It’s hard to believe that we are already a few months into a brand new decade. What will the rest of 2020 bring for the funeral and cemetery profession? While we don’t claim to be experts in the art of making predictions, Johnson Consulting Group has served the profession with dedication and skill for several years, and we have learned a few things along the way. Here is a list of future expectations that we believe will have an impact on the funeral industry in 2020.
The Digital Technology Effect
Digital technology will continue to grow in leaps and bounds over the next decade. Faster speeds, improved analytics, and new cloud applications will contribute to operational redesign and business process improvements. Digital tech offers opportunities for innovative marketing channels. Products, services and funeral businesses will need to embrace the latest technologies in order to keep up with the competition.
Funeral and cemetery owners should employ modern technology to streamline operations and provide user-friendly communication tools that bring them closer to their families. For example, some funeral homes have implemented artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots on their websites to target potential prospects and provide a more enhanced customer experience. Customers have come to expect digital solutions from all businesses, and the funeral industry must heed the call in 2020.
Personalizing the Funeral Experience
More and more consumers are interested in personalizing the end of life experience. This means customized ceremonies will start to rival traditional services, and families will demand more creative options that allow them to plan a celebration of life event on their own terms.
Gail Rubin, CT, a pioneering death educator also known as The Doyenne of Death™ says that “Funeral directors need to make the arrangement conference more meaningful and learn how to be party planners.” It’s important to note that families are not necessarily trying to skip the funeral ritual — they simply need a better understanding of how they can add personal touches to a loved one’s service. For some, this might involve planning a non-traditional service at a favorite restaurant, or holding a home funeral for family and close friends. Funeral directors who are attuned to the need for personalization will do well in the coming years.
Continued Rise of Cremation
As expected, cremation will continue to grow in popularity over traditional funeral and burial. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) predicts that the US cremation rate will reach 59.4% by 2023, and the trend shows no evidence of slowing down any time soon.
In 2020, more funeral homes will adjust their strategic and marketing goals in order to supply creative cremation products and services to families. We expect to see more cremation packages advertised online (including low cost direct cremation options), as well as more emphasis on educating the public about how they can still include a funeral or memorial service as part of their loved one’s cremation arrangements.
Funeral providers will also pay more attention to families interested in eco-friendly alternatives to cremation. Other forms of disposition such as green burial and recomposition are especially appealing to millennials who prefer to leave a small carbon footprint when it comes to death care. Funeral and cemetery owners will need to respond to the growing demand for environmentally friendly burial options.
The Changing Face of Funeral Providers
Women are becoming the new face of the funeral profession. Over 60% of mortuary science students in the US are women, and they are already making an impact in the funeral and cemetery industry. Many first generation graduates are also joining the family tradition of funeral service. Over the next decade, the profession will experience a natural progression as women and young leaders bring in new ideas that evolve traditional services and organically change the industry from within.
This diversity should be viewed as a positive change, as women and next generation funeral directors have already made significant contributions to all aspects of funeral and cemetery organization and management. When combined with the growing personalization of funerals and the need for creative alternatives to traditional methods, this new group of funeral providers are poised to make major inroads in the funeral profession in the next few years.
Business Mergers and Consolidations
In line with an increase in female participation, mergers and consolidations in the funeral industry will continue to grow in 2020 as the next generation of owners take the reins. Recent comparison data from the Johnson Consulting Group show that the value of funeral businesses has gone up by 20% over the last 10 years, and a funeral firm is now worth on average a million dollars more than in the early 2000’s.
These numbers suggest there will be more mergers and acquisitions in the coming decade as funeral home owners engage in succession planning to transfer the business to family members or loyal employees. Funeral and cemetery professionals looking towards retirement will also be more likely to engage an experienced funeral broker to perform a business valuation and help them evaluate their options.
There will also be an increased need for training to ensure the right skills are transferred to the right people in a timely fashion. New managers will need help to keep the business on track as they implement different standards and services to stand out from the competition.
Director of Technology
Lori joined Johnson Consulting Group in 2017, bringing experience in cemetery, funeral home, and pre-need sales management. Along with sales and operations management, Lori directed the development of two propriety cemetery and funeral home enterprise software systems. Lori began her career in 2001 as a Family Service Counselor for the Catholic Cemeteries in San Jose. She quickly moved into management and rose to Associate Director of three cemetery locations. In 2010, Lori furthered her career as General Manager of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in Hayward, CA, where she also joined the Catholic Management Services leadership team. As Director of Administration and IT, Lori brought management expertise and software solutions to cemetery and funeral home clients. In 2015, Lori joined PlotBox as VP of Sales. Lori contributed to the development of a SaaS cemetery software program, and was principally responsible for introducing it to the US market. She is a frequent speaker at many state and regional industry events and an article contributor to many industry magazines. She is also a member of the ICCFA Sales and Marketing Committee, which plans and oversees the Annual World Wide Sales Conference each January. Lori balances her passion for helping clients prepare for the future with raising her three children, Catalina, JJ, and Lyla. She spends a lot of weekends at dance competitions and little league baseball tournaments.