Corporate Eye

Would You Buy a Casket from Walmart?

Walmart hopes its low price brand promise can take a bite out of the funeral home business by offering caskets for purchase through the Walmart website, which can be shipped in as few as 48-hours.  Walmart is also offering a layaway plan, so customers can pay off their caskets over a 12-month period.  With price tags ranging from $895 to $2,899 according to the BBC, Walmart is offering its caskets as a beta program to “understand customer response.”

walmart_caskets

What do you think of this extension of Walmart’s product offerings?  The company has grown to offer products to fit just about any stage of a consumer’s life, so perhaps Walmart’s leaders believed that capturing part of the market share of the deceased was the next place to go for continued growth?

There’s something about buying a casket from Walmart that doesn’t sit right with me.  On the other hand, caskets are expensive.  Maybe there is a target consumer who would comfortably turn to Walmart to help them find a final resting place for their loved-ones during their time of mourning.  Or is the correlation of Walmart’s ‘cheap’ brand image in stark contrast to what people are looking for to honor their lost loved-ones?  It’s hard to say.

So far, funeral home owners aren’t overly concerned by the Walmart threat, claiming the human-touch they offer to consumers is far more important than the lower prices Walmart offers.

Would you buy your loved-one a coffin from Walmart’s website (they’re only available for purchase online)?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, TodayShow.com, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
 
Comments

We are an online casket seller. We probably sell 90% of the online caskets. We also sell to funeral homes. Obviously the same caskets.

The average funeral home has an overhead of $3,000/week and an average of 1 funeral per week, so they try to make $6,000 to $7,000 on each funeral. They typically add $3,000 to the price of the casket and have a $4,000 funeral. So there is your $7,000 profit on the funeral.

When you go to the funeral home to buy a casket, the funeral home never has it in stock, so they order it from a local warehouse to be delivered the next day. Well, we also deliver anywhere in the USA to be delivered the next day. Usually when you talk to the funeral home to set a viewing date/time it is 2, 3, 4, or 5 days away so if the casket can be delivered within 8 to 24 hours, why shouldn’t someone order the casket directly from the wholesaler online, have a bigger selection and save $3,000?

Remember, you have credit card protection if you buy online if it is late, damaged or the wrong color. We loose $350 freight to get it there and $350 freight to get it back when we make a mistake. So, we do not make mistakes. This is not a $1.00 software disc that we are shipping or a bottle of worthless sugar pills. We have major loses when we make mistakes or the customer is not 100% happy.

Well only about 2% of all caskets are sold online and we have 90% of that business. Normally the person goes directly to the funeral home and their charismatic salesmen has no trouble closing them in their weekened state. Similarly if they contact clergy, hospice or hospital staff, or emergency medical all of them get $200-$400 referral fees from the funeral homes. It is the funeral home’s job to seek out and FIGHT for these typical referral type people. Hey, it is a business just like any other except with a typical $12,000 tab for everything ($8,000 funeral and $4,000 burial) the players are a lot more agressive to get those customers.

Why does an 18-gauge metal refrigerator with sealer cost $800-$900 but a 18-gauge metal casket with a sealer cost $4500 at the funeral home. The only difference is the casket has no refrigeration. Why would the casket be $3000 more. Oh, now you see what I am saying!

We sell to over 300 funeral homes now, but we also sell directly to the public for the same price. We also counsel them on how to save at least $1,000 to $1,500 on other funeral and burial expenses.

It is unfortunate that this will probably just get deleted because it doesn’t match your views.

Call me if you care to discuss this.

Terry Zimmer
President of BestPriceCaskets.com
214-909-9633
866-474-5061

Hi Terry

Thank you for your comment; a fascinating look at some of the economic realities behind a business most of us choose not to think about too deeply. For instance, I was aware that ‘green’ eco-coffins were available online (at least, here in the UK) but not that standard coffins might be. Though I do know that, increasingly, non-standard ‘green’ coffins are available at funeral directors – at least, they are around here, though I haven’t done any price comparison between online and my local service provider. Perhaps I should…

You can see that I have done at least some preparatory thinking about this, and more research today, but I suspect that many people don’t, and that this is why the service from the local funeral director tends to be the default option – and why 98% of coffins are not bought online.

I understood Susan’s post to be discussing whether there was a brand mismatch between Wal-Mart and this type of product, not whether people should/shouldn’t buy direct. Although we don’t have Wal-Mart here, I can draw a parallel with our own shops, and can see that in some cases there might well be a brand disconnect, because the association with death will not suit the shop brand.

Plus, I think there is a cultural issue in play: while I am happy with the prospect of a cheap cardboard coffin (why waste resources?), there are people for whom horse-drawn hearses, black plumes and a decorative coffin are a necessary part of the ritual, and for them the expense of the whole affair is part of the grieving process (“at least we gave her a good send-off”). For these people, the brand disconnect will be too great. But for some, and perhaps an increasing number, online purchases might be the right decision.

It does seem to me that there will be competition between your business and Wal-Mart in this area, at least for online sales, but if you have 90% of the online market, you’re very well placed. I notice that the Wal-Mart offering doesn’t appear on the first page of any of the Google searches I did on this today. It will be very interesting to see how this works out for Wal-Mart – Susan’s post suggests that this is a trial project only.

Lucy
(Editor)

people will ask where did you get that casket walmart i sound cheap

Hi,
I am the inventor of the DanCof PULP caskets and urns.
I am looking forward to be ready with my homepage and the production, so i can show it to you.
And then the most interesting for me is how you do like my ideas.
Visit the http://www.green-talk.com site and se what they describe, and then I would appreciate to know any positive or negative opinions.

Hi Bendt

Personally, I was planning on a cardboard coffin, since that seems to be what’s typically available here as a ‘green’ option, but a paper pulp one is an excellent idea. Will you be marketing direct to the ‘end user’, as discussed in Susan’s post above, or will you be marketing to undertakers?

I do not see any problems in buying caskets or urns in WalMart or any other place online. It is a normal item to buy like many others.

Hi Lucy,
first of all i am glad that you will prefer a PULP instead of a cardboard casket/coffin. I am sure you will find it more nice, but note, that all the all teh different ornaments is not shown on the picture on the model, but they do the coffin more nice than what yo have seen yet.
If you are a Christian you can get a cross, are you a communist, you can have hammer and sickle (wonder if there are any left) are you a sailor, you can get an anchor, etc, etc., so there are many different ornaments to choice between.

About selling channels. Undertakers is a still a big market. They will not be sold on conditions what they wish, but what the customers wish. Meaning if in the USA the people would by via the internet, they can buy there, but also from undertakers. In some countries, like in my little country, Denmark, it is only undertakers that sell caskets.
We will see when we start promoting them, how the market react, but for me the most important is, that the end user will like and buy them, and they can get them, even if the undertaker do not like to sell them.
The market is free, but some like to protect themselves. There are, as I found in my several years studies, forces in each different country, that want it to be “in ususal their way”.
But the future depends on the customers wishes, and I think that already now there are many that want this PULP one instead of the normal tree casket.
For your information i did astudy and found that 2% would choice a normal tree casket, 82% would choice a PULP casket, and 16% has not decided yet or don’t know.
Read more on http://www.dancof.com

Wish you all the best.

we have a field that we were wanting to start a haunted house kind of thing and if we do we were thinking to but one real nice coffin for our barn setting is it possible to bye one for this purpose it doesn’t even have to be nice inside since the prop will require it closed easier to set up..even dinged or dented we can always repaint it or maket dusty whatever..

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