The funeral profession is changing. Between rising cremation rates, new technology, and changing trends, today’s families don’t want yesterday’s funeral traditions. They want something new. And they will choose the funeral home that can offer the experiences they want.
So how can your funeral home meet a modern family’s needs and still remain competitive within the community? You don’t need to provide the newest, most eye-catching new service, like launching a loved one’s ashes into space or cryogenically freezing the departed. The answer, in fact, is much simpler.
Let’s look at some of the most innovative brands of the past century. What’s their secret? It starts with the concept of reinvention. These famous brands offered a product or service that reinvented the established traditions of their profession. By taking current technologies and using them to meet emerging consumer trends, they created innovative services and products that led to their success.
Roger Cusa, the author of Reinventing the Egg: To Win the Game is to Change It, wrote in his book that “The goal is not to invent or to become a pioneer, which is what people tend to associate with innovation. The goal is to take advantage of an existing technology, move it one step further, and find a new and unique solution to a problem.”
Pioneer Brands That Reinvented Their Profession
Let’s look at the brands that have done just that and how your funeral home can do the same.
Cold Stone Creamery
Cold Stone Creamery certainly didn’t invent ice cream. But they did innovate how ice cream is served and presented to customers. For starters, they just don’t serve ice cream. Cold Stone serves “Super Premium” ice cream. Super Premium ice cream, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, “ends to have very low overrun and high fat content, and the manufacturer uses the best quality ingredients.”
On top of that, Cold Stone helped pioneer the mix-in. Instead of ordering pre-mixed ice cream flavors, customers can customize and create their own flavors. And it’s freshly made and mixed right there on the spot. This level of customization is what makes each order special. According to Cold Stone’s website, “we call every ice cream we serve a “Creation™” – because each one is a work of art. Freshly made, smooth, creamy ice cream blended on a frozen granite stone with endless combinations – fruits, nuts, candy, cookies, brownies – you can mix in to your heart’s content.”
It’s this reinvention of how we order ice cream that’s helped push Cold Stone well above the competition.
Walt Disney wasn’t the first to create cartoon animations. But the studio did take animation technology and paired it with a new technology to create something better. In the 1928 short film, Steamboat Willie, they paired the animated short with synchronized sound, including characters sound and full musical score. It was the first of its kind. And it help set up Walt Disney as the pioneer in animated films.
Netflix started out with a simple goal. That was to change the way we rent movies. At first, it started with two existing technologies, the newly created DVD and the not so new U.S. Postal Service. By combining the two, they were able to create an innovative company that helped change how many Americans would watch movies.
And Netflix didn’t stop there. When they saw competitors start to catch up, they decided to innovate again. They took another new technology, broadband internet, and used it to create the launch of their popular streaming service that we know today. Netflix’s innovation has led them close to 100 million subscribers in 2017.
Would you buy shoes online? How could you make sure it was comfortable, or that it even fits? Buying shoes — or anything else — online is daunting for consumers. Zappos understood that. And by understanding the consumers’ concerns, they were able to adapt and change online retail.
Brick & Mortar stores and online retailers were selling essentially the same products. In Zappos’ case, it was shoes. Zappos didn’t change what they were selling. They changed how they were selling. They changed the experience of buying online. And they did that by providing exceptional customer service. The CEO, Tony Hsieh, said that “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.”
Business Insider wrote that Zappos’ customer service has been called insane and fanatical for the lengths they go to exceed customers’ expectations. A few stories include a Zappos employee sending free overnight shoes to a customer who needed an urgent pair of shoes for a wedding, and another employee sending flowers to a woman who had her feet damaged by a medical treatment.
The lesson here is that even if you’re essentially selling the same thing as your competitor, you can innovate how you are selling by providing new and unique experiences.
How Your Funeral Home Can Do the Same
While you’re not selling ice cream or cartoons, there are still lessons to be learned here. Here are ways your funeral home can take existing traditions and technologies, and place an innovative spin on them.
- Stationery — Personalization isn’t a trend anymore, it’s becoming a new funeral tradition. And to meet families’ needs for unique funeral tributes, your funeral home can personalize tribute products and funeral stationery. No two people are the same, so why should their memorial tributes be? See how your funeral home can easily begin to offer unique tribute stationery to families by checking out this article.
- Obituaries — Obituaries matter. They tell a life story and they announce a loss to communities. But are the old ways of obituaries outdated? Newspaper circulation continues to decline. But that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to need obituaries. Why not offer families a more modern and immersive obituary experience? Give them a digital tribute wall where they can interact with friends and family and share photos, memories, and stories with each other. It’s a simple way in which your funeral home can take existing technology and use it to innovate an old tradition.
- Aftercare — Just like Zappos changed the experience of buying things online, your funeral home can change the funeral experience and how families interact with their funeral home. Offer them a truly meaningful healing experience that continues after the funeral.