In any industry, a shift in consumer demands can bring serious stress and uncertainty into an established business. It’s easy to take a look into the past, see what has worked for you and those that came before you, and assume that the future will look the same, but this is a dangerous mindset to carry. This mindset is exactly what gave Japanese automakers a wide window through which to cement themselves in the US market in the second half of the last century – the existing powerhouses believed themselves when they thought: “I know what people want better than the people themselves.” It happened again when Toyota introduced the Prius, seen almost as a joke at its inception but today one of the most sought-after options available, with the competition tripping over themselves to try and regain that lost portion of the market.

We are in the middle of a similar shift in the funeral industry, and it is more important than ever to take a lesson from the history books: ignoring change can be disastrous. Our industry is seeing a push towards alternative services, green funerals, and especially cremation. When consumer demands evolve how they are now, those companies that can rise up and meet the new demands prosper while those that remain entrenched in old ways – insistent that they know what consumers will prefer better than the consumers themselves – fall by the wayside. As more and more people live environmentally-conscious lives, there will be an increasing demand for earth-friendly end-of-life options.

This growth in demand for green funeral alternatives does not have to be a threat to your traditional business unless you choose to ignore it. The reality is that families are better informed than ever and those who are looking for green options will find providers. By being the one to present families with natural options – wicker caskets and coffins, biodegradable urns, and dignified scattering urns – you can position yourself to meet and profit from these changing market demands. Where a family planning to scatter may have opted for a simple cremation and defaulted to the plastic box, you can offer them a wicker casket for a viewing, a more dignified cremation, and an affordable biodegradable urn.

While the lower cost is certainly a benefit to families seeking green options, in our experience it has not been the main reason that people choose a greener funeral. Many families today wish to participate in the ceremony, and create a unique experience that they will always remember. For example, we had a family use multiple mini Journey Earthurns® to scatter a loved one at sea while whale watching. Another family hand-painted our biodegradable turtle urn, and while out at sea their ceremony was joined by real sea turtles. By offering something different, this funeral home was truly able to facilitate the family’s ability to create a meaningful, unique memorial service that they will remember forever.

It is very important to acknowledge the rising demand for green and natural options, but this does not mean you need to change your whole business; without a doubt, the demand for traditional funerals is still very strong. The danger comes from ignoring an entire market segment or writing it off as a “trend.” Adapting to changes and being ready to meet new demands can be the key to a business’s longevity. If someone was looking to buy a bicycle, you likely wouldn’t be able to sell them a car, and if someone is looking for a green funeral it will be difficult to sell them on a traditional burial instead. Position yourself to serve families looking for something new, while still being the provider for those going traditional, and the rising green sector of the industry will transform from a threat into a lucrative new opportunity! FBA

Kilian Rempen joined Passages International as Marketing Manager in 2017. After studying advertising and international business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, he lived in Boulder, CO and Bangkok, Thailand, cultivating a love for nature and the outdoors. He can be reached at 505-830-2500 or by email at [email protected]