Every Funeral is an Opportunity to Tell a Life Story

By: Jenn Parvin, Vice President, Marketing & Technology, Batesville
Monday, September 21, 2020

A personal note – Five months ago, the word

“coronavirus” wasn’t in our vocabulary, and none of

us could imagine a pandemic that would threaten the

health of our communities, our businesses and wreak

havoc on our industry. It has been devastating to watch

families lose loved ones unexpectedly without being

able to be with them in their final days and hours. And

not having the opportunity to come together to honor

and celebrate their lives.

 

As always, funeral directors responded with the

compassion, commitment and resilience that we have

come to know and admire. On behalf of all of us who

have the privilege to work with or support you, we say

thank you. Your work has not gone unnoticed.

Every funeral is an opportunity to share a life story.

As I thought about this article, I kept coming back to

that sentence. While simple or elaborate, the casket

is a central element of that story, a reflection of an

individual’s life, experiences and relationships.

As a manufacturer, it’s our job to provide products

that align with consumers’ personal styles, as well as

their emotional and financial needs, so they can make

confident choices without settling. And to maintain

quality standards you are proud to offer and that are

worthy of the Batesville brand. That means constantly

innovating, adapting and refreshing interior and

exterior materials, designs, hardware, features – and

even sizes – to make sure we are meeting our promise.

Today, I’d like to highlight some of the things we are

doing to stay at the forefront and what you can expect

to hear more about in the coming months.

 

Reinforcing value with personalization

Consumer attitudes toward traditional funerals and

the value of funeral service remain a challenge for our

industry. We believe helping families create highly

personal, meaningful funerals is one of the best ways

to change this perception.

 

A few years ago, we conducted a large research project

to understand consumers’ views on different aspects of

the funeral planning process. This study showed

that the casket selection is one of the most stressful

decisions families make when planning a funeral, but

it can also lead to high levels of satisfaction with their

overall experience. Family members feel pressure to

make the right decision, to “do the right thing” for their

loved ones.

 

Providing choices that allow families to make more

confident decisions can drive more positive outcomes.

Every family is unique, so we have invested heavily

in the development of products that can be tailored to

individual needs and are available at price points that

are accessible to more families.

 

Family Choices Personalization and Memorialization

When a loved one passes, families make choices in

how they honor and remember their loved ones. From

the beginning, Batesville viewed personalization as a

way to add value to the service and provide meaning

for the family – and we have continued to expand on

that principle ever since. Today, we have a wide

spectrum of personalization and memorialization

offerings to represent the fullness of a person’s life.

We have brought all of these together under the

Family Choices® umbrella as a way to simplify the

conversation and keep the family at the center.

Family Choices encompasses more than the traditional

decorative elements or engraving that are added to

caskets and urns, or memorial products we wear or

display. Technology has empowered us with digital

solutions, like themed obituaries and custom video

tributes, that allow families to share their loved one’s

story in ways that simply were not possible before. As

we have seen during with the COVID-19 restrictions,

it is a key enabler in keeping families connected with

their communities of support.

 

Simplifying personalization for families

We have three rules for personalization. It needs to be

easy, relevant and affordable. But over time, as we added new items,

things got more complicated. We had accessories that fit on corners;

others for the casket lid; and some that could be used with select urns.

Let’s face it – it wasn’t easy. We took that to heart, and over the

last couple of years, we redesigned and updated some of our traditional

LifeSymbols® corner designs and LifeStories® medallions and

accessories, added new designs and eliminated duplicates. So now,

no matter what you choose, a simple adapter allows

it to be used interchangeably. Families can choose

from more than 100 tribute options – available at no

additional cost – opening up a world of possibilities

and providing the flexibility and customization they

desire.

 

Keeping pace with the trends

Research provides a window into the key drivers and

changes in consumer preferences and is essential in the

development of new products and solutions. We monitor

changes at a national level, while also recognizing the

more subtle shifts in different geographies so we can

meet the needs of all communities. For example, military

caskets and funerals occur across the country, but there

are pockets in the Southeast and

Southwest where demand is much higher. While these

demand variables can be managed through selective

stocking, by building flexibility into the actual product

design, we can extend that capability to a much broader

audience We have looked at both approaches and will be sharing

more about that later in the year. Paint colors and wood finishes

follow trends in the automotive and home furnishings industries, going

in and out of style in cycles. Some of the recent trends we are see that

are reflected in caskets include: Traditional red stains are losing

favor to more natural brown finishes. Building on that trend, we

are adding a new brown option to some of our popular wood caskets.

• While the “shabby chic” or distressed home décor

market is not as hot as it was, it remains a popular

segment.

• Because demand for aesthetically pleasing oversize

units has not abated, we are adding more oversize

woods that are suitable for burial or cremation.

Finally, we know price is a key decision for many

consumers, and we are offering more choices priced at

or below the industry average – in 20-gauge products,

18-gauge and woods.

 

Caskets are not just for burial

Funeral service is a traditional industry, so it’s not

unusual when we hear people associate caskets with burial.

After all, it was that way for generations. But

with the number of cremations in the United States

expected to rise from 1.57 million in 2019 to 1.94

million by 2025, and 2.65 million by 2035,* we can no

longer afford to hold that view.

Caskets are not just for burial – they are for our loved

ones, regardless of disposition. As discussed earlier,

the casket (or a dignified cremation container) is a

central element of a meaningful visitation, funeral or

memorial service. But if we want this to become the

norm, we need more cremation-friendly caskets and

containers.

Batesville adopted an approach of building “dual

disposition” caskets – with the majority of metal and

metal components removed – to serve the needs of

burial and cremation. For example, they have glass filled

nylon arms, wood beds and coated cardboard

liners.

Importantly, that doesn’t translate to “stripped down.”

In fact, two of our most popular dual disposition units,

the Montgomery and Dryden, are affordably-priced

featured products that can be customized with Family

Choices corners and medallions.

 

In addition to the new products we’ve added, a

sizeable percentage of our overall wood line has been

upgraded to dual disposition. We’ve also dedicated a

lot of design and development to launch a new line

of cremation containers for price-sensitive shoppers

with improved functionality, enhanced feature sets and

more contemporary aesthetics. We are excited to share

those with you later this year. What Matters Most

Batesville has been a proud partner to funeral directors

for more than a century. Now, more than ever, it’s

important to focus on what matters most. Supporting

families with meaningful services to support their

loves ones. Offering a large selection of quality

products and technology solutions. And maintaining

our commitment to you and the families you serve.

For more than 100 years, we have upheld John A.

Hillenbrand’s vision and are a recognized leader in

the death care industry in North America. Although

we started as a casket manufacturer, today we offer

burial, cremation, memorial keepsakes, technology,

and business solutions.

 

We are a subsidiary of Hillenbrand, Inc., a global

diversified industrial company with multiple market leading

brands that serve a wide variety of industries

around the world. Hillenbrand’s portfolio is comprised

of two business segments: the Process Equipment

Group and Batesville. Hillenbrand is publicly traded

on the NYSE under “HI.”

Jenn Parvin is Vice

President of Marketing

and Technology for

Batesville. Since joining

Batesville in 2008,

she has distinguished

herself as a sales professional, a leader

and a champion for funeral professionals.

She spent more than 10 years serving funeral

directors in the South and East and has become a

trusted resource.

She has responsibility for the development and

marketing of innovative burial and cremation products

that meet or exceed the needs of funeral directors and

families, and for delivering digital and e-commerce

solutions that help funeral homes optimize their

business and create stronger connections with their

communities.

A true Southerner, Jenn lives in Charleston, SC, with

husband and two children.

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