Digital technology- the Internet, social media, mobile apps, and the overabundance of screens we interact with on a daily basis- are changing how we lead our lives and run our businesses. We are now used to having digital elements for most things in life. We are using technology to make our day-to-day lives easier- such as being able to purchase a t-shirt online instead of having to drive to a store. More importantly, technology is enhancing our experiences- like a curated shopping list based on our purchase history. For cemeteries and funeral homes, this means bringing in new, yet simple technology that can enhance customer experience by providing families with more interactive and helpful tools to memorialize a loved one, and use the web to interact meaningfully with your business.
It comes as no surprise that businesses are spending more money and resources on their digital marketing strategies, and on technology strategies as a whole. This is because today’s consumer expects to do more than simply purchase a product or service from a company. Businesses are expected to have a website, a social media presence, but more importantly, successful businesses are using technology to engage the consumer, and build a community.
To gain a better understanding of the connected consumer, we need to focus on the generation that is likely already working in your funeral home or cemetery, and that is certainly attending services more often. Yes, we are talking about millennials. Although they are currently only about 18-38 years old, their wants, needs and values are key to understanding the impact that digital technology can have on your business. At 92 million, millennials are the largest population in US history and their buying power is expected to surpass that of baby boomers this year. Their influence on the future of the economy and on funeral service cannot be understated, and neither can their influence on their baby boomer parent’s purchasing decisions.
How do you gain their attention? Millennial’s spend on average 2,891 minutes online a month. On a daily basis, they are using their phones for text messages, emails, social media, and apps about 150 times. But what does this generation actually want? Well, what they don’t want is to be advertised to. 64% of millennials use some form of ad blocker while surfing the web. Moreover, only 1% of millennials state that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. This surprising statistic is due to the fact that millennials value authenticity. Authenticity means that they value businesses that are transparent and that offer services that are relevant to their wants, needs and most importantly, to what they care about. When a brand is able to communicate with their consumer authentically and with transparency, they are able to engage their audience. Engaging today’s consumer is the most strategic way of gaining new customers.
How do you engage your audience, build your community, and in turn, increase sales? The solution is to utilize simple technology and online tools in your funeral home and cemetery.
Having a presence online is key for businesses today in any industry or profession. An online presence begins with having a well-designed website, and especially a landing page. As you have most likely heard before, your home page or landing page will be the key driver for a potential customer to either review your services, or click on the next Google search result.
A more direct line of communication, and one that is arguably even more important than your website is social media. In fact, Facebook is surpassing Google’s referral traffic; people are getting to business websites from Facebook more often than from a Google search. In order to attract the attention of your potential customers, millennials and baby boomers alike, is to post engaging content. Forbes states that 62% of millennials are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand engages with them on social media.
A good indicator to follow for your social media content strategy is the “30/30/30 rule.” 30% of your content should be about yourself, such as promoting your business’s history or unique services. The second 30% should be spent talking about others, such as sharing an upcoming community event (which is also a great way to show and build your community support). The last 30% is about posting fun and engaging content that can be shared, such as a funny image. The last 10% gives you space for real-time messaging and responses.
Is your funeral home or cemetery involved in community events? Do you host walking tours or grief support gatherings? Use this to your advantage in order to be found online for reasons beyond funeral service information or cemetery directions. Partner with tourism platforms like TripAdvisor, review sites like Yelp, and Google Business. Advertise the events you are hosting on local blogs or news sites, post articles to your website, and share them on social media. This will expand your reach, show your involvement with your community, and allow you to control the messaging about your business, respond to reviews and engage with users.
Digital technology can also be used to gain consumer attention beyond social media and the web. There is technology specifically built for funeral homes and cemeteries that can help transform the experience for families while in your facilities.
This begins with taking information that is already readily available to you- your burial records and your obituaries- and turning them into engaging, interactive content. Every family you serve, every monument in your cemetery, has a story to tell. There is so much life between the date of birth and date of death and that is something that funeral professionals have always strived to celebrate. In a number of bereavement surveys conducted, sharing stories stood out as the primary way respondents commemorate a loved one. And how do we share stories today? Online.
Online memorials today are being used to enhance the headstone and in some cases, they are being used in its place- this is especially true for cremation families, and for family members that live in different parts of the world. They provide a virtual pilgrimage where mourners are able to commemorate, celebrate and preserve the life of a loved one. They allow the bereaved to feel that they are part of a larger grieving community and give death care providers an appropriate place to engage with families outside of the funeral home and cemetery to show they care beyond the service.
Simple digital tools that you can utilize in your funeral home and cemetery include mobile applications, and digital kiosks. They can be used to store and find biographical and historical information about the deceased, as well as photographs, stories from loved ones, genealogical information and much more. Imagine being able to walk through a cemetery and learn about the history of everyone buried there; or watch tribute videos and look at pictures and stories others have shared about the deceased while at a memorial service. Mobile apps and kiosks can ease a visit by providing walking directions within a funeral home, columbarium, mausoleum and cemetery grounds. They can also provide self-guided walking tours, advertise upcoming events, be used to gain customer emails and even display plot and niche availability and pricing.
These tools are about building connections, by turning something static, like a monument, or a guestbook, into something more engaging that can change a families’ experience. Moreover, providing the family with administrative access to the online memorial that will store their loved one’s story and memories, will allow them to engage with the tools and services you are providing, while also reducing your staff’s workload.
The importance of authenticity, community and engagement for the modern consumer cannot be stressed enough. Although the majority of your current customers may not be millennials, they are nonetheless visiting funeral homes and cemeteries for services. Gaining their attention and trust with your online presence and in-house memorialization technologies today, can help change your business for the future. FBA
Mandy Benoualid, CEO of the Online Memorial Platform Qeepr, is committed to helping cemeterians and funeral directors create new and meaningful experiences for their families. Qeepr specializes in interactive technology for cemeteries and funeral homes, including online memorials, mobile applications and digital kiosks. Mandy is also the editor of the consumer-focused bereavement website, TalkDeath.com, is the co-host of the #TalkDeath web series, and works as a funeral director’s assistant. Ms. Benoualid can be reached via email at [email protected]