By: Mark Brewer

With more Americans now choosing cremation over burial and over 78% of Americans projected to choose cremation by 2040, funeral homes must adapt to the changing times and provide families with a variety of options to capitalize on this paradigm shift.

For most purchases these days, we have abundant options. When it comes to shopping for a car, clothes, groceries, even a phone or computer, the choices can seem endless. Why? A key reason is simply that people are different and want options that appeal to them personally and express their individuality.

In many funeral homes today, however, the options for cremation urns and memorials that incorporate cremated remains are limited. This is surprising considering the fact that cremation surpassed burial as the leading choice of Americans in 2015, and the demand for cremation continues to increase. The consumer demand is growing for simpler, less ritualized funerals, and many families are taking cremated remains home with them to do what they wish. This significant market shift toward cremation is putting pressure on funeral homes to adapt and make up lost revenue from fewer burials by generating income from products and memorials for those who choose cremation.

The good news is that more and more interesting and creative products are being developed to help funeral homes generate additional revenue from cremation. So, what kind of options are out there? What are cremation customers looking for? How can your funeral home actually make more money on cremations?

Let’s go back and first understand why Americans are choosing cremation over burial. Baby boomers (and their children), in general, are less traditional than their parents and for many, being buried in a cemetery is less important to them. Other factors contributing to the growing cremation trend is that religion is playing a less important role in the decision and the cost of a cremation is generally lower than burial. In addition, many people prefer cremation as they view it as being a more environmentally friendly option than a traditional burial.

To capitalize on the growing cremation trend, every funeral home has the opportunity to offer a wider selection of urns and memorials that incorporate cremated remains. This includes both, traditional and eco-friendly urns, as well as experience-orientated memorials that can be personalized. One option is offering a biodegradable living urn that allows a family to grow a memorial tree from an urn containing cremated remains. This type of system comes with a 2 to 4 foot young tree with more than 50 tree options available throughout the country. There are also a number of new and interesting eco-friendly scattering urns available for funeral homes to sell to cremation clientele. Screen-printed cardboard tubes have been available for years, but there are now scattering urn cylinders made only from bamboo, a truly sustainable resource. These urns are becoming more and more popular as they are affordable, eco-friendly, and visually appealing. In addition, a number of biodegradable urns have been developed in recent years to disperse ashes in a dignified way, including special urns that float like a buoy for a short time before freeing the remains below in the water and even a floating urn made from ice. Another interesting option is a service that places cremated remains in an artificial ‘memorial’ reef in the ocean to become part of an amazing underwater eco system.

In line with the growing cremation trend, a number of cemeteries have dedicated some space as a ’memorial garden’, which gives families the ability to have their loved one’s cremated remains scattered at the cemetery. In addition, some cemeteries are starting to take it a step further and are offering ongoing care related to growing a ’memory tree’ from a biodegradable living urn holding a person’s cremated remains. This gives families peace-of-mind that their loved one’s memory tree will be cared for long past their lifetime. It also helps families who want to plant a tree know that if they move, the remains and tree memorializing their loved one will still be a place they can visit. There’s an opportunity to capitalize on this by not only selling cremation clientele the biodegradable living urn product, but to also offer a service to plant and care for the tree, or offer a tree planting ceremony on the property of the cremation clientele or at the cemetery.

All of these options are gaining in popularity as many of the over 1.5 million American families who choose cremation each year are not just looking to place their loved one on the mantle, but instead, do something special to commemorate them in a more meaningful and personal way. By offering such options and alternatives, funeral homes can capture additional income that would otherwise be lost. It also creates a happier client base that is more likely to refer friends and come back to your funeral home the next time their family needs your services. FBA

Mark Brewer, based in Denver, Colorado, is the CEO of Biolife, LLC, a developer and producer of market leading, eco-friendly and experience-oriented products for the funeral industry. Biolife’s innovations include The Living Urn®, a patented biodegradable urn that gives a family the ability to grow a tree from cremated remains; Eco Scattering, a line of patented eco-friendly scattering urns made from bamboo; Eco Water, a new urn designed to let families do water burials with ease; Flow the Ice Urn, and a series of indoor urns that grow houseplants, bonsai trees and succulents. Biolife also recently developed Ecorial™, a new app and website designed to give families and funeral homes the ability to easily record the exact location of a memorial in nature and create a permanent interactive online memorial. Mark can be contacted at [email protected] or by phone at 800-495-7022.