By Thomas A. Parmalee

When you sell caskets and urns on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, the Sam’s Club website and through Costco Next, which offers discounted prices from third-party sellers – and your company is repeatedly featured in mainstream media outlets, you’re going to capture the attention of funeral directors.

Titan Casket offers perhaps the largest selection of caskets online, with over 1,000 customizable options. One of its caskets was even featured in a Taylor Swift video.

If you’re skeptical about the Swift claim, consult Google.

It’s also the exclusive pet and urn supplier to Costco and is seeking to forge partnerships with additional online retailers.

“There are several others on our list that we are in conversations with,” said Joshua Siegel, a co-founder and chief operating officer of the company. “Most orders come through our own website, but these are all important channels for us. This is such a hands-on sale – customers want to talk to us.”

All of its caskets come with free standard shipping and a Titan guarantee. The average selling price of a Titan casket is around $1,400.

“We are disrupting the funeral industry by bringing in compassion, transparency and choice to the funeral planning process,” its website states.

Launching the Company

Scott Ginsberg, a veteran of the casket business, started the business in 2016 and serves as the company’s CEO. He owned and developed Northern Craft Casket where he realized the potential of the direct-to-consumer market, according to the company’s press kit.

Siegel and his wife, Liz, who both have a background in e-commerce, joined as co-founders in 2020.

Joshua Siegel spent more than eight years at Amazon, first leading high consideration, large-item retail categories and later product, UX design, and technology across consumer electronics and heavy-bulky last mile logistics, His wife is a former attorney who has founded multiple direct-to-consumer companies, including The Seattle Baby Company and Harbor Caskets

“Our caskets offer the same quality you would get at any funeral home,” Ginsberg said. “We are very aggressive when it comes to detail and quality.” He added, “You also have the ability to customize our caskets. A purple interior might not be the most desirable, but you can get it. And whatever size it is, you can get it from us. That is really what differentiates us – and that is also why funeral directors buy from us.”

Titan relies on a domestic and international network of contract manufacturers, who build to its specifications, follow its quality control processes, and use its bespoke packaging, Siegel said.

Titan is there to help families just like funeral homes are there to help, he said.

“We want to let funeral directors know we are there for the same reason they are there, and feel free to reach out to us and let us know how we can help,” he said.

Ginsberg began researching how he could launch the company in 2016 after having been in the casket business for more than 20 years. He was involved in virtually all aspects of the business, from marketing and sales to manufacturing and distribution, he said.

Over time, he became frustrated with seeing so many funeral homes offer the same handful of caskets over several years or even decades. He also knew that there was an opportunity to take incremental market share from Matthews Aurora and Batesville, who reportedly have captured 70 to 85% of the market, depending on which resource or expert you’re consulting.

“My goal was to help families save money at the worst time in their lives, to educate them about their rights and to help them not have an emotional loss turn into a financial loss,” Ginsberg said.

He reached out to Joshua Siegel while researching his idea, knowing that he was a fellow Columbia Business School alumnus and a key employee for Amazon.com, where he served in a variety of engineering and management roles.

“I reached out to him and told him about my idea. I went out to Seattle to say hello … and that is essentially how we got together,” Ginsberg said.

At the time the two met, Siegel had been at Amazon for about eight years, and while they had graduated from the same business school, they did not know each other, he said.

“I had seen categories move online that you would not have expected, like mattresses,” Siegel said. “I was running the TV department for Amazon, which is something that people had previously liked to see in person. TVs are expensive. He came and talked about caskets and the Funeral Rule.”

Ginsberg was also keenly aware of how people now embrace products and services in an online format that previously would have been a hard sell.

“I think the consumer is more accustomed to making more complex transactions online,” he said. “You can buy medicine online and glasses online, and you can do wedding planning online. There are so many complex transactions made online now that were not made 10 years ago … this is just another transaction, and it just happens to be a little more expensive or bigger than most.”

Immediately, Siegel was interested in the idea, noting he was impressed with Ginsberg’s vision of turning the casket into a digital-first product.

The two sketched out a simple business plan, and Siegel’s wife, Elizabeth, also joined the brainstorming sessions.

The visit was never meant to be a recruiting call, as the two men remember it – Ginsberg simply was trying to learn more about how to successfully sell caskets on Amazon and glean some insights about e-commerce. “But we sat down and sketched out what a true Warby Parker brand would look like in this space,” Siegel said.

About 18 months later, the three formalized their partnership and continued the business as a trio, with each of them calling themselves co-founders.

Asked how they came up with the name for the company, Ginsberg said that when you buy a casket, you want something strong, so they wanted to evoke that feeling.

“I thought of Iron Casket Company,” he said, as well as some other words that were hard to spell. “But ‘Titan’ is short, people can spell it, and it also gives you the feeling of strong.” It also happens to be the name of the name of the largest moon of Saturn and is the second-largest moon in the solar system behind only Ganymede, which orbits Jupiter. “I’m a constellation guy,” he added, “So it was hitting on several things for me.”

Ginsberg bounced the name off his wife and kids, and everyone agreed – the name “Titan Casket” would be embraced by consumers.

Titan Casket is doing some creative marketing on Facebook. Here is an example of one of its advertisements.
Moving Ahead

Ginsberg and the Siegels “bootstrapped” the launch of the company from day one.

With his understanding of markups and how the casket business works, Ginsberg was convinced the company would fill an urgent need.

The lessons that Siegel learned while at Amazon.com are a driving force in how the company operates.

“At Amazon, there is an obsession over customer trust,” Siegel said. “Even if you are delivering a book, you really feel viscerally how powerful it is to give someone an experience with a click of a button – and that it will arrive very quickly.” He added, “And in the rare situations when something goes wrong, they take care of that problem in a frictionless manner and win a customer for life.”

Titan has sought to emulate that model, being very careful with who it hires and focusing on customer service, offering a stress-relieving solution to a process that is usually rife with tension, he said.

“If you look at our website functionality, we are very much like Amazon,” he said. “We fallow basic e-commerce principles that are now broadly recognized.”

When Joshua Siegel took the plunge and left Amazon to join the company full time, there was a little pushback from his kids, but they eventually came around, he said. “Amazon is such a recognizable and solid brand in the Seattle area,” he explained. “They could talk about it with their friends. But now they love it since I’ve been working from home for a couple of years.”

While Titan may be most recognizable for its caskets, it also sells a wide selection of urns.

“Our goal is to be the best marketplace for funeral products, for funeral homes and consumers, and so we need to offer urns, too” Siegel said.

“We don’t tell families what to do — we just let them know what their options are and what they can expect and anticipate, so they can make a good, informed decision,” Ginsberg said.

Left to right: Joshua Siegel, Liz Siegel, Luke Burbank from CBS Sunday Morning and Scott Ginsberg.
The Funeral Rule

The company has played an active role in providing the Federal Trade Commission with input as it looks at whether or not to update the Funeral Rule, which was enacted in 1984 designed to protect consumers by requiring that they receive adequate information concerning the goods and services they may purchase from a funeral provider.

“We presented in front of the FTC in October 2022,” Siegel said. “And we’ve been in touch with them ever since.”

Titan “sees the effectiveness of the rule every day,” Siegel said. “We are working with families who see what they would have spent otherwise, and we also work with families who don’t buy from us but because of the Funeral Rule are able to shop around.”

Asked what he thinks about the FTC possibly requiring funeral homes to post prices online, Siegel said Titan Casket fully supports the idea “so families have a chance ahead of time to do more research.”

Transparent pricing will ultimately help both families and Titan Casket – as well as some funeral homes, Siegel said. “The players who are treating people right online will win, and we think we are doing a good job,” he said.

As for the pandemic, as with many businesses whose base of operations is in cyberspace, COVID-19 resulted in more families buying funeral merchandise online.

“Almost in every category, customers were shopping more online,” Siegel said. “We were young and growing …. and it’s hard to piece apart what came from the pandemic and what came from naturally building the business the right way.”

One lesson the company learned from the pandemic is to have backup plans for nearly everything you do. “The supply chain and trucking were so overloaded at that time,” Siegel said. “We had to learn how to work around things going wrong.”

Working with Funeral Homes

While funeral homes may worry about losing casket and urn sales to Titan Casket, which could cut into profits, there are a number of funeral homes buying product from the company directly, marketing it up and selling it to families – although the founders declined to say how many.

According to the Titan Casket website, funeral homes ordering one casket get a 10% discount off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and funeral homes ordering three or more caskets at once earn a 20% discount. If you’re unsure if doing business with Titan is right for you, request a catalog.

Regardless of who is the customer – the funeral home or a family – Titan Casket looks at the funeral home as a partner. They are both in the client service business – and in this case, the client is shared.

Generally, funeral homes don’t give the company pushback.

“The only time we see issues is if a funeral director has had a bad experience with another online casket company and is grouping them all together,” Siegel said. “All we ask of any funeral director is to evaluate Titan on its own and talk to us – we are accessible, and our team is accessible. We try to be very transparent with how we operate.”

The company does its absolute best to make a great impression with funeral homes. “When a family orders a casket from us, it is delivered to a funeral director,” Ginsberg observed. “That is an opportunity for them to see the quality and to get to know our team.”

While the vast majority of its sales are made directly to the public, the number of funeral homes buying from Titan is growing, the two men said. Usually, funeral homes that become customers are the firms that have accepted delivery of a Titan casket and seen the product firsthand, they said.

“Doing cold calling is not a great channel … our opportunity is when a funeral director sees our casket and sees that it is great,” Ginsberg said.

The company is hoping to grow its funeral home channel further.

“I would say that we have the ability to overnight take a funeral home that has 12 items in its showroom and let them have 1,000 items that could be delivered in a day or two,” Siegel said. “Our pitch is, ‘You never have to say no to a client again.’”

That means if you need an oversize casket, the family can get it through Titan – and if they want a different color or style, they can get that as well.

“Just like you, we are client and product obsessed,” Siegel said, referencing funeral homes. “Our service and products have a tremendous reputation, both with the public and the funeral homes we work with. We are here seven days per week and take full responsibility for providing an excellent experience. We are extremely proud of our products and put our quality on par with any casket manufacturer in the world.”

While Titan hopes to work with more funeral homes, it is not coming in trying to “kick out” Batesville or Matthews,” Siegel said.

“We are another option,” Ginsberg added.

Titan can offer funeral homes a catalog that does not include any pricing as well as the option to sell its caskets under a different brand called Beacon Hill.

The team introduced the Beacon Hill brand thinking that funeral homes would want to sell caskets under a different name, but the exact opposite has proved true.

“Most prefer ordering under Titan because it is a trusted name in the industry,” Siegel said. “And more funeral homes use the Titan website than the Beacon Hill option.”

So far, however, the company has taken a muted approach to growing the funeral home channel. While it’s attended some industry trade shows to walk the floor and network, it has never exhibited at a convention specifically for funeral directors.

Learn More …

Titan Casket has been featured in numerous articles in the mainstream press. A sampling of coverage and news releases follows, so you can learn more about the company.

The company has even named a celebrity ambassador.

Visit the Titan Casket website to learn more.

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