Conveying the Value of Cremation Urns

Julie A. Burn's picture

Q: Our firm has a hard time selling cremation urns. It seems as though many families are satisfied with the container. Can you share some information on how to effectively convey the value of a cremation urn?

A: The most recent industry research (a 2006 Disposition, Container and Service Survey conducted by the Cremation Association of North America) indicates that approximately 60 percent of families selected a cremation urn vs. a temporary container. Though more urns are being purchased now than in previous years, there are still families who do not see value in a permanent urn for their loved one.

A permanent urn serves as a protective container and becomes a treasured memorial for a loved one that will last for generations. A plastic or cardboard container is a temporary receptacle that houses the cremated remains until a permanent urn is chosen.

Cost may be a factor in choosing an urn.  However, too often family members choose not to purchase an urn simply because they don't see anything they like or they don't perceive any of the urns available to them as being reflective of their loved one.

From high-end artistic pieces to less expensive brass and veneer wood urns, an abundance of products are available today to suit the many needs of families choosing cremation urns for their loved ones.

Firms who have a high ratio of cremation urn sales attribute their success to their up-to-date offerings, an effective display and the ability to guide families through the selection process. Consider the following:

Evaluate your current offerings - When was the last time you took a good hard look at your cremation urn selection? Do you have old bronze urns that have begun to tarnish or plain hardwood urns that are collecting dust? It may be time to revamp your offerings with the assistance of your supplier(s). Ask them if they would be willing to exchange old products for some new up-to-date models. One of the most important elements in your offerings is to make sure you have a variety of materials to fit different budget needs.

Take a look at your current display - If you don't have the right display, you will encounter numerous challenges in showcasing your products.  An effective display should be attractive, use proper lighting, show personalized products and include visual merchandising through the use of colorful graphics.  The graphics might depict scenes such as family members cherishing an urn at a memorial service or a family gathered at a graveside with the urn/urn vault on display at the service. Note that most major suppliers have a collection of graphic images. In some cases, they will even customize a graphic that best exemplifies your marketplace.

Consumers are exposed to the use of visual merchandising in their everyday shopping excursions. A professional display offers your customers a certain comfort level: The cremation products may be different from what they are used to seeing; however, the presentation is not.

It is also essential that the products be positioned in a logical sequence, such as according to price or according to their appropriateness in final disposition (burial, home, niche and scattering). Other important considerations are achieving a consistent look for your signage, displaying matching keepsakes with urns, and properly maintaining your display. Get rid of the dust and make sure to quickly replace urns that have been removed from the shelves.

Understand your products - With the abundance of different materials now being used in cremation urns, it is essential for funeral arrangers to be up to speed on the material components. You need to know whether a product is constructed of solid hardwood vs. veneer wood or solid bronze vs. brass. Work with your suppliers to obtain the information and share it with your staff. An even better way is to have your supplier present the product information at a staff meeting. It has been said that product knowledge is one of the top rules for exceptional customer service. Conveying knowledge about products and services will help you gain a customer's confidence.


There are now a number of options available to families in addition to urns. Many of which may provide more revenue opportunities in addition to the selling of an urn. Families all too frequently take remains home in an urn or temporary container with no idea or plan of what to do with the remains longer term. Eternal Reefs is one example of a cremation memorial that is available to families through participating funeral homes. Life Gems and Space Services are other cremation options that should be offered to families in addition to urns. These services all provide additional revenue opportunities and are ideal to include as part of an aftercare program for families that take remains home with no plans for final disposition.
We even have a website dedicated to the life of the SHELF PEOPLE,
Eternal Reefs has more than 6100 fans on Facebook for a reason. Families see the value in these types of memorials and if they are presented to them, they will buy.
Thanks, George Frankel

Julie A. Burn's picture

You are absolutely correct, George. In addition to urns, there are many memorialization options for cremation families. Too many times, families are just not being made aware of what is available to memorialize their loved one.

Thank you for sharing your comments on the Cremation Coaching Center!

Another alternative to the temporary container "problem" is the proper presentation of urn vaults. We have had good success in presenting urn vaults as "memory capsules" which allow people the opportunity to leave items with the deceased as they might have done with a casketed burial. We turn the placement of the items into an "event" to be either held at the cemetery prior to burial or at the funeral home if the family does not wish to go to the cemetery. In either event, we provide permanent memorialization for a family versus a plastic container that a future generation will be left to deal's all about ritual and memorialization...and determing the "right" needs of a family versus what WE may feel they need.@

I am a mosaic artist and transform an ordinary urn into a "creation urn," embedding photos, names and other meaningful items into a highly personalized and beautiful art object that celebrates life. I do these for people and for pets - and am trying to understand how to make people aware of my work. If you have any thoughts, I'd be so grateful. Thank you. My site is

Good article. I'm a bit late to the conversation here. I have been surprised by a serious uptick in my own bronze urn business. My sculptural urns start at about $1800. While common sense suggests this is not going to work, in fact it does. I see 3 main reasons for this.

I think the biggest issue is that stock or catalog urns are either boring or creepy - which relates to the issue we are discussing - why urn sales are typically so so. On the other hand, alternative or art urns are often thematically irrelevant or over the top - simply bizarre in some way. Too arty perhaps? So where are the designers who will actually sit down and design some real requiems? Something other than boxes or jars. Perhaps something in a minor key - like a visual Brahms Requiem. Or whatever. Something with real, universal aesthetic value. I'm trying - and so are a hand-full of others. Hope you'll take a look at my own approach:

Secondly, cremation is no longer just an inexpensive alternative to burial. Many folks of means now prefer cremation for a variety of reasons. These folks will consider high-end urns with serious aesthetic values - if only the funeral supply industry will offer them. And if only funeral homes will give them a chance. Of course, high-end urns will only work in some cases, but with a $400 - $600 mark up for funeral homes it can be worth the chance. Funeral homes are able to sell my work just on the basis of my portfolio - without investing in any stock.

Which leads to a final reason. High-end urns need to have a bit of a story and some impressive marketing tools, such as a beautiful brochure or a compelling portfolio/catalog. A small image on a webpage, in a context where hundreds of cheap urns are for sale isn't usually enough.

So I hope that this issue of urn marketing is shifting a bit. Everything in the article is relevant. Good lighting and fresh offerings for starters. I would simply add that people WILL pay top dollar for excellent urn design - if it can be offered in a supportive context.

I recently bought one of portuguese porcelain. Handmade. MK Memory KeepersKeepers