Recently, I’ve seen a number of different funeral home website providers either begin offering or update the sympathy store systems they offer their customers. And while I love seeing this kind of innovation in the funeral industry, I would encourage directors and other industry professionals to exercise caution. Just because your new website comes with a revenue-generating floral and sympathy product ordering system doesn’t mean that the system offers you the features and tools you need to be successful.
If you’re currently evaluating funeral home websites on the basis of their sympathy store offerings, I hope you’ll take the time to ask the following three questions before signing on the dotted line.
How will you help me make money?
One of the easiest metrics you can use to compare sympathy store providers is to look at the commission rates they offer. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret… When you’re shopping different commission rates, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples!
Suppose one store provider offers you 15% commissions on all sales, while another offers you 20%. You’re going to make more money with the 20% provider, right? Not necessarily. What’s far more important to consider is the conversion rate you can expect to see. If you post 100 obits to your website, and the provider that pays 20% commissions only gets you 30 orders, while the provider that pays 15% could get you 80 orders, you’re going to make more money with the second option — even though the commission rate is lower!
The thing is, figuring out how to increase a sympathy store’s average conversion rate is an ongoing process — and it’s one that a provider can only do when it has access to loads of live data. Because Frazer Consultants’ Tribute Store is live on hundreds of active funeral home websites, we’ve been able to gather a tremendous amount of information and make changes based on the results we see.
As an example, take a look at the string of orders that were placed for Daniel Affrica on Curran Funeral Home’s website:
What we’ve found is that, when we post pictures of the arrangements to our obit pages as they’re purchased, they tend to trigger a ripple effect. Visitors see that others have purchased flowers for the family and feel compelled to do the same to demonstrate their support. Because of the simple change of posting these images, it’s not uncommon to see strings of several purchases in a row — all of which represent commissions flowing into the funeral home’s bank account.
How will you help me market my products?
On the surface, being able to add your own products to your sympathy store — as FuneralTech’s Remembrance Store offers — may seem like a great feature. But how will you know which products are going to sell? And better yet, how will you market the products you do choose to add to your store? If you had all day to sit around and play with your store, that’d be one thing. But you’re busy, so what’s the point of wasting time adding products that never once convert into sales?
One of the best things about working with a provider that’s been in the sympathy store game for a while is that they’re able to use the live data generated by thousands of services to determine which products will sell best in certain situations. As a result, companies like Frazer Consultants can hand-select the sympathy products that have the best possible chances of selling and deploy them in a way that’s most likely to catch visitors’ attention. The marketing piece is taken out of your hands — all you have to do is sit back and wait for orders to come in.
On another note, be especially wary of sympathy store providers whose stores take visitors away from your website to complete their transactions. If you take a look at the obituary linked to above, you’ll see that clicking the “Order Flowers” buttons all launch a Tribute Store window within the memorial wall. Setting up our stores this way helps our funeral home customers maintain brand awareness and avoid losing visitors that never come back after completing an external transaction, both of which play a role in the success of a funeral home’s online marketing efforts.
How will you help me take care of my customers?
This is a big one. Imagine that the day of the service arrives and the florist that’s partnered with your sympathy store fails to come through. The flower arrangement delivered is smaller than expected, and many of the flowers included are beginning to wilt. The family that ordered them is frustrated and embarrassed, but who’s going to take care of them?
While we certainly hope this isn’t a situation you’ll face often, mistakes happen. And when they do, you’ll want a sympathy store provider that offers live customer support and a guarantee that replacement arrangements will be provided at no charge. If the only method you have for getting in touch with your sympathy store provider is an email address, you — and the frustrated family members who bring issues to your attention — could be left waiting hours for a response.
When you partner with Frazer Consultants on your funeral home website, you aren’t just getting our Tribute Store — you’re also getting the team of customer service representatives that back it up. Our team has handled everything from reaching out to local florists when the contracted providers are out of specific flowers to having replacement arrangements delivered directly to the homes of grieving family members. We offer this live support because we know that, when issues arise, whether or not we respond promptly and provide solutions reflects directly on your business.