As new generations get older, people’s expectations for how they receive information and go through the preplanning process are changing. Does your funeral home know what people are looking for? To help answer this question, we looked at a segment of preneed leads we received via our online forms on Legacy.com during 2016 and conducted qualitative data analysis to better understand what people wanted to support preplanning in the most recent 12 months.
Our research left us with three key observations:
1. More people are seeking information on cremation than traditional burial, driven in part by cost concerns. One in 5 people specifically requested cremation information, that is twice as many customers specifically mentioned cremation than traditional burial. Of those people, 45% were interested in information about cremation pricing or prepaying for a cremation.
2. Finances are a big consideration for consumers. We found that 29% of people were interested in costs of services or wanted information about prepaying for a funeral.
3. People are particular about how they are contacted, most indicating a preference for email contact. In our sample, 16% of leads gave specific instructions on how they would like to be contacted. Of these people, 52% asked for email, 28% requested a phone call, 27% requested direct mail and 4% other.
What Does This Mean?
Online lead-generation gives us a direct peek into what the average person needs. Like many other categories, research for purchases is done dominantly online today. According to the 2013 Major Purchase Shopper Study, 81% of shoppers conduct research online before making a purchase over $500. We can expect that the online trends we see will likely grow over time. The interest that people have in cremation provides a great opportunity for your funeral home to be the expert in the subject. Writing an article or creating a video or email that explains what cremation is and how your funeral home handles cremation can inspire trust for your funeral home and help your website rank higher in online searches.
When 29% of leads ask for information related to costs, this could indicate that people are having a difficult time finding funeral cost information online. Make sure your funeral home stands apart by including a general price list on your website, clearly presenting the different packages you offer with the associated costs, or making that information more accessible from your website’s top-level navigation. Not only will these changes help your families find the information they’re looking for, but they will improve your website’s SEO as well and dispel negative perceptions of the industry not being transparent.
Surprisingly, 9% of the “preneed leads” in our sample were actually “at need” with family members who had recently passed away or loved ones in hospice care or with terminal illnesses. This shows that there is opportunity online to serve families with immediate need situations who may not have strong ties to a local funeral home, giving your home an opportunity to provide your services.
What we found most interesting was people’s preferred method of contact. For those including specific instructions for contact, we see the dominant preference for receiving information about preplanning via email. Overall, 52% of people preferred email, 28% of people wanted to receive a phone call, and 17% wanted to receive information in the mail. Many people with immediate need situations explained that since they are taking care of a loved one, schedules might be unpredictable and the best way to reach them was via email. Others with longer time frames felt that corresponding through email was enough involvement for where they were in the preplanning process. In both cases the sense of maintaining control of the conversation and being able to interact at their pace was helpful.
The interviews we’ve conducted with consumers reinforce these findings. Contact via email was viewed very positively, even by customers over age 80 that we expected might be averse to that form of communication. Direct mail was less popular than email and, given the significant expense of direct mail, it’s smart to use email to help people consider arrangement options or make a decision regarding preplanning.
This data would suggest that if your funeral home or a third-party firm you work with requires a phone number for a qualified preneed lead, then you are missing out on a larger possible audience. Communication needs have changed over time and your preneed form should too.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Your website is the digital storefront for your physical business. As you continue to optimize your funeral home website, consider the needs of the preneed customer and how you can answer the questions they have to cultivate trust in your home. Any time you come into contact with families or potential customers, make a mental note of the questions they have, what they expect from the funeral planning process, and how they wish the process could change.
Funeral service professionals have always strived to stay close to the families they’re serving. How is your funeral home responding to these changes in consumer preferences? What makes your preneed options stand out from the res? As modern life increasingly deviates from those of previous generations, understanding the preferred communication styles and changing expectations of the families you serve helps your home continue to provide the best service possible in their time of need. FBA
Kim Evenson serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Legacy.com, where she leads the Client Success team for the company’s funeral home and newspaper partners. Before joining Legacy.com, she served as CMO of Retrofit, SVP of Marketing at eDiets.com, and as a Director of Marketing at Kraft Foods. She earned Bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.