Sympathy Stores: Hip or Hype?
You have undoubtedly been hit up at one time or another by the hype of promised profits through the use of sympathy stores and other online selling tools. Before you put your firm’s reputation on the line, there are a few things that you need to know.
- Most online selling tools are designed to make money for the website provider, not your firm. This is why there are so many ‘free’ website schemes showing up on the market and why so many funeral professionals are feeling pressured and forced to use websites offered by some of the largest vendors.
- Done improperly, online stores can portray your firm as highly commercialized and aggressive, which further fuels a growing segment of society’s negative views of funeral service.
- Another common trick by website providers is to offer a sympathy store that works with local flower shops behind the scenes and outside of the professional flower shop wire service membership. Side deals are made to mark flower arrangements up as much as 30% over any comparable products found online. This creates big margins for the sympathy store website provider, not the funeral home. The unsuspecting funeral firm only receives a small percentage and runs the risk of being seen as scam artists by price-conscious consumers.
- 94% of online purchases involve flower orders, not trinkets. Unsuspecting funeral homes are sold on the fact they will make up to 50% commissions with the sympathy store but the percentage earned is significantly lower for flowers than for trinkets that no one buys. In fact, an independent survey of funeral home clients who use sympathy stores revealed that more than 80% acknowledge that they are not seeing the promised returns, yet the hype continues.
Bottom line – do your homework and chose your technology partner wisely; there are good ones that can help you. And, if you are not making 20% commission on online flower orders, look for another provider.
Online flower ordering works, it is a natural fit with a funeral home website and it can add significant new revenues to help shoulder eroding margins.
As for trinkets and fluff, the last time I checked, chocolates are something you send your wife or girlfriend on Valentine’s day and popcorn is something you buy at a movie theater. Remember, consumers will judge you as they see you. Your reputation is now online.
Kevin Montroy, CEO & Founder of FrontRunner Professional, is a 34-year licensed funeral director and former owner operator. He has spent the past 20 years looking out for funeral professionals by helping them avoid the pitfalls of technology and understand the importance of choosing their technology partner wisely.