Time for change?

words: Howard Barber, Golden Charter Director of Data Analytics & Insight
Howard Barber

Is there a more important question to answer right now? The impact of COVID-19 on our lives is without a doubt transformational and now more than ever the profession needs to be close to its customers. Customer research allows us to do just that, and here at Golden Charter we’ve been keeping close to our customers’ market sentiment, intentions and attitudes during the pandemic.

Is it a time for change in consumers’ sentiment and intentions with regard to funerals and funeral planning?

What has definitely changed has been the UK population’s visibility and experience of life-threatening illness and death. As of June 19, there have been 65,132 extra deaths in the UK* than would have been expected by this time of year. The positive news is that it is returning to normal levels after the highs in spring.

Mortality chart

The impact has been unprecedented and it is truly testament to the funeral director community how everyone has risen to the challenge.

Golden Charter has been independently tracking over 55s’ intentions with regard to funeral planning products for several years. We also have a dedicated team of research, analytical and insight specialists working to track and improve our understanding of our market and customers. We commissioned two tracking studies through March and June** this year, and have found that COVID-19, and the increased experience of death as well as the topic itself, is causing change within the market.

Consideration of funeral planning products has grown dramatically since the start of the pandemic. In March, an estimated 5 million adults (25%) over the age of 55 claimed to be considering a funeral planning product, representing a 178% increase from the level recorded in April 2019. The key question is: is this a permanent shift? Our tracking study in June shows these levels show no sign of changing, with a further estimated 800,000 over- 55s now saying they are considering a funeral planning product, taking the number to 5.8 million (35%).

Two key questions emerge: is it appropriate to be promoting funeral and funeral planning services, given the sensitivity associated with the pandemic but knowing that consideration levels for funeral planning products are at such a high? And if we do promote, are consumers happy to use remote channels to seek information, and to go on to arrange a funeral plan? Our survey work shows the answer to both questions is yes.

Consideration chart

Our March and June surveys showed for those claiming to be considering a funeral plan:

  • Three-quarters, 75%, that it is important that companies such as funeral directors continue to promote their services at this time – up from 71% in March
  • 56% that it would reflect poorly on a funeral director to be seen to be promoting pre-paid plans at this time, up from 43% in March
  • 82% said to provide information via leaflets, online and other non-face to face contact methods
  • 72% agreed it is appropriate to , via a local funeral director

For all these measures, there was no significant difference by age or social-demographic group, with the over-70s consistent in their level of agreement.

These are and have been unprecedented, challenging times. Our independent research shows that through this adversity, consideration levels for funeral planning products are at a high, and for those considering them, there is very little resistance to promoting or purchasing funeral plans remotely.

Time for change, time to act.

* Source: ONS, NRS, NISRA

** Source: Independent Consumer Attitude & Intention Tracker, commissioned by Golden Charter. March 2020 (sample 2,027 UK adults aged 55 or over, conducted March 27 to April 2), June 2020 (sample 541 UK adults aged 55 or over, conducted May 27th to June 1st). Survey conducted by James Law Associates.

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