5 Key Trends Shaping the Future of the Deathcare Industry

Deathcare navigates a dynamic landscape of trends shaped by evolving needs, preferences and values. Discover how you can keep one step ahead.

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| Read time: 10 mins

As with every industry, deathcare is navigating a dynamic landscape that’s shaped by evolving consumer and family needs, preferences and values.

To ensure future growth and longevity, it's therefore important that deathcare service providers identify and understand these trends, in order to take proactive steps to address them.

With that in mind, we look at 5 trends within deathcare services - both from the perspective of the consumer and the provider, what their impact has been and some actions you can take to help build the road ahead for your cemetery, crematory or funeral home.

Green, Natural and Sustainable Burial

As environmental consciousness grows and views on death and personalization evolve, more of us are opting for green and natural burials - and with this, a growing number of natural burial sites and sustainable burial options.

From natural burials, to ‘alternative’ methods of disposal such as NOR  (Natural Organic Reduction) or aquamation (aka alkaline hydrolysis), this ‘shock of the new’ may take some years to fully bed in to the wider deathcare culture, they do suggest a road towards greater choice than ever before, as well as a sea change of sorts towards sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of end-of-life services.

The impact of all of this has been that for many, traditional burial or cremation options are not the only conversations that families are now expecting to have, and for many providers, that means a need to integrate sustainable practices into their service offerings and operations.

That may also mean the sourcing of eco-friendly products, collaborating with green providers, or considering alternative burial options as a natural evolution of traditional practices, all while promoting environmentally responsible options.

What deathcare providers can do:

  • Explore partnerships with green providers and suppliers of biodegradable products.
  • Educate yourself and your staff on sustainable practices
  • Educate consumers on sustainable burials, and promote its benefits in a responsible manner, avoiding ‘greenwashing’
  • Consider offering carbon footprint assessments to highlight the environmental benefits of certain choices
  • Consider the viability of other ‘sustainable burial methods within your current site/portfolio such as the creation of a ‘combination-cemetery’

Direct Cremation

Direct cremation - a more cost-effective alternative to traditional funerals - is on the rise.

As the pandemic unfolded, direct cremation became a practical and safer choice for many families dealing with loss, and as we move forward, has undoubtedly brought about a shift in how many approach end-of-life arrangements, further fueling the rise of direct cremation. 

The impacts have been numerous, with a recognition of the importance of transparency, allowing families to understand funeral costs upfront, the customization of memorialization options, the introduction of online or virtual services, and flexibility in service packages.

This shift may necessitate a change in perspective or attitude towards direct cremations and a greater awareness of the balance between empathetic care and personal choice, with providers considering offering direct cremation as part of their services to meet the demand for more affordable options.

What deathcare providers can do:

  • Consider direct cremation as an additional service offering to meet the demand for more affordable options
  • Provide more customizable memorialization options
  • Embrace digital solutions that facilitate contract creation for multiple interment methods
  • Offer flexibility on service packages
  • Educate families on options - recognizing that direct cremation might be a relatively new, or even challenging concept for many

Pre-Need Planning

Pre-need planning isn’t a new concept, but we’re seeing first-hand a growing interest within areas outside of the US, such as the United Kingdom. But why is this trend gaining traction? To answer that, we might explore what motivates consumers to choose it.

As we become more cost-conscious, people may be actively seeking ways to alleviate the financial burden their funerals might impose on themselves or their loved ones, providing added protection and the added incentive of locking in current prices for funeral services - as well as the ability to spread the cost over months or even years.

We might also look to factors such as changing attitudes towards personalization and control, with modern consumers valuing individuality and customization of funeral arrangements - something that pre-need planning can facilitate - from choosing specific caskets or urns, to designing unique memorial services that reflect their personality and preferences.

We may also look at the importance of reducing the emotional burden of families - alleviating the emotional stress by providing a clear roadmap of the deceased's wishes - something that became all too apparent as we navigated the challenges of the pandemic.

The rise in pre-need planning brings several significant impacts on deathcare providers - this may for example, include a shift in revenue streams, requiring careful financial management and forecasting; evolving service offerings, including the provision pre-arrangement consultations; greater transparency in service pricing models, and technological integrations, to name just a few.

What deathcare providers can do:

  • Invest in ongoing education and training for staff to ensure they’re well-equipped to guide clients through the pre-need planning process
  • Expand and diversify service offerings to encompass a range of pre-need planning options
  • Educate consumers on the benefits of pre-need planning
  • Implement integrated digital systems that facilitate the processing of pre-need payment plans and contracts

genealogy

Genealogy

As with pre-need, genealogy isn’t new, but it has been on the rise for some time, and with the proliferation of online genealogy platforms and databases it is now easier than ever for individuals to access historical records - and for deathcare providers to maximize the many opportunities it presents.

And increasingly, we've seen many within the industry seeking to implement integrated digital mapping and grave search functionality as part of their broader digital transformation strategies for this very reason.

This trend has had a profound impact on deathcare services - the reshaping of how individuals and families can find and engage with the memories of departed loved ones has meant service providers becoming more proactive in finding solutions that will meet this need.

Not only this, but the rise in cemetery tourism has also been supported in many ways by the digital technologies that connect communities with the historical data held by cemeteries and crematoriums, as enthusiasts use this resource to visit the gravesites of their ancestors, or notable local luminaries.

What deathcare providers can do:

  • Consider grave search functionality and digital technologies as a key part of their broader transformation strategy
  • Seize the opportunity to enhance visitor experiences through provision of historical information
  • Collaborate with genealogy experts and local community groups - building relationships to create mutually beneficial opportunities
  • Enhance their online presence to engage with families and the wider genealogy community.

Digital Memorialization

Increasing adoption of digital technologies - and it might be said, lessons from COVID’s social distancing measures - presents further opportunities, as families seek personalization in memorialization that celebrates the life of their loved ones.

One noteworthy trend is one that has emphasized innovation in memorialization, encompassing a range of innovative memorialization options, including virtual memorials, interactive digital tributes, and the use of QR codes to access multimedia content.

A growing preference for innovative memorialization options has a number of potential impacts: families now have the opportunity to craft highly personalized memorials that go beyond traditional obituaries and gravestones; they can now break down geographical barriers, with family members across far distances participating in virtual memorials or access digital tributes; and the ability to preserve memories via multimedia content in perpetuity.

What deathcare providers can do:

  • Stay updated on emerging technologies and interactive digital experiences - they won’t always be right for you, but stay informed.
  • Consider developing and offering digital memorial packages as part of your service offerings
  • Consider placement of QR codes or interactive screens on cemetery or crematory grounds, taking consumers straight to your digital offerings
  • Integrate the implementation of digital memorialization into your 5-year business plan / marketing strategy

The Road Ahead

So what does the road ahead look like for deathcare providers in order to stay ahead of emerging trends?

It means; 

Investment in digital transformation - prioritizing digitalization, from cemetery software solutions, to public genealogy portals, to considering the value of virtual memorialization platforms.

A diversification of your service offerings - expanded services to include pre-need planning, direct cremation, green burials, and alternative methods of interment or inurment to cater for diverse preferences.

Ongoing staff training and professional development to be aware of new and emerging trends within the industry in order to enhance the customer experience

Embrace - or investigate - eco-friendly practices to determine if they are a viable option to help sustain your long-term growth.

Educate and remain transparent - providing clear information on pricing and service offerings, as well as educational resources that help families make informed decisions.

Consider collaborations with other deathcare professionals that will allow you to expand your offerings and expertise. 

The deathcare industry continues to be driven by shifting trends and consumer preferences. Providers who adapt to these trends, embrace innovation, and remain sensitive to the diverse needs of their families are in the best position to ensure future success.


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