Driverless Cars: Should Funeral Directors Be Worried? You Need To Know Why.

I can’t see the future, but I can build it... throughout the entire history of the human race technology has empowered us ... it has freed us, levelled the playing field for everyone ...
— Sebastian Thrun

This blog post reviews the recent National Funeral Exhibition and wonders why were there only a few technology companies there?

The Rise of The Driverless Car

Dawn of the Driverless Car, was a BBC TV Horizon shown on Thursday 29th of June 2017. It was an interesting peep into the near future. What do driverless cars have to do with the funeral industry?  

There is some direct connection. At the NFE was The Brahams electric hearse. The same ideas that power the concept of a driverless car, you can see in that innovative design. 

Indirectly, perhaps, quite a lot more.

It is much more than just seeing an electric hearse at the exhibition. It is the relentless change in culture that embracing technology brings to society. It is transforming all industries including the funeral.

The silent almost invisible rise of the driverless car will transform all industries. Some traditional businesses will disappear or lose market share. Long held ways of transporting people and products from point A to point B will go. Technology has still to solve some of the tremendous problems for a car to be aware of the surroundings. To make the millisecond instant decisions needed to drive safely. It will not be surprising though if soon your Amazon Prime delivery van has no driver!

From nowhere, it will seem, driverless cars will transform culture. Angry voices will clamour, "How has this happened?" However, the wise and observant will have seen it coming and made changes in advance. I don't see a time when a hearse will be driverless! But who would have thought a couple of years ago that one would be powered by batteries? 

Can we say the same about the digital trends in the funeral industry? Are there ways that funeral businesses could be adapting, changing to market trends and embracing new business opportunities that digital and technological change is bringing? Yes, I think so. 

National Funeral Exhibition 2017

The NFE at Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, UK was a flagship successful event. Congratulations to the organising team! They took on the task of bringing together around 200 exhibitors from across the world. Using efficient technology to book tickets and print passes for the day, getting into the show was a breeze. The day there was educational, engaging and entertaining.

The National Funeral Exhibition, though, is like no other exhibition! Firms are there from every conceivable area connected to running a successful funeral business. However, for me, there was a glaring absence of technology and digital marketing problem-solving solutions. Today, technology offers endless ways to build connections with customers and potential customers online. Well done to the NFE organising team to add a seminar on cyber crime and social media to the mix.

What Technology Companies Were There?

13 companies were exhibiting connected with digital or online relevance today.

1 - Funeralbooker

Funeralbooker have been around for a couple of years. They are making significant gains in bringing buying choice for consumers online. The website makes the process of finding and booking an online funeral simple. James Dunn is one of the founders of the company. He told me they have over 700 Independent funeral directors connected. They are booking on average five funerals a day online. Intriguing and insightful stats to how the market could be changing, that's 1800 funerals a year booked online. Even only at average funeral prices that is a lot of business!

There were two Funeral Directors comparison sites exhibiting at the show. Online reviews and customer recommendations are critical these days. From holidays to hotels, from the latest TV to even buying your pet dog! Listening to the voices of strangers is the "go to" method to gain insight into products and services.

2 - About the Funeral
3 - Funeralzone

A new mobile app - afuneralnotice. This app helps Funeral Directors communicate funeral day details with one simple text message to clients. 

4 -

The collection of memorial donations at funerals is often cash. I often wonder why? Exhibiting were three companies that offer solutions to this situation.

5 - Cloudberry Online Donations
6 - Love2Donate
7 - Much Loved Charitable Trust

Four funeral management software companies were displaying their packages. These can control everything necessary for the digital administration of a funeral business.

8 - Emcom Software
9 - Eulogica - Funeral Administration Software
10 - Exigen Systems - Digital Funeral Arranger
11 - Oak Technology - Administration Software 

Online memorials and digital legacy websites will become ubiquitous to create treasured memories. There were two exhibitors in this marketplace. This area of growth provides opportunities for funeral directors to build extra services to their business.  The cost of funerals is becoming transparent. People will buy on price, not always a good thing. (See sites above). So finding innovative ways to serve families is critical for a profitable future. Adding personal historians into the mix could be an interesting idea?

12 - Fondest Memories

13 - Huunuu

Where Were The Rest?

Why was there not more? My take is that the traditional funeral director sees little need to change and adapt to the relentless progression of digital disruption. Just as many logistics firms are ignoring the developments of driverless cars, and just as taxi's ignored Uber, and just at the hotel industry saw no threat in AirBnB - they were all mistaken. Five or so years away will the funeral industry be  in the same situation?

How Close Are We To A Driverless Car?

The development of driverless cars zooming around us was a short while ago the ideas of science fiction. By 2021 or sooner it will be here. Check out this video from Ford.

Will Families Ever Use Online Funeral Directors?

The idea of an online Funeral Director or organising a funeral online may seem implausible today. It will happen. Driverless cars will not take drivers off the streets altogether.  Neither will online funeral directors or booking a funeral online take all the business from traditional funeral businesses. However, they will take a larger piece of the finite number of funerals that occur each year.

Should You Be Worried?

If your website is not mobile responsive (ie: it can be seen clearly on a mobile phone) if you do not communicate digitally with families and if you have no way or plans for families to organise a funeral online from your website, probably, yes. 

Taking steps today to move your "analogue" funeral business to "digital" is critical. The future of your family funeral business could be at risk.

In the closing scenes of the BBC Horizon programme the narrator says,

"The challenge for the technologists is to make sure the transition into reality as beguilingly smooth as the PR that surrounds it."

Technologists will rise to that challenge. Of course, there will be bumps along the road to success. You can be sure at some point in the not-too-distant future; you will be sitting in a driverless car. It will seem reasonable. So will buying a funeral online. Will your business be one of those that survive this digital disruption? I'd love to hear your views.