by Mike Bryan, General Manager of Batesville Technology Solutions
Asked why he chose his lucrative – but dangerous – career, the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” I recommend a similar, but legal, approach to business. If you want to grow your revenue, you need to meet your customers where they are – and that’s where you’ll find the money.
Where you’ll find today’s consumers, more often than not, is online. They’re using the Internet to connect to businesses and to each other in constantly evolving ways, from LinkedIn to Twitter, from Facebook to Instagram. Consider these leading indicators from a Pew Research Center study:
- 91% of adults own mobile phones, with smartphone use surging
- 85% of adults use the Internet
- 34% of adults own a tablet computer
What do these global trends mean to you and your local, regional or national funeral business?
Over the past year, Batesville conducted field surveys with more than 500 North American funeral directors to research how they use Internet technology and identify their unmet needs. What we found might surprise you. While 80 percent recognize technology’s growing importance to their success, less than 50 percent say they are actively using the Internet to grow their business, make their own lives easier or enhance customer relationships.
Nationwide research also reveals that 38 percent of all traffic to funeral home websites comes from search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! or Ask.com. The implications are clear: If you can’t get customers to enter your front door, you can’t effectively use your site to grow your business. As your digital front door, your funeral home’s website is increasingly likely to determine your customer’s first impression of your business – not the façade of your brick-and-mortar building.
Today, that impression is based more on the quality of their own online experience on your site – and how it stacks up against the user experience they’ve come to expect from worldclass online service providers like ESPN, Amazon, eBay and Netflix. When it comes to modern online consumers, it really is “all about them.” No matter where they are, what time it is, or what kind of device they’re using to connect, families, friends, vendors and customers all want instant, user-friendly access that meets or exceeds their expectations – and they’re quick to go elsewhere if they don’t get the level of service they have come to expect.
Industry & Consumer Trends
Because Batesville has the privilege of being a trusted technology partner to more than 5,000 funeral homes and cemeteries across North America, we felt it was important to dig deeper in order to understand exactly how consumers currently connect with funeral homes online. As we analyzed trend data for 180 million annual visitors to 5,000 funeral home websites, some interesting data shifts surfaced. Two of the most significant are:
- An increase of more than 90% in total social media traffic over the past four years
- An almost 600% increase in mobile device traffic in the past year alone
Guidelines for Deathcare Professionals
Your analysis and in-field interviews with funeral directors revealed some guidelines you may find helpful:
- You need to play the search engine optimization game to win. If your site doesn’t come up in the first three to five listings on Google and other major search engines for your local market, you won’t get the exposure you need to reach consumers and grow your business.
- One way to attract consumers to your digital doorstep is by offering clearly organized funeral planning information on your website. If your site becomes a trusted source of helpful information and advice for families in a time of great need, you’ve already taken a step toward establishing a strong emotional connection. As a funeral professional, that’s an enhancement you’re uniquely qualified to provide.
- Remember, you aren’t just competing with other funeral home websites. Today’s consumers expect all websites and applications to be easy to access and navigate, whether they’re on an iPad, a desktop computer, a Droid-powered cell phone or a laptop.
The Good News
The good news in all this is that once consumers arrive on your digital doorstep, you have a tremendous opportunity to differentiate your business. While there’s no simple “one size fits all” template for online success, there are a number of steps you can take today to offer prospective and current customers a seamless online experience. We’re not talking about simply integrating a number of stand-alone systems so they can communicate and share data, because we’re convinced you can’t integrate your way to success.
Based on our research, Batesville is preparing to introduce an expanded portfolio of technology-based services, applications and tools – all united into one solution, designed to offer funeral home customers seamless connections with the families they serve. We intend to play a major role in providing funeral directors with powerful new ways to actively use the Internet to grow their businesses, make their own lives easier and enhance customer relationships.
The winners in the funeral home market will create well-thought-out consumer experiences, both online and off. With the pace of change moving faster than ever, doing “business as usual” won’t be a recipe for longterm success. By providing an array of resources that allow families to go to a single site – yours – to post an obituary, read condolences from friends and family, order flowers and cards, download grief counseling material, find other funeral-related resources and much more, funeral homes will be able to build the foundation for a lasting online relationship based on connectivity and trust.
Reprinted with permission from the February 2014 issue of the American Funeral Director. To subscribe, call 800-500-4585