Kodak had a lingering and painful decline into death and bankruptcy. It started out as a profitable business passed on to future generations. It died when it failed to embrace digital technology.
Can we draw any parallels to Independent Funeral Directors two or three generations old?
I believe they are possibly facing a similar threat in 2016 and beyond. Let me explain further.
The Death of Kodak
The Eastman Kodak Company began in 1892. George Eastman developed a commercially available camera and supplied the chemicals to develop the film it used. In 1975, Steven Sasson a Kodak employee had spent two years creating the world’s first digital still camera.
On showing his invention to the board, the biggest response was,
"Why would anybody want to look at his or her pictures or photographs on an electronic screen?" Stupid idea, eh?
Kodak had 140,000 employees and a market capital of $28 billion in 1996. The executives at Kodak ignored an important fact about Digitisation. Digital photography disrupted Kodak’s business model to the extent that their invention put themselves out of business. They went bankrupt in January 2012.
Disruptive digital technology is here to stay.
“Either Disrupt yourself or be Disrupted by someone else."
Said, Peter H. Diamandis in BOLD - Disruptive technology is now gaining momentum on the Internet for the funeral industry.
Here are just two examples.
Online Funeral Arranging Services
Funeralbooker launched its new online service in November 2015. An entrepreneurial company has set up an easily accessible way for people to book everything needed for arranging a funeral online. They are like a “middleman” between someone searching online and the funeral industry. They then charge a commission to the Funeral Director, who takes the business. It looks a professional site. The model is innovative.
Why are consumers finding and using this online service?
First, because they can be found on Google!
When people search for information on the internet about arranging a funeral, their site comes high on the search engine lists.
There are upsides. If you are the only Funeral Director in the area on www.funeralbooker.com, you could get more business. The downside, you will not make as much profit per funeral.
Funeral Directors Price Comparison Sites
Funeral debt is a growing problem. The cost of funerals has risen by 88% in the last ten years according to the annual Sun Life report. Funeral costs will be driving clients to search the internet for price information about funerals.
Today people are familiar with a price comparison site for buying car or house insurance. We input the details and up comes a variety of companies with their prices. Two companies offering the same services for the funeral industry are comparethecoffin and funeralcomparison Type in a postcode and appropriate information and on screen is a list of various services to buy.
Even comparethemarket.com one of the UK’s leading price comparison sites has a page with a guide to funeral costs! I wonder if you get a fluffy meerkat with every funeral?
Where Does This Leave The Traditional Funeral Director?
Some of the online models above will come and go; that is a given. What should make a Funeral Director sit up and take notice is the number of such options increasing online every day.
It is easy to say it will not affect the Funeral Industry. People will always want to deal with the human touch of a local firm, say many Funeral Directors. The first digital camera was the size of a toaster. It weighed 8.5 pounds and had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels. The iPhone 6 Plus weighs 6.07 ounces. It can record still images at up to 43 megapixels, video at 1080HD and, amazingly, you can make phone calls on it!
It is not hard to believe that every industry, including the funeral industry, will be disrupted by Digitisation. The first technological threats seem laughingly insignificant. However, for many industries that laughter has turned into tears.
Will that happen to the Funeral Industry? Time will tell. But for certain, the marketplace will be disrupted.
Kodak died because it didn't adapt. The irony is it invented the technology that killed it. I believe the growth of disruptive technology will change the face of the funeral Industry from 2016 and beyond.
What steps are you taking to adapt to the changing face of the market? What can you do to disrupt your Funeral business? I would love to hear from you! Please contact me so we can start a conversation.
For more information on how technology is disrupting many industries read the fascinating book BOLD by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.