Spotlight On: Cremation and Green Burial in the Funeral Industry

From a realistic perspective, with more than 50 percent of today’s consumers choosing cremation, funeral homes today cannot afford to overlook this industry trend. Embracing cremation doesn’t mean just handling the actual cremation or selling an urn or minimum container, embracing cremation means providing families with the same kinds of product and service offerings as you do for burial and educating families about available options.

“For hundreds of years, funeral professionals have committed themselves to helping families deal with the death of a loved one. ‘Service’ is at the heart of this profession, and the compassion that drives funeral directors to help families in their time of need is not tied to a specific disposition. Funeral directors serve grieving families – not burial or cremation,” explains Troy Turner, Chief Marketing and Information Officer for Batesville.

Where there is significant or rapid change, there is also grand opportunity. Trend shifts in the industry should be viewed as challenging, not daunting! Funeral homes that embrace the reasons families are choosing these options are the funeral homes that will succeed in this industry. Successful business are constantly looking for ways to improve and do things better. Be proactive and don’t wait until your competition forces you to change.

In addition to cremation, green burial is a third option to families. Green burial is not a new concept, it is how all bodies were prepared prior to the Civil War. There is a simplicity and beauty to bringing back the tradition of burial as it was done in years passed. Green burial also eliminates the toxicity of embalming fluid that funeral directors are exposed to as well as doing less harm to our beautiful world. Knowing that the casket will biodegrade and there is not masses of concrete put into our earth or that tremendous amounts of energy will be used heating cremation ovens are all benefits as well.

“When a funeral home or funeral director embraces green burial they are giving their clients a third option. Many people out there very much want more choices regarding their disposition. For some of those people conventional burial/cremation do not resonate with them for various reasons. A green burial option speaks to people for many reasons – those who have lived their lives in an environmentally responsible way, people that have a connection to nature, people who are looking for simplicity in burial etc. In addition to the third option, offering green burial can create a niche for funeral homes in a competitive market. If they are the sole provider of a green burial option in a market area they will be drawing specific business that the other funeral homes in the area cannot accommodate,” says Kate Kalanick of Green Burial Council.

Green products and services are available in every other industry. As a result, more and more consumers will be actively searching for “the green” product or service when it comes to funeral arrangements. In today’s industry, family members are much more informed about what is available to them. It is important to make sure families know what your funeral home offers. See what these industry experts have to say about the importance of including cremation and green burial in your offered services.


 

 

 

 

“Cremation has had a significant impact on how a funeral home does business. Some might say it changes everything – from the visitation (or not), to a casket or urn sale (or not) to the funeral/memorial (or not) to the graveside service (or not). The presence or absence of each of these affects the funeral home, its staff and operations, the facilities and vehicles that are needed to serve families,” says Troy Turner, Chief Marketing and Information Officer for Batesville.

The economics of cremation are vastly different, but the fundamental needs of the family have not changed. The funeral home and its staff spend an equivalent amount of time handling a cremation for a fraction of the revenue. The average cremation contract generates just 42 percent of the revenue as a burial. This is an unsustainable disparity that will continue to grow until approximately 2035. (NFDA 2016 Cremation report)

“For most firms, the revenue gap between cremation and burial is the most pressing issue that affects how they will do business in the future. The key to closing the gap is not a single action, but an ongoing series of steps and approaches, ultimately leading to higher product and service revenues. While that may sound improbable, there are plenty of success stories from funeral homes that have embraced the opportunities. In most cases, the first step is just deciding to make a change and building a plan that is based on your individual financial goals. This is similar to the historical tracking of burial results, including service results, product sales and average margins,” he continues.

As a partner to funeral homes, Batesville understands the business and profitability challenges of cremation as well as the preferences of today’s consumers. Batesville helps funeral homes address both with proven business and merchandising solutions that are tailored to meet a funeral home’s unique goals, and innovative products that cover the full spectrum of consumer needs, including: Caskets and Containers, Memorial Urns, Remembrance Jewelry, Keepsakes, and Urn Vaults.

Batesville professional business consultants can provide training plans to help the funeral home build an army of experts with the knowledge and skills to assist families in making more informed decisions.

Batesville has a different lens than many of today’s cremation product suppliers. Ours is focused on the long-term success of the funeral home and the industry. With more than a century of business experience under our belt, Batesville works to help you create sustainable revenue for the future, and healthy, long-term profitability by improving revenues and margins at each critical decision point in the family’s planning process – the service, casket/container and memorial urn – and not just by offering a lower-priced product choice.


 

 

 

 

“I believe the rising cremation rate has contributed to a season of discomfort for the industry. Cremation has opened a door that can sometimes take memorial services away from the funeral professionals. A lot of the time families don’t know the value and support that a funeral director could have added to their experience until it’s too late. However, there are actually some very positive outcomes: cremation, alkaline hydrolysis, and green burial have brought about conversations that I believe will lead to better planning, more informed decision making, and more satisfaction for families. Businesses have a choice to serve as a resource and participate in these discussions. Death is becoming less of a taboo topic,” expresses Samantha Sieber of Bio-Response Solutions.

Moving into 2017, Bio-Response Solutions sees the most successful businesses taking risks and aggressively responding to consumer needs.

“We may see some businesses remodeling and revamping or creating multi-use facilities, and others reducing prices or finding better ways to demonstrate value. Some will invest in new equipment or products, or offer services that set them apart from all others. I predict heavier public advertising from the trend-setters,” she continues.

The growing number of states that allow alkaline hydrolysis (AH) will completely change the cremation conversation. Alkaline hydrolysis is a process that uses 95% water and 5% alkali to reduce a body to the final ash remains. There are no emissions, it uses 90% less energy than flame cremation, and families receive 20% more ash remains. It is an option that can bring a great deal of peace to families who are choosing the option for economic or ecological reasons – because it is performed without fire, it is more gentle to the final remains, and it is more environmentally sustainable.

These options are greener than traditional burial, and the importance of sustainable practices will only increase. What most funeral directors don’t know is how high the selection rate for alkaline hydrolysis is where it is being offered. At a higher price, families choose this option greater than 80% of the time. Priced the same as flame cremation, the selection rate is over 95%.

“Remember when you could buy an appliance that would last 30+ years? That’s the kind of product we make: high quality, simple design, reliable performance, and affordable price. Our machines are easy to install, easy to operate, and boast lower operating and maintenance costs than flame cremation equipment. The value of our knowledge and support cannot be matched! We are family owned and operated, and this is our passion. We have 35 years of direct experience, and over 250 alkaline hydrolysis systems installed! Our patented pet and human systems are revolutionary,” says Samantha.


 

 

 

 

 

 

More than just selling an urn, your expertise and compassion are what your customers need when they lose a beloved family member or pet. By partnering with Bogati Urns, you can offer them even more in guidance and support so they can concentrate on what’s most important at this delicate time: saying goodbye.

Bogati Urns has offered funeral homes and crematories like yours unparalleled service and wholesale pricing since 2004. Equally unparalleled is the quality and variety of our urns, scattering tubes and related products.

The Bogati Urns original classic, high-end, lead crystal line has expanded to feature a diverse and ever-growing selection of urns, scattering tubes and related products of the highest design and innovation. Hand-selected from trusted manufacturers and skilled artisans worldwide, Bogati Urns now offers hundreds of memorial urns for adults, children and pets in varying materials, including glass, marble, wood, porcelain, brass and metal.

“The current trend in the US indicate that the number of cremations will reach 50% of all final arrangements in 2017. This has impacted funeral homes financially with the decreased number of burials causing them to offer cremation services and products as a way to compete. Families are becoming more and more price conscious when shopping for cremation services and products. They will have to become more competitive when pricing these services and products,” explains Scott Speicher of Bogati Urns.

Bogati Urns offers quality urns and cremation accessories wholesale to funeral homes and cremation services. Our products are high quality and we offer excellent customer service. In most cases, we ship same day on in-stock items. We are always adding to our inventory in order to provide the latest urns and cremation related products.

“Excellent customer service, same day shipping, a fun and interactive website with opportunities to save money through quantity discounts and special promotions really sets us apart from our competition. We offer price and shipping discounts based on purchase volume. Funeral homes that do not already offer cremation services and products are behind the curve. Pricing for cremation urns is becoming very important. Families can now purchase urns from Costco, Walmart, and BJs. Funeral homes should examine their purchasing and pricing strategies in order to compete,” continues Scott.


 

 

 

 

 

 

When a funeral home or funeral director embraces green burial they are giving their clients a third option. A green burial option speaks to people for many reasons – those who have lived their lives in an environmentally responsible way, people that have a connection to nature, people who are looking for simplicity in burial etc. In addition to the third option, offering green burial can create a niche for funeral homes in a competitive market. If they are the sole provider of a green burial option in a market area they will be drawing specific business that the other funeral homes in the area cannot accommodate.

“Green burial has allowed our funeral directors to recapture the tradition of a service for the family. Many people who choose green burial come from the pool of people who had considered cremation as their disposition choice. Oftentimes cremation is done without much fanfare and services have seen a decline due to this. Bringing the green burial option to your clients means bringing services back in many cases. This changes how our funeral directors do business as it allows for more connectedness to those they serve and in turn an increase in revenue,” says Kate Kalanick of the Green Burial Council.

Bringing the green burial option to your clients means bringing services back in many cases. This changes how our funeral directors do business as it allows for more connectedness to those they serve and in turn an increase in revenue.

“We have an extensive list of certified products for our providers to choose from. These include caskets made of various biodegradable materials such as bamboo, seagrass, pine etc. Urns made of salt, beautiful linen and silk shrouds as well as a non-toxic embalming fluid. We are the largest eco-certifier in the United States and Canada. As the standard-bearer in eco-certification we offer a platform for our providers to be located by those interested in green burial. A certified provider is presented with a certificate to be displayed in their facility, they are listed on our website and promoted on our social networks and newsletter. They are also provided with marketing materials as well as our logo for use on their website and brochures,” says Kate.

Many funeral directors do not have a lot of experience in preparing a body without embalming fluid and some express concern regarding the integrity of a body for viewing. Bodies do very well with alternate forms of body preservation and the Green Burial Council is happy to answer all questions regarding how that can be done. Green burial eliminates the toxicity of embalming fluid that funeral directors are exposed to as well as doing less harm to our beautiful world. Knowing that the casket will biodegrade and there is not masses of concrete put into our earth or that tremendous amounts of energy will be used heating cremation ovens are all benefits as well.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Green burial must be an option presented to every family. Just as cremation is now widely accepted, green burial will become part of the new norm. Expect to be asking families; traditional or green burial, flame or water-based cremation in the not too distant future.

“In some markets this will happen fast and be adopted by families quickly. In others, the change will be slower. But if we have learned anything from our cremation experience, it is coming! It is not if, but when?” asks Darren Crouch of Passages.

There are several reasons why a funeral home should embrace green burial. First off, green products and services are available in every other industry. As a result, more and more consumers will be actively searching for “the green” product. In addition, the hands-on approach is what some families are drawn to. They want to participate in the process and not just be a spectator. They find it meaningful and therapeutic. Green burial is profitable, if done correctly. We all know that families will pay for products and services that they see value in. In addition, since in so many other industries, greener is not cheaper they are used to paying a premium. This is not to say that you should charge a premium as many of the products suitable for a green funeral are often less expensive than a comparable non-green product (urn or casket). Green burial meets the needs and expectations of families that are looking for greener alternatives and have no interest in the existing funeral model. It really is the future! As space becomes more scarce, awareness of environmental issues increase and maintenance costs rise, the industry will be forced to look at other options. Lastly, green burial results in embalming fewer bodies, using fewer resources (in the form of wood/metal caskets and concrete vaults) and being more environmentally-conscious is simply the responsible direction in which to go.

“Many funeral directors do not think that the demand for green burial is in their market, yet. I often hear funeral directors say that families are not asking for it. Do you think that car buyers were asking for the Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt before they were launched with a big media splash or advertising campaign? As professionals, it is the funeral director that must make all the options available to families. This is done through the creation of packages and merchandising displays, inclusion on the GPL and prominent placement on the company website. In some more progressive markets, funeral homes and cemeteries will also need to make a deliberate and concerted marketing /advertising effort,” explains Darren.

Passages International, Inc. is the leading supplier of green and biodegradable urns and caskets. We pride ourselves in offering the largest selection of high-quality products at competitive prices. Since 1999, Passages has provided funeral homes with profitable alternatives for families that would otherwise have been left without options. Passages provides turn-key merchandising packages that include a comprehensive selection of products (urns and caskets) along with signage, posters and printed materials.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starmark provides plain cremation trays/boxes, affordable upgraded alternative cremation containers, low cost cremation caskets, wood & metal ceremonial rental caskets and replacement rental inserts for Starmark and all major brands of rental caskets. Some may find it interesting that about 1 of every 3 cremations in the United States already includes a Starmark product.

“By ignoring customer trends, funeral homes will not stay in business as their customers will migrate to other service providers that offer them what they are looking for. Change is hard for all types of businesses. Traditionally, funeral directors focused on building and retaining local families. Now funeral directors market outside their traditional market area to attract direct cremation families with low pricing or attract full service cremation families with price advantageous full service cremations,” says Gerald Davis of Starmark.

The industry is experiencing three primary shifts in cremation:

1) Some will always focus on increasing direct cremation volume at the lowest prices.

2) Others are increasing revenue with direct cremation by promoting modest upgraded services and/or memorial service packages hosted by the funeral provider.

3) A greater number of Funeral Homes will build significant full service volumes with a low cost (or include a free use of a) ceremonial rental casket.

Funeral directors often ask at what price they should offer the use of a ceremonial rental casket. According to the unpublished results of 13 Starmark Nationwide Cremation Consumer Surveys, a ceremonial rental casket priced to families at $1,000 will only generate 6 full services out of every 100 cremation calls. A ceremonial rental casket priced to families at $500 will generate up to 12 full services. But, a ceremonial rental casket use offered free with full service charges can generate 15%-18% full services of every 100 cremation calls.

“Our factory direct shipments make us the nations low cost product provider. We recognize that cremation client families think much differently about funerals, than do burial families. Starmark exists to provide value packed cremation products to meet new consumer expectations. Starmark’s primary goal is to provide funeral homes with simple, affordable and high quality products, allowing families to have services they never imagined they could afford. Starmark is a cremation company first, with 100% of our time and effort dedicated towards creating simple solutions for bettering the funeral industry everywhere. Thousands of Starmark funeral home customers appreciate our excellent pricing. The only discounts offered by Starmark are based on reducing shipping costs with higher bulk volume,” explains Gerald.


 

By | 2017-01-25T15:42:44+00:00 January 23rd, 2017|Issue Features, Special Feature|Comments Off on Spotlight On: Cremation and Green Burial in the Funeral Industry

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