Guest Post: When Will The Funeral Profession Go The Way Of Uber and Airbnb?

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Well, Ben, I am uncertain about that these days!

While death and taxes are here to stay, how we deal with those two certainties certainly has changed. No longer does it seem strange or uncomfortable to ditch the paperwork and file taxes online. And while today it may seem impersonal and unusual to organize, plan and pay for a funeral online, the day when that will seem reasonable and standard is coming sooner that we may like to think.

Just ask the taxi and hotel industry about rapid change in personalized service industries. They will mention two words – Uber and Airbnb.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and The Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World is a new and gripping book published in January 2017 by Brad Stone. It tracks the rise of these new billion dollar behemoths from start-up to global domination. Uber went from zero to $68 billion in eight years. (It only took five and a half years to surpass the valuation of the most valuable car company, General Motors.) Airbnb went from zero to $30 billion in nine years. That makes it worth more than the Hilton and Hyatt hotels groups combined. What Stone observes is that Silicon Valley is an unmerciful business environment… the winner takes everything and does it fast.

So what if Silicon Valley turns its eyes to the funeral industry? Various reports value the US funeral industry to be worth around $20 billion. That is a prized market share worth pursuing. These companies took traditional markets and digitized them. They took simple traditional services like a taxi and a hotel room, and they made it easy to access these services on a mobile device. The rest, as they say, is now history. In only a few years, everything in these markets changed. Is the funeral industry next?

The progress towards the digitization of the funeral profession is inevitable and unstoppable.

What then can a tradition funeral home owner do now? Simply this – embrace digital change.

Embrace Mobile Accessibility

Someone has passed away, and a family in your area is looking for a funeral home. The first thing they do is search Google. Is your website viewable and usable on mobile devices? It is critical when people search for a funeral home on their phones they can read your site with ease. If not, they will try another.

I am surprised how often the owner of a funeral home has never viewed their website on a mobile phone. All it takes is a quick check, and you don’t even have to do it on your phone. Simply open a browser window on your computer and load your site. Locate the right side of your browser window. Now shrink it all the way to the left until you cannot shrink your browser anymore. If you have a mobile responsive website, it will shrink to fit. If you do not, it will stay the same size. (See example below.)

Pray Funeral Home’s responsive website (above) automatically adjusts to the size of the screen it is being viewed on, so that families have an easy, enjoyable experience whether they are on desktop (left) or mobile (right.)

I did a quick Google search for “Funeral Home Fort Lauderdale.” Of the first ten websites I checked, six were not mobile friendly. Want to get ahead of other funeral homes in your area? Get mobile accessibility!

Embrace Online Reviews

Is that hotel where you are going for your vacation any good? Want to know? Then more than likely you will read its reviews on Tripadvisor. After all, Tripadvisor reviews sway millions. The voices of strangers tell you about the service, location and prices. You read those reviews and then make a choice.

Want to get ahead of your competitors? Then embrace and encourage your funeral home families to write an online review. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use Google My Business.

In the same Google search (“Funeral Home Fort Lauderdale”), I could see one funeral home had 21 online reviews. A couple of others had 10 or more, but most funeral homes either had 1 review or none. Consider the financial investment in a funeral… knowing other families are happy is a major factor. Not everyone will leave a review, but ask everyone! Also make sure that you answer and comment on each review that is left online.

Embrace Digital Communication

How easy is it for your families to communicate digitally with your funeral home? Do you offer and use instant messaging? My doctor and dentist do. (They even ask for reviews that way too!) Can clients use social media and Skype, as well as email and phone to contact your office? Adding Google Voice or SMS Messaging from your website helps make communication more relevant. Is it easy to find your telephone number? Is it easy to email you? Don’t make it difficult for people to contact you.

Do you confirm appointments by text message? Are you following up meetings with emails? By using these digital methods of communication, you allow clients opportunity to respond in the ways that they prefer. One funeral home I work with only uses paper and pen. They believe their families will feel the service is less “personal” if they use a computer. Don’t be afraid to embrace digital communication in all its creative forms… your families will be glad you did.

The digital marketplace is a winner take all environment. Yet, there will always be a place for those who compete well in the same market. While they are the biggest, Uber is not the only online taxi firm. Airbnb is not the only home sharing accommodation app. Those in their wake, nevertheless, are competing in a different marketplace caused by the waves of change these firms created.

Will your funeral home survive if Silicon Valley turns its eyes on the funeral Industry? The truth is, it has already begun. Innovative tech companies like Funeral Booker are already here. Who knows how long it will be before an Uber or Airbnb-size funeral home company arrives? Will your business survive tomorrow? That is down in part to how much you are willing to embrace digital change today.

Want to learn more about your funeral home can embrace the digital world and find success in the changing funeral landscape? Click here to register for a FREE copy of Peter Billingham’s new eBook Death Goes Digital: 7 Steps To Growing Your Funeral Business In A Digital World. Release date 24th February 2017.


About The Author

Peter Billingham is a funeral celebrant and founder of Death Goes Digital. Giving practical help on digital trends in the funeral and end of life market place, he has authored Death Goes Digital: How Funeral Directors Can Use LinkedIn To Demonstrate Professionalism, Build Reputation and Create Visibilityavailable from Amazon. For more information about Peter and his work with the Funeral Industry and to book him to speak, visit or follow him on twitter @DeathGoesD 

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