An audience gathers at a conference hall.

 

Written by Jacob Terranova

 

This is the second part of our NFDA roundup. To read our initial post, click here.

 

As we mentioned in part one of our 2016 NFDA roundup, the two biggest themes from this convention were cremation and personalization.

 

It’s not a big surprise. The two topics have been growing within the funeral industry for years now — but 2016 is the when they became more important than ever.

 

We know that cremation is here to stay. And if you attended some of the workshops, you’ve no doubt seen the numbers — so we won’t dig too deep into the stats. The important takeaway was that cremation is at a higher rate than previously predicted and over the next 15 years will become the norm. (For an in-depth look at cremation rates and how it will affect you, check out this free eBook.)

 

And that leaves us with the other theme of the convention — personalization.

 

Personalization will be the future of funeral service. Personalization will be key in creating more value — the high-quality value we talked about in part one — that will help make up for declining revenue from cremation services.

 

It was a big takeaway from several workshops we attended such as The Grand Finale: Funeral Event Planning, Having It My Way: Serving Today’s Consumer, and others. The consensus was that funeral directors must learn to cater to the growing personalized desires of families. They must become ritual specialists — even if it means inventing new rituals for families.

 

And it’s not just our industry that’s seeing this trend of personalization.

 

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Personalization now the norm

This has been a trend years in the making. And thanks to technology, it’s becoming easier than ever to customize.

 

It started off with little things. Personalized images on checks or credit cards, or customized clothing or footwear. But now we have things like personal M&M’s, where you can order your very own M&M’s with whatever text or image you want.

 

Everyone is jumping on board. Some recent examples:

  • Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign where bottles can come printed with a personalized name. They even offer special packages for events like weddings, birthdays, and other parties.
  • Online Jewelers — like James Allen or Blue Nile — have become swiftly successful because they can give customers an almost infinite amount of options while cutting their overhead costs.
  • Netflix is leading the charge in cord-cutting — the practice of people abandoning cable altogether. Streaming TV continues to rise, as traditional cable subscriptions fall. It’s because people get to choose when and what they watch on their terms.

Personalization can be found everywhere, and the reason is because it works. Personalization is a win-win for everyone — consumers leave a transaction feeling satisfied when it’s been catered to their needs.

 

A customer study for Infosys found that 86% of consumers say personalization is a deciding factor in their purchasing decisions, and consumers are willing to pay more to get personalized options.

 

As for the business side, benefits of personalization include:

We know that personalization has become a standard in all these other industries, but what does it mean for funeral homes specifically?

 

Personalized funerals

All the above can directly apply to your funeral home, because more client families want personalization as a part of their funeral service. In fact, the NFDA found that 62% of families want some form of personalization.

 

And that number is only going to increase as Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and eventually Millennials start thinking about their funerals. It’s not crazy to think that 15 to 20 years from now, almost 90% of people will want a highly-personalized memorial service.

 

Yet currently, it’s estimated that 90% of funeral homes only offer the same traditional experiences. Of course, traditional services are still desired — it’s understandable there will be families that want a religious service or traditional burials.

 

But 2016 is the beginning of the larger shift that’s coming. Right now, personalized services can make your funeral home stand out from the competition. In the future, however, personalization will be expected — and the funeral homes that can’t adapt will lose out to those that do.

 

The two ways to personalize

There was a lot to learn about personalization and unique memorials from the convention & expo this year, and it comes down to this.

 

There are two ways to personalize a funeral service: the service or the product.

 

For a personalized service, a few ideas include:

  • Giving families a care basket of household items or comfort food when you first get the call about a death.
  • Offering a reception or dining services after the memorial, and even taking it a step further and making it unique by catering the favorite meal of the deceased.
  • Making creative displays that capture their personality. Showcase uniforms, apparel, or other memorabilia that highlights the deceased and the life they lived. For example, if the deceased worked as a baker, incorporate the apron they baked with, or pass their favorite recipes around as a keepsake to take home.

The key to personalizing a service is working with the family. It means really digging down deep to find that unique story about the life of their loved one. Here are some tips on how to get the most from your talks with families.

 

The product, or tribute gifts after the service, are another piece of the personalization puzzle.

 

These gifts can include:

  • Memorial books that contain personal photos, biographical information, and even stories or letters from the family.
  • Personalized jewelry that families can take home and remember a loved one by.
  • Stationery or prayer cards that are themed to reflect something unique about the deceased.
  • Memorial DVDs that walk us through the journey of the deceased’s life story.

No two people are the same. And personalization’s rise in funerals is simply the desire we have for our final story to be told to future generations in a unique way. With technology, we are now able to do that better than ever.

 

We learned a lot from our trip to the 2016 convention and we are excited to use what we’ve learned to better serve funeral homes. What are some of the big ideas you took away from the convention? Share with us in the comments below!