“If someone had told me 10 years ago that a family would make online cremation arrangements for a funeral without ever visiting my funeral home, I would have said they were crazy!” stated Vincent, the DFS Memorials funeral director for New York during a recent conversation we had.
A fourth-generation funeral director he has witnessed a significant change in the industry over the last decade, and now embraces how the Internet is revolutionizing what he, and his family, has known as a traditional business for generations.
He is one of a number of more progressive funeral professionals who recognize how embracing and utilizing technology can help them be on the cusp of great change within death care in the U.S.
The COVID pandemic further pushed the funeral industry to adapt to change. A change in technology, and being able to offer online cremation arrangements, and remote document signatures. The pandemic also gave the cremation rate a driver. Many families had no choice but to arrange a cremation to take care of a family member’s immediate disposition.
The Rise of Online Funeral Arrangement
There is no doubt, nor room for debate, that we have become a culture of online consumers. According to a study by BIA/Kelsey 97% of consumers now use some form of online media to research products and services, and it is widely accepted that with smartphones and tablets, we are all much more intuitive to that ‘instant gratification’ of information….wherever we are! Whilst 93% of the U.S. population is now online, a study by Pew in 2021 reported that 85% of U.S. adults now own a smartphone, whilst 53% own a tablet. This clearly demonstrates that our access to online technology significantly positions the majority of us to make purchase decisions online.
A few years ago the notion of Online Funerals was often synonymous with the notion of webcast funerals – the live streaming of a funeral service over the web. Today online funerals take on a whole new meaning as families can conduct all arrangements for a funeral without ever needing to visit a funeral home.
Why Arrange a Cremation Online?
The cremation trend can be seen as attributable to this rise in making funeral arrangements online. Cremation has brought about a more simplistic and flexible approach to a funeral. We often hear people (especially the Baby Boomer generation) say “I just want a simple cremation”. Opting for cremation as a simple, no-fuss disposition means that it can be easily facilitated by making arrangements with the funeral home or crematory either online or by phone.
One of the fastest-growing sectors of cremation is direct cremation. This is a basic cremation with no services. As no services are held, and an immediate cremation is performed after any mandatory period has elapsed, those families opting for a direct cremation often feel there is little value in visiting the funeral home.
Keep funeral costs down: Stay in Charge of the funeral decision-making process!
In many cases, the family has opted for the lowest cost cremation because they could not afford anything else, and the last thing they want is to enter a funeral home and feel uncomfortable asking for low-cost services! Being able to make all the arrangements online can alleviate them from the human emotional aspect of dealing with a funeral salesperson.
Many funeral homes that offer online cremation arrangements offer very simplistic interfaces that enable the family to make their choices from clearly marked selections – be it choosing a cremation package, selecting an urn, or posting an obituary. The simple online arrangement option means that you can calmly and more objectively work through the arrangement details and make decisions from the comfort of your own home.
Read our post on What happens during the cremation process? From the Funeral Home receiving the deceased for a cremation to giving the family the cremated remains to understand more about the whole cremation process.
3 Simple Steps to Arranging a Cremation Online
It can be as easy as 1-2-3! Those funeral homes that offer online cremation arrangements generally have a completely automated system that requires you to follow the steps required to complete the arrangement process.
#1 You need to submit the necessary personal information about the deceased in order that the funeral home can obtain the death certificate, notify social security and obtain the necessary authorization and permits to conduct the cremation.
#2 Secondly, you will be asked to complete a ‘Cremation Authorization Form’. This must be completed by the legal next of kin, and the person thereby authorized to make funeral arrangements.
#3 Finally, you will need to make a selection of what kind of cremation package you require and any cremation merchandise you require, such as cremation urns or any additional copies of death certificates.
Generally, once you have completed the online forms and submitted the information, a funeral director will contact you to finalize the arrangements and complete the payment process. The whole online process should take no longer than about 20 minutes to complete. Payment can be made by credit card, or by sending in a check or money order. In some cases, you can pay with PayPal or Bitcoin! How easy is that?
What about Human Interaction?
Some of my co-workers are skeptical about the future growth of online arrangement tools. “What about the human interaction?” they claim, “People still want to talk to someone”.
Almost all funeral homes that offer online funeral arrangements tools also offer a funeral director at the end of the phone should you have any questions or queries. For many funeral homes where revenue is declining as families turn to cremation [average funeral home revenues are down 37%], being able to offer online arrangements enables them to keep cremation prices down and minimize their overhead.
If for any reason you feel uncomfortable about completing arrangements online, you should first consult with the funeral home. In many cases talking to a funeral professional can help to salve any concerns you may have. I have known of funeral directors who will actually complete the process online with the family on the end of the phone.
I know of several funeral homes offering online arrangements that DO require the family to phone first for a secure password to access the online arrangement tool. This is to help prevent unnecessary spam use or competitors soliciting information.
Save on Cremation Costs: Discounts for Online Cremation Arrangements
Don’t we all love a deal these days? How about $100 off if you arrange online? Several of the cremation providers we work with offer specially discounted cremation prices for those families that will complete the arrangement process online. The savings that they can make on overhead can be passed on to the families they serve. It may well be that their web advertised direct cremation price is an “Internet-Only” offer, or you will be offered some kind of cash discount off the cost of cremation if you DO complete all the arrangement process online.
A Word of Warning: Watch out for Add-On Pricing!
As a final note – do be aware that in some cases that enticing low-cost cremation price may be a very basic price, and you may find add-on items bump this price up as you complete the online process. It is wise to ensure you have read the full breakdown of what is included with the package you are selecting before starting the online process.
Check that the package includes the cremation container, any crematory fee, and at least 1 copy of a death certificate. A temporary cremation urn (a plastic/cardboard container) is generally provided with a direct cremation but you can select an upgraded urn.
For those that are comfortable with making purchases online, organizing the elements of a simple cremation disposition online may come relatively easily, for others this may still seem too giant a leap of custom and culture.
However, the fact that a significant number of progressive and entrepreneurial funeral businesses are now offering this as an alternative option to traditional methods of funeral arrangement certainly does signify that there is a demand in the funeral marketplace.
The separation between the disposition (cremation) element of the funeral ritual and the memorialization (service) highlights how the funeral industry is to some degree fragmenting. Today many families seek the disposition only element from the funeral home and then organize the memorialization themselves. Whether this is by enlisting a funeral celebrant, a local minister or simply arranging their own secular memorial service. Being able to organize the disposition online via a simple e-arrangement system, can help make this a simple process to manage.