Posted: 04 May 2020
In this world nothing can said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
If you have not visited the Costco website recently, you might not have noticed a new category they added: funeral. They currently list caskets and urns. If Costco is getting into the business of death, then this must be a large and growing industry. And it is. The funeral industry in the USA is estimated to be more than a $20-billion-dollar industry with an estimated 2.7 million funerals per year. And the key market, Baby Boomers, have 10,000 people turning 65 each and every day. What’s even more amazing, a typical funeral service today is remarkably similar to one from 50 years ago. A funeral home will display the embalmed body, perhaps in an open casket, while a religious person who may not have known the deceased reads a few prayers. It’s impersonal, stilted, and, at an average of $8,000 a funeral, expensive.
Other than a few large casket companies, the local funeral industry is still comprised of “mom and pop” businesses with no clear national funeral brand that another key market, millennials, are familiar with. And yet it will be the millennial children who will be “burying” their baby boomer parents. Who will they turn to for help? Entrepreneurs, pay attention and perhaps you can create an amazing “death concierge” brand that will elevate the nature of dying from “death” to “celebration.”
This is a large industry that is ripe for disruption. Interestingly, the change is being driven by the “customer.” As much as baby boomers insisted on changing things while they were living, they are also doing the same in how they are leaving. Here are some interesting ways baby boomers are “leaving” that could well turn into key trends:
Cremation: Cremation has become the new normal. Last year, cremation surpassed traditional burial for the first time in the United States. In 1970, just 5 percent of people opted for cremation. This year, about 55 percent of those who die will be cremated, says the Cremation Association of North America, and by 2030, that number is predicted to rise to 71 percent. The main reason people are being burned instead of embalmed? Cremation is a lot cheaper, costing a third as much as a regular burial. It also saves natural resources, like land for a burial, and wood or steel for a coffin.
Green Burial: This trend of the 21st century is straight out of the 19th century. Green burials is when an un-embalmed corpse is placed into a biodegradable container or shroud and buried directly in the ground. Nature does the rest. Its growing popularity is driven by concern about the environmental impact of burying corpses pumped with toxic embalming fluids, and a desire to cut the massive amount of natural resources used in traditional burials. Green burials are better for the budget, too, costing less than half as much as a traditional funeral.
At-Home Funerals: There’s a growing movement of people who are skipping the mortician and caring for their dead loved ones themselves. Instead of whisking the body off to a funeral home and letting others handle it, the family washes and dresses it, has the viewing at home, and handles the burial themselves. It’s no frills and very personal. Funeral “consultants” are popping up that specialize in helping people conduct at-home funerals. It’s also much more affordable than a traditional funeral.
Location Funerals: Do funeral services need to be held in a funeral home or church? Could the service not be held in a more intimate and meaningful setting? A home, a park or someplace that meant something to the individual that is now departed. More and more people are opting for unique locations to hold the final gathering.
Life Celebration: Can you envision party planners or event coordinators starting to take a place in this space as people begin to pre-plan their own exits beyond the decision of whether they want to be buried or cremated? Well, baby boomers can and are. Celebrations are now taking place in the deceased favourite restaurant, bar, surf spot or bowling alley. It’s not about mourning their death but celebrating their life.
Entrepreneurs, take a look at this $20 billion industry and see if you can provide a new level of service that includes end of life issues like taking care of home furnishings and home sale, photos being archived, smartphones being turned off, bank accounts being closed properly, memorials placed on social media pages and other odds and ends. Millennial children will want someone to handle all of this as a complete service element of the funeral process. Get it right and you could be next great start-up as the death concierge.