Millennials are changing the death care future already
A recent article in America's Connecting Directors website identifies the rapid cultural change Millennials are making to the funeral and cemetery industry in a very short space of time. Justin Crowe's article 'In 17 Year, De-churching Millennials Will Rock the Funeral Industry…The Stats Are Shocking' looks at how few people identify themselves as being religious (churchy) and why this is forcing change. Millennials are today's consumers, they are tech savvy and they expect their homes and workplaces to be in the digital age.
The article is saying that the funeral industry is not usually impacted by cultural change until decades later, but right now the 'de-churching' of Millennials means they are forcing change as there is a significant increase in people classifying themselves as 'religiously unaffiliated' and 'spiritual but not religious'.
In the 2016 Australian census 52.1% of people identified as Christian, 8.2% followers of non-Christian religions – but 30.1% categorised themselves as having 'no religion'. As with the American example, these people were far more likely to be younger and in the 18-34 years old bracket.
These changes are already being felt by the cemetery, crematoria and funeral industries in the UK, USA and Australia. Certainly, the departure away from religion is no longer considered unique. Weddings are now more likely to be officiated by a celebrant than a minister, so why would funerals be any different?
People are already starting to seek out more than the traditional funeral, families and friends want something personalised, family oriented, and unique. The expectations and shopping habits of Millennials are different from any other generation – shopping is online and instant. And their consumer power will continue to grow as they age.
Cremations continue to increase as a more economical and popular choice than burial. By the time the Millennials are being cremated they are unlikely to want an urn, they will instead be more likely to treat their death, and the death of those around them including their parents in a new way:
- Funerals will be in person but also streamed online so anyone anywhere can participate
- Memorials will be online and on social networks and not in newspapers. We have already seen newspapers embrace online notices and memorial books
- Burials, where they are chosen, are more likely to be personalised and eco-friendly or green
- Ashes won't reside in urns rather jewellery or something modern and transient
- Many people find the process of meeting with a Funeral Director quite unsettling, Millennials may prefer a tick box online ordering process
Millennials are consumers but are also employees within the cemetery and funeral industries and they are also impacting change in their workplaces with a new expectation in the way businesses should run and cater to customers.
So how will cemeteries and crematoriums meet these new challenges – remembering there is no longer a choice to change the way business is done? With each new generation cultural and social expectations change so cemeteries, crematoria's and funeral homes need to cater to a new expectation or they will become obsolete. The key is to diversify business to cater to the changing customer demand and culture and to embrace technology. In being flexible and open to doing business in a different way; cemeteries, crematoria and funeral homes can meet changing demands.
Read Justin Crowe's full article 'In 17 Year, De-churching Millennials Will Rock the Funeral Industry…The Stats Are Shocking'