The 2020 Funeral and Cemetery Consumer Behavior Study that the Foresight Companies recently completed made it very clear that consumers want price information online. In fact, over half of them said that they would not do business with a funeral home that did not clearly show their pricing on their website. That is a huge statistic–the potential of half of your consumers choosing a competitor simply because you are not being transparent with your pricing.
This should not surprise anyone We are all used to shopping online. Can you imagine Amazon without prices and having to call to get a price on an item before you bought it? Of course not. You would not tolerate that and increasingly, consumers are saying they will not tolerate that with funeral service either.
There are two common pushbacks from funeral homes when we discuss putting prices online. The first is that the General Price List (GPL) is not easily understood by consumers and would only confuse them.
Point well taken. The GPL language is cold, businesslike, out of date, and not very consumer friendly. But let us first make it clear that you are not required by the FTC to put pricing on your website. Therefore, (except in a couple of states that require online pricing) there is no requirement that you utilize the GPL as it is configured to put prices on your website. But in the name of full transparency, let me suggest that we should put our general price list on our website. It could be an optional tab attached to our pricing section.
The second objection is related to the first– funeral pricing is very complicated because there are so many options and it would be hard for consumers to accurately select the services and merchandise that they want.
My response is to refer you to automotive websites. Carvana) has shown that the consumer is willing to purchase a used car that they have seen only online. If people will shop for something as complex as a car online, they certainly should be willing to buy funeral merchandise online.
As for the selection of service options, I would again refer you to the automotive industry. Many brands allow you to “build” your own vehicle online After building your vehicle, the price is displayed, finance options are available, and you can even talk to a representative to assist you.
If car dealers can figure out a way to sell cars online, we can figure out how to sell funerals online. And we can do a lot better than simply reproducing our GPL.
What might “building” a funeral look like? Maybe the consumer would first be asked what type of disposition they ultimately want, what type of service they want, and the website would insert the corresponding and necessary services. That would include the basic service fee and an explanation of it, embalming and an explanation of it and why it is included or not, use of facilities for visitation or services as selected, as well as required and optional livery. The consumer would then see a total price for services selected and be able to modify them as they desire. Based on their selection of services and disposition they would then be shown appropriate merchandise including caskets, vaults, urns, and urn vaults. These items will then be added to the service fees and they would receive a total for the service that they “built.” Other costs to consider (cash advance items) could also be explained.
Of course, you could make it even easier by creating and offering preselected packages (except where prohibited, like New York) for such services as a full funeral and burial, cremation with memorial service, and right down to a direct cremation.
We do not need to stop with funeral options. Cemeteries have the capability of doing the same with mapping and drone technology. Pictures of the cemetery can be posted online. Consumers should be able to zoom in on exact locations to purchase cemetery property or at least select available sites. Housing developers do this by showing which lots are currently available. Consumers could even be given the option of having a live video with the sales representative, who could be on property at the exact location of the proposed purchase, confirming the location, and giving the consumer a 360 degree view of the location prior to them completed the transaction. Similar technology could be used to confirm location and authorize grave opening for a pending burial.
We can all agree that the 2020 pandemic has changed the way we do business. Maybe the changes are not as radical as we might think. Maybe it has simply compressed the time frame from where we were to where we would have been a few months or years from now. The process has been shortened. This is now a consumer expectation. Maybe all that is happening is that it is now an imperative, not an option for future success.