, and all, of your technology or marketing needs.
Brandon is the Marketing Communications Manager at FrontRunner Professional. He holds a Social Sciences degree from McMaster University and a Graduate Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications from St. Lawrence College. His creative writing and innovative ideas bring new life to the company, FrontRunner’s clients and funeral directors world-wide.