Brands and retailers have long used the strategy of bundling, combining two or more products into a separate product bundle, to boost sales and profits. Whether it’s brands choosing to bundle products, such as socks and underwear for men; or food retailers bundling vegetable staples like potatoes, tomatoes and onions; this age-old tactic has often proved successful for sellers while also benefiting the end consumer. In this blog post, Omnia delves into the intricacies of bundling, exploring its benefits for sellers, impact on consumer spending and the psychology behind its effectiveness.
Why do brands and retailers bundle products?
Bundling two or more products together can have a number of benefits for e-commerce sellers, helping to capture the attention of both the casual browser and the ready-to-buy shopper.
1) Increase sales and AOV
Selling a bundle to a customer rather than a single product is an instant boost to both sales and average order value, or AOV. If a brand uses a bundle to cross-sell related or complementary products, that will increase the total value of the sale, so long as the bundle was priced in a beneficial way.
Example: A sporting goods retailer typically sells one rugby jersey at a price of €75, but bundles that rugby jersey with a t-shirt and a hoodie from the same team for €140, increasing the value of each individual sale and pulling up the AOV.
2) Optimise inventory management
No merchant wants to deal with deadstock and unnecessary inventory costs, and it’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of inventory is deadstock for the average e-commerce seller. Bundling allows brands and retailers to efficiently move excess stock by combining it with other items, which minimises losses associated with unsold individual products while also creating perceived value for the customer.
Example: A D2C makeup brand might combine a slower-selling makeup brush with a best-selling makeup palette, ensuring the products will move quickly to free up the warehouse and reduce waste.
3) Decrease marketing and shipping costs
Selling items in a bundle means you can promote a set of products as one product, paring down marketing costs, and also ship them as a bundle, which leads to less packaging and overall shipping costs.
Example: Rather than selling and shipping every accessory for a phone separately as the consumer realises they want it, promoting all accessories, such as phone cases, headphones or extra chargers in a bundle at the time of purchase means they can be shipped in one box.
4) Take advantage of seasonal peaks
Product bundling can also be used to capitalise on peak shopping times for certain items, such as during the holidays or over the Summer.
Example: Bundling outdoor toys and games, such as water guns, pool floats or inflatable pools, as the summer approaches allows a retailer to capitalise on the fact that families will typically spend more time outdoors and in their gardens and pools in warmer weather.
Consumer psychology: Why is bundling effective?
Although bundling can seem like a simple concept – combining multiple products into one set, perhaps at a slight discount – there are more subtle factors at play that influence consumers on a psychological level, leading to increased spending and the other benefits for the seller listed previously.
First, bundling can enhance the perceived value of the bundled products to the customer: When the shopper sees two or more items bundled at a discounted price, their perception tends to be that the total value of the bundle is higher than the sum of the individual items’ values. This point is amplified even more when a seller makes it clear how much money is being saved by buying the bundle rather than each product separately, as this example from beauty retailer LOOKFANTASTIC shows: “Worth over £150, yours for just £50!”
The perceived quality can also be adjusted up or down depending on the actual items included in the bundle. A study titled “The effects of price bundling on consumer evaluations of product offerings'' from researchers at the University of Michigan Business School, Johannes Gutenberg Universität and Universität Mannheim discussed the phenomena of averaging, anchoring and adjusting:
Averaging – Consumers look at a bundle of products and their “ratings” of each component are averaged or balanced into an overall evaluation (Gaeth et al., 1991)
Anchoring and adjusting – Buyers tend to anchor on the most important product in the bundle, then adjust their evaluation by taking the less important items into account (Yadav, 1994)
Athletic Greens, a D2C nutrition and supplement brand, uses these tools in their bundles. For anyone who signs up to subscribe for monthly deliveries of their AG1 powder, rather than making a one-time purchase, they receive as part of the bundle a “starter kit” with a premium jar and branded shaker bottle, as well as a discount on the monthly price. The jar and shaker likely don’t cost the company much even if they are labelled as premium, especially as a one-time bonus, but it gives a boost to the perceived quality of the whole offering.
It’s worth noting that, especially when selling high-value items, these phenomena can actually bring down the perceived quality of a product, so sellers need to be careful which items they choose to bundle. This is referred to as the “presenter’s paradox”, where adding more items that are perceived as lower quality will bring down the perceived average value and therefore overall value of the bundle.
A commonly used example of the presenter’s paradox is with an expensive bottle of wine. Let’s say you buy two of these $5000 bottles to give to two different work clients. To one, you give the bottle by itself, while you give the other the bottle in addition to a set of plastic cups. Although the actual monetary value of the second gift is higher, the perceived quality is lower.
Bundling can also impact consumer behaviour by lessening the number of choices a shopper has to make. The paradox of choice, sometimes called choice overload, suggests that having a large number of options requires more effort from the decision-maker, and can actually leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice. The phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out) is also at play here, as consumers might have a fear that there may have been a better option than the product they chose.
When a bundle is offered to the consumer, it simplifies the decision-making process down to choosing whether the bundle meets their needs, rather than evaluating each individual product. This is more convenient and decreases the cognitive effort required to make a purchase.
Amazon, as the biggest marketplace in the world, is notorious for having seemingly endless choices, with a catalogue currently consisting of more than twelve million products. As one way to combat the paradox of choice, Amazon includes a section on most product pages that either recommends other products to pair with the item, such as “Buy it with”, or suggests items based on the behaviour of other shoppers like “Frequently bought with”.
The interesting thing about this Amazon example is that the bundle doesn’t have to include a discount. In the screenshot below, you can see that Amazon suggests another hat and a scarf to pair with the Tommy Hilfiger hat. None of the items are offered at a discount, but the cognitive effort required is lower if the buyer simply wants to allow Amazon, or the behaviour of past shoppers, to make the decision for them.
Is bundling worth it?
Bundling is a common promotional tactic for e-commerce businesses, and tends to be effective because it’s usually built around price, the most important “P” in the marketing mix. There are many use cases where bundling is worthwhile for sellers:
When you want to group more products together to boost overall sales and AOV
When you want to move inventory quickly, whether to clear out deadstock or just make room for new products
When you want to offer a great value to customers, to reward and encourage loyalty
When you want to decrease the potential for choice overload and help your customers easily find and purchase complementary products
However, as with any promotional tactic, there are downsides to consider. When done incorrectly, bundling can weaken a brand’s reputation, or pull down the perceived quality of a high-value product, as with the presenter’s paradox. It often involves discounting, which cuts into margins. If customers only buy bundles and never individual products, it can have a long-term impact on profits and will require businesses to be very strategic about how they price.
Ultimately, the success of bundling comes down to each individual e-commerce seller. The question you must answer is this: Can you build a bundling strategy that delivers value to your business and your customers without hurting your image or long-term profits?
If so, bundling can be a great way to move inventory quickly, boost sales and AOV and deliver more value to customers.