Is The Online Funeral Industry Worth £1 Million To anyone? Seems it is.
Someone once said to me, "I can tell what's important to you by looking at two things, your bank account, and your calendar." It is true. Where we spend our money and where we spend our time reveals so much about what we see as valuable and important.
This week, a group of Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists, (think Dagons' Den on a bigger scale) put £1 million in funding towards the online funeral resource site, Funeral Zone. They certainly must believe the online funeral planning market is valuable and important.
Ok, they have taken a risk, that is what VCs do. Some people see exceptional opportunities ahead in this marketplace to make money. The profits are not coming down in torrents and raining gold yet. However, the sky is looking cloudy, and there is certainly the potential for a few scattered showers ahead.
Funeral Zone is based in the UK but with sites on a global market. Funeral Zone secured its £1 million backing through seed-funding investors, The Minerva Business Angels. Locating themselves at the University of Warwick. The investment will support its mission to expand its global reach. Funeral Zone is saying it is on target to double the size of its operations within the next six months. This money is not the first investment from the group. Back in July 2014, they invested an initial £150,000. You would guess that they see some benefit and opportunity to dig deeper into their pockets this time.
Congratulations to you Funeral Zone - you are paving the way that others will follow!
Who Is Funeral Zone & What Do They Do?
Funeral Zone began in the summer of 2012. It became a passion project by Exeter-based childhood friends Ed Gallois and Kevin Homeyard. As with many businesses in this sector it was born out of experiencing loss. It was finding little online support and help to deal with the both the practicalities and emotional issues at the time.
Funeral Zone says that their mission is to help the bereaved. They do this through the following services:
Funeral Director Comparision Site.
Funeral Plan Comparison Site
Resources and Help Section
Online Obituary Facility For Funeral Directors
Online reviews matter. There is no use denying it. There is no use saying it does not sway me. It matters critically to consumers buying products and services of any kind today.
Check out this post - DO ONLINE REVIEWS OF YOUR FUNERAL BUSINESS REALLY MATTER? Proving online reviews are influencing 67% of purchases, including funerals.
An essential element of Funeral Zone is the Funeral Directors review section. One of the founders Ed Gallois says:
“And how do you actually go about finding the best funeral director, from dozens that will come up on a Google search? With all that information in one place at the touch of a button, we realised it would be one less stress factor for people to deal with.”
Do FAMILIES Review Funeral Directors Online?
The fundamental success of a comparison site is based simply on getting reviews.
If you went to tripadvisor and wanted to check a resort for the best hotel and none of the hotels had a review, it doesn't help much. The same can be said for Funeral Directors. The major difference is people know, trust and use tripadvisor now.
At the start I bet it was slow!
Tripadvisor is now a well established platform. But the idea of seeing and trusting reviews was new. That is no longer the case. We now trust the opinions of strangers. Can the same be said about booking a hotel as using a Funeral Director, do people leave reviews?
How are people responding to the opportunity to leave a review?
Take Nottinghamshire, for instance. The report lists 63 Funeral Directors in the County. Reviews from families have been posted on 24 of the 63 Funeral Directors on the site. The most reviewed Funeral Director has 42 reviews and is part of a long established Independent Family Funeral Directors with 25 branches in the region. In all, the combined total of reviews for that company alone is 418. They are obviously completely convinced of the value of online reviews.
What is important to notice (and perhaps one of the key reasons that one office is getting so many reviews) is that someone personally replies to each review on behalf of the Funeral Directors. (Well done Chloe Lymn Rose!) It is a relevant comment to the individual family. That speaks volumes about that office of the company and the kind of service I would receive. After seeing these reviews, if I needed a Funeral Director in Nottinghamshire, there is only one firm, I am going to use.
I also did a search in the area where I live, Worcestershire. The report here delivered 39 entries of Funeral Directors. There was not one review for any of the Funeral Directors on that list. That would not help me much in choosing the best funeral director in my area! Lot's of opportunities to grow here then.
So there is plenty of work to do to convince Funeral Directors of the benefit of online reviews. But signs of progress towards that end are positive. It takes time to change culture. It needs to be driven top down from the owners of the Funeral Directors. As always, casting vision is a leadership role. Working with Funeral Directors to help them understand the opportunities online reviews offer is critical to the future success of Funeral Zone.
Maybe, this could be a way that Funeral Zone could help get Funeral Directors online?
By helping Funeral DIrectors see how potential customers are viewing their business online? This area is one where I work. I consult with funeral directors providing training, coaching, and teaching how important their online presence is becoming.
Funeral Zone is 100% right in using online reviews as a way for customers to choose the right Funeral Director. What this simple search of Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire demonstrates is an incredible opportunity for any Funeral Director to rise to the top of this list quickly and noticeably.
If I were a Funeral Director in Worcestershire (or any area for that matter), I would be encouraging my happy customers to write a review for me after each funeral. It is what I do with my funeral celebrant business. Ok, not everyone does write a review, but you need to ask.
What NO Reviews?
The Funeral Director's Comparison area of Funeral Zone will not be much use without reviews. I do not know how much it costs to join Funeral Zone as a member. Maybe teaching, coaching and helping Funeral Directors could be an advantageous way of spending some of the £1m? For without reviews, it's not going to work.
Honest, I was a bit confused by this section.
There are some excellent resources explaining what a funeral plan is and how they work. However, when I looked to try to buy one or find a supplier, all I got was this. I am sure that this will change in the future. Well, I hope.
This gives very useful advice from arranging a funeral to coping with bereavement
The obituaries section is providing a platform for Funeral Directors to help families. You can leave messages, light a candle and make a donation to a charity via a Just Giving link. This process is similar to many in the marketplace. Interestingly, as I have found on other similar sites, it is the Coop Funeralcare that seems to be switched on the most. They appear to know how helpful these sites can be to serve clients but also promote the funeral business online to other family members. Nice touch that you can get a printed memorial book as part of the online package.
Kudos to Funeral Zone I say!
It is a sign of the move to a greater public acceptance of the funeral industry going online.
It is always difficult to be a trendsetter, blazing a path forward where others fear to tread.
There is much work to do in convincing Funeral Directors to go online. It is challenging to work within an industry that is traditional and reticent to change. Some Funeral Directors see the opportunities. Some see the changes coming and are becoming dedicated digital natives. Others are burying their heads as well as their customers.
OK, we have £1 million pounds to spend ... let's go change the face of the funeral industry.
Best wishes to you Funeral Zone!