The afterlife industry is one which has barely changed for hundreds of years – and it is now crying out for tech disruption.
Entrepreneur Ian Strang believes that the days of paying funeral directors and solicitors to take care of everything should be consigned to the past. He wants to empower people to put their own mark on what happens after a loved one passes.
“You still get sold the same product you got 100 years ago. Two men, suits, dark cars, coffin. It’s an industry that just hasn’t changed,” the Beyond CEO told BusinessCloud.
Founded in 2015, Beyond began as a price comparison site for funeral directors and was created as a response to the lack of easily comparable prices available online.
Strang said the funeral services industry is 64 per cent family businesses with little competition or reason to make themselves more competitive.
“The consumer in this market is so disempowered. You end up going down there, it’s all a bit of a blur, it’s a horrible experience, you pay £5,000 and you think that’s how it’s done,” he said.
“There’s no aspirational product on the market and there’s no consumer power. There’s been an impetus on the market to change until we came along and started poking at it.”
Since then the London-based company has included new death-related features including a ‘digital will’ and estate administration – part of a new suite of features which it has begun to provide itself.
“A funeral director wouldn’t offer you a will or estate administration even though, in my view, they should naturally sit together,” he said.
Its digital will is offered as a one-time-fee with the ability to update it, for free, when a big life event such as a new house or child change s user’s priorities.
In future, Strang said the digitisation of wills could mean further, faster transformation.
“You can write your digital will online with us which is great, it’s so much better than using a solicitor. You can constantly update it. You’re going to see us building out that sector, especially as laws on wills relax.
“We’re going to end up seeing things like digital asset storage and video messaging in there so that it becomes a natural place online to store all of the things, the same as a will but modernised with digital assets.”
Beyond has also differentiated itself in its branding and the way it talks about death.
Apart from an infamous viral ad campaign which took a comedic approach to funeral advertising – before being banned by TfL – the company’s approach to funerals and afterlife care is optimistic.
“We’ve got to be talking honestly and openly about death, rather than these horrible images of old ladies in purple and blue,” said Strang.
“When you look at the funeral directors underneath it’s still the 18th Century style funeral director. The natural next step is how we change those.”