Funeral Industry News

CANA Insights: What Consumers Think Cremation Is … And Is Not

December 8, 2019

CANA Insights: What Consumers Think Cremation Is … And Is Not

We’ve been exploring the fascinating insights gained from consumer focus groups sponsored by CANA and Homesteaders Life Company earlier this year. The goal of this groundbreaking research was to complete the statement “Cremation Is ____” with uncensored opinions from real people who had chosen cremation for a loved one. 

CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis and Pam Kleese of Homesteaders Life Company presented the focus group findings at CANA’s 101st Innovation Convention this summer. “When we asked participants what cremation is,” said Kemmis, “we found that it’s an evolving definition. Cremation is a personal thing for every family.” 

Cremation is … not always about the price

It’s difficult for funeral professionals not to immediately associate cremation with profits — or the lack of them. Rising cremation rates equal decreasing revenue, right? But it’s not that clear-cut with consumers — at least with those in the 2019 focus groups.

During the discussion the moderator asked focus group participants if they would have changed anything if every product and service had been free. The answer across all six groups was a resounding “No.” Most followed up by explaining that cremation was simply what their loved one requested, so that’s what they did.

However, they did discuss the costs of cremation versus burial. The 30+ participants basically fell into one of three groups:

  • Those who chose cremation because it was a good, smart decision, not because it was cheaper.
  • Families who had the money for a traditional burial, but didn’t want to spend it when a less expensive option was available.
  • Those who didn’t have enough money for any method other than cremation.

These results reveal that some consumers aren’t totally committed to one method or the other. Instead, their decision may come down to the resources available for final disposition. “The only people we put in the ground were the ones with insurance,” one participant said.

Cremation is … about connection

An important determining factor in the families’ choice of cremation was flexibility. Participants felt a traditional funeral service and burial came with an urgency to get the person in the ground. Cremation, however, offered additional time to deal with today’s logistical challenges. 

Instead of rushing to have a memorial service, focus group participants enjoyed having time to gather distant family members together. They also liked being able to choose unique locations for the event and transport cremains themselves without the assistance of a funeral home.

Retaining possession of their loved one’s remains was another key reason participants chose cremation. They described cremains as “portable.” One participant explained that portability allowed them to “keep him with me” — even on vacation. “You had them in life,” commented one group member. “You want them in death.”

Cremation is … simple

As Kemmis and Kleese shared this summer, there’s a reason more and more CANA members are adding “Simple” to their business names. Consumers are looking for low-stress, high-satisfaction options from every industry, including death care. 

Most of the focus group participants felt they had found that combination in cremation. They appreciated that cremation meant fewer decisions and shorter periods of grieving. All in all they expressed satisfaction with their cremation experience. 

However, does “fewer decisions” for cremation families mean lost opportunities for funeral directors? We’ll discuss these implications in our next CANA Insights installment!