4 Products Beating the Funeral Merchandise Quality Epidemic
Since entering the funeral industry, I have felt a taboo around talking about the topic of quality in relation to funeral merchandise – it’s a problem. In fact, I don’t know any other industry that has such a universally low quality output of design, craftsmanship, and user experience. I know… that’s harsh… but it needed to be said. A few areas that tend to need improvement are urns, jewelry, product displays, branding and graphic design.
So whose fault is this? It’s complicated. In short, it’s the result of a not-sexy, hermetic, and consumer-sensitive industry. The nature of death care makes innovation wildly challenging. We are constantly trying to make families feel comfortable and so we make the planning process feel familiar. This means, there is a proclivity towards tradition, little innovation, no risk taking, and an abundance of those vacuums that emit a flowery scent as you clean (I’m pretty sure that funeral homes are the only reason these still exist).
Until now, there has been no demand for higher quality products therefore few manufacturers have provided them. But it goes beyond that. The margins are REALLY good on cheapy produced urns (est. cost: $15, avg. retail: $245) and both the distributors and funeral homes are afraid of losing even more money to cremation by offering better products with lower margins. The distributors are the gatekeepers and if they don’t ask for the products, than there is no incentive for people to manufacture them. Additionally, funeral directors generally are not trained in quality inspection, so they don’t have a keen sense for identifying remarkable products. This impenetrable circle of quality epidemic was actually working out fine… until the internet (10 years ago).
With shoppers increasingly going around the funeral home to the internet to shop for memorial products, they have *discovered* that there are actually quality items that they were not offered in-person (they exist!). This is a big issue for U.S. funeral homes because the only thing more scary than our trajectory to reach Japan’s 99.97% cremation rate is the Internet’s threat to take all the funeral merch sales.
If in-person quality and presentation of funeral merchandise improves then less people will go to the internet to buy the products.
There is a way to have quality craftsmanship, good design, and supreme customer experience with reasonable margins to increase the number customers buying in-house and ultimately increase revenue. Below are 4 companies doing it right – their product, branding, and consumer experience are all beautiful and match or exceed today’s standards.
* Full disclosure: The opinions in this article are my own and and I was not compensated in any way by the following companies for inclusion on the list. In some cases, I am acquainted with company representatives.
Granville Urns is a North Carolina-based company run by five sisters that has taken the urn industry head-on with handmade Italian wooden urns that are unmatched in quality. What was once described to me by a funeral director and “the Louis Vuitton of urns” has crafted an all-around refined experience from the branding and story to their craft and presentation.
Eterneva is an Austin-based company is taking on the ashes-to-diamonds niche by offering a memorable experience absolutely required for this type of product. Turning ashes into a diamond is one of the most conceptually powerful options available today and there is finally a company doing it all right – user experience, branding, customer service, presentation, and finished product.
Able Caskets was started by a former car designer turned casket designer Joseph Ledinh has reimagined casket style for 21st century burials at competitive pricing. Research shows that the new generation of death planers are disconnected from tradition and religion and let’s be honest…. Do you want your father buried in a Buick or Maserati?
The Sogon Pillar
The Sogon Pillar is an innovative piece of funeral home furniture faces its entire vision on personalization. Its magnetic surface allow homes to cater a funeral centerpiece to each family’s needs whether they want a modern look, traditional, playful personalization, or anything you can dream up. Their experience-focus has resulted in a stunningly simple product that can become an essential piece of furniture in every service.