Take a Clue from Retail: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

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Store Closings

The shift to an experience economy has proved itself in an unfortunate fashion (for those unwilling to adapt) when looking at the retail landscape. With brick and mortar stores filing for bankruptcy and shutting doors for good, one by one they are falling like dominos: Macy’s, Sears, Toys “R” Us, the list goes on. A colossal 8,300 physical stores were slated to close in the US in 2017 and the trend continues in 2018. A few culprits of the rapid decline are easy to identify such as emergence of online shopping and e-commerce, both examples of a time well-saved mindset. But this didn’t all happen overnight. In fact, almost 20 years ago, two authors recognized and forecasted this trend in our favorite book at LC, The Experience Economy: work is theatre and business a stage. Pine and Gilmore warned of this sweeping change long before the days of Amazon and effective e-commerce; they accurately predicted that consumers’ expectations and desires were changing. Some retailers heeded the warning and changed or emphasized their economic offerings to accommodate the changing customer and have flourished in the Experience Economy (for example, think of Starbucks and Apple). Instead of slashing prices and having constant sales, these two early adapters looked to find an answer within. They began providing engaging, mass-customized experiences for their customers, thus increasing sales and capturing unwavering brand loyalty.

Lucky for us as members of the Life Celebration Community and disciples of The Experience Economy, we are fully aware of this change and have embraced an experiential approach through the strategies we teach and the products we co-create. We are helping to provide mass-customized, “Starbucks-esque” experiences for grieving families in every community.

The challenge we face in funeral service is convincing the profession to recognize that the same decline is happening right before our eyes. It has never been more necessary to plan accordingly to future-proof your funeral home. However, the vast majority of funeral homes are turning a blind eye to what is happening, similar to the retailers that refused to adapt and change in response to the consumer and technology. The time has come to take a hard look at the profession and begin showing our consumers the value of our offerings as funeral professionals.

Time is the currency of an experience. We need to begin offering engaging, compelling experiences that encourage families to spend their time with us at the funeral home; this builds value, trust, and loyalty. If we fail to provide value consistently, then we will find ourselves–funeral professionals– in a dire situation similar to that of retail. When we compete on the basis of price, we are depreciating the value of what we offer as funeral professionals. This sort of rhetoric encourages families to think of us mere service providers rather than experience engineers. As long as the profession continues to devalue itself competing on price, our consumer will continue to buy down and buy less. Only when we provide an experience that engages our client families in an inherently personal way and makes them feel like their time was well spent, will we begin to see call volume increase and revenue gained.

The choice is yours to make. It’s either a race to the bottom or a rewarding climb to the top.

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3 Comments on “Take a Clue from Retail: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail”

  1. Absolutely AWESOME! You once again nailed it!
    If we as funeral directors do not get our heads out of the sand – then we are doomed to follow Toys-R-Us and the other retailers that have commoditized themselves into bankruptcy!
    You are awesome and we feel fortunate to have met you!
    Joe Cinotti

  2. To quote Mike Vance who worked for Disney and was Dean of its University “ reinvent the old and make it new”. He was author of “Think outside the Box”
    We should also look in the mirror and ask ourselves “Why do we do what we do”. Not what or how but WHY

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