Funeral – Business Model Innovation

graveyardI am very familiar with the Funeral Industry  being raised with my twin-brother Alex in a six feet under family in Amsterdam. We considered it normal that we had to be quiet if families visited our (funeral) home…

Our first job was the Hearse and the Cadillac Fleetwood when we were only 12 years old. When I was 18 I started to work in the night shifts as I had some time left as a student to make money. The night shifts meant taking care of the loved one from picking up, washing, clothing and presentation. Amazing experience. I saw life from a different perspective. Death as a subject was something common in our family. But death itself is always sudden and comes unexpectedly. I always remembered how wonderful it was to be able to do something for a family who lost their loved one. 

But is the industry innovative? I think it is. To some extent. New coffins, new memorial cards, new cars, new way of ceremonies, digital tombstones. Of course, the same as you would expect in any other industry. But business model innovation is hard. At least, not so much adapted by funeral directors. A model that is adapted is the so I call it broker or intermediary model. A funeral home is for many services like tombstones, print, coffee and lunches, advertising, care rental and cemeteries a broker. Putting a revenue share on these services is fair especially as funeral homes are invoicing the family for that.

Alex – my brother – introduced last year a new concept: Budget Funerals. First you think it has only to do with the revenue. But, the model is smart. Budget funerals offers a different value proposition and uses different resources. The funeral is much cheaper because the service is at the funeral home and not at the cemetery or cremation center. You save costs on transport and carriage. The funeral home determines the time for the funeral. Very early morning or late afternoon. Depending on the capacity. 

picture-18“Digital Graveyards” like Tributes.com, Legacy.com, Respectance.com and Memory-of.com are booming. Some are free. Some you need to pay of you do not want toothpaste advertising on your digital tombstone. But is this business model innovation? I don’t think so. It is just an Internet service. These sites offer families the opportunities to remember their loved ones forever. More and more we would like to have a digital space to remember our loved ones as well. Strange is that these services are not supported by funeral homes yet. They still offer the regular services including print advertising and remembrance cards. Herinneringsplaats.nl, a Dutch initiative in cooperation with Memory-of.com is an interesting business model invention.  The resources are from Memory-of.com (US backoffice with Dutch design) and the distribution channel of the funeral home (Dunweg and vd Putten) is used. Based on the relationship with the family the funeral home sells this service as part of a funeral. Yes, they SELL the service. A one year subscription costs 40 euros. Two weeks after introduction the herinneringsplaats.nl initiative is promising. 4 out of 5 families buy access. And a single memorial site is visited in average by 100 people for 4 or 5 times in a week. Good food for advertisers.

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