In marketing, product bundling is offering several products or services for sale as one combined product or service package. It is a common feature in many imperfectly competitive product and service markets. Industries engaged in the practice include telecommunications services, financial services, health care, information and consumer electronics. A software bundle might include a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program into a single office suite. The cable television industry often bundles many TV and movie channels into a single tier or package. The fast food industry combines separate food items into a "meal deal" or "value meal".
A bundle of products may be called a package deal, in recorded music, a compilation or box set, or in publishing, an anthology.
Most firms are multi-product or multi-service companies faced with the decision whether to sell products or services separately at individual prices or whether combinations of products should be marketed in the form of "bundles" for which a "bundle price" is asked. Price bundling plays an increasingly important role in many industries (e.g. banking, insurance, software, automotive) and some companies even build their business strategies on bundling. In a bundle pricing, companies sell a package or set of goods or services for a lower price than they would charge if the customer bought all of them separately. Pursuing a bundle pricing strategy allows you to increase your profit by giving customers a discount.
Bundling is most successful when:
While many well-known examples of bundling are all products or services from the same store or provider, such as the sports package for a car or a grocery store's gift basket, in some cases, cross-industry bundles are assembled and sold. For example, some travel agencies have vacation tour bundles that may include air tickets, rail tickets, a rental car, hotels, restaurants, museum and sightseeing attraction tickets and live music event tickets. These bundles include products and services from transportation, accommodation, tourism, food service and entertainment industries.
Consumers have heterogeneous demands and such demands for different parts of the bundle product are inversely correlated. For example, assume consumer A values a word processor software at $100 and spreadsheet processor at $60, while consumer B values a word processor at $60 and spreadsheet at $100. Seller can generate maximum revenue of only $240 by setting $60 price for each product--both consumers will buy both products. Revenue cannot be increased without bundling because as seller increases the price above $60 for one of the goods, one of the consumers will refuse to buy it. With bundling, seller can generate revenue of $320 by bundling the products together and selling the bundle at $160.
Product bundling is most suitable for high volume and high margin (i.e., low marginal cost) products. Research by Yannis Bakos and Erik Brynjolfsson found that bundling was particularly effective for digital "information goods" with close to zero marginal cost, and could enable a bundler with an inferior collection of products to drive even superior quality goods out of the market place.
Venkatesh and Mahajan reviewed the research on bundle design and pricing in 2009.A 1997 study by Mercer Management Consulting, in Massachusetts stated that good bundles have five elements: (1) the package is worth more than the "sum of its parts" for the consumer; (2) the bundle brings order and simplicity to a set of confusing or tedious choices; (3) the bundle solves a problem for the consumer; (4) the bundle is focused and lean in an effort to avoid carrying or including options, goods or services the consumer has no use for; and (5) the bundle generates interest or even controversy. Number 1 can be read as simply that a bundle should cost less than buying each item separately; however, even if the bundle were to cost the same in dollars, a bundle may still be an appealing value proposition for a consumer, as they do not have to hand-pick each accessory and add-on item (this is the 2nd and 3rd point).
Bundling is often thought of mainly as a value pricing strategy, in that product bundles often cost less than if each item were purchased separately. However, bundling can also have other strategic advantages. For example, when a grocery store is making up a gift basket, they can use the design of the basket item list as a way to promote new products or brands that a customer may not know or as a way to liquidate merchandise that is not selling well. As well, even though many bundles are less expensive than all of the items if purchased separately, in some cases the bundle costs more than if each item was purchased separately; this tactic is particularly effective in high-end retailing where conspicuous consumption and prestige pricing elements come into play. A well-off home theatre enthusiast with a very high budget may find a $10,000 home theatre package attractive, even if it costs a bit more than buying each item separately, because this is an impressive total cost.
Bundling in political economy is a type of product bundling in which the "product" is a candidate in an election who markets his or her bundle of attributes and political positions to the voters. For example, a political candidate may market herself as a centrist candidate by ensuring she/he has centrist social, economic, and law enforcement positions.
In the computer industry, bundled software is distributed with another product such as a piece of computer hardware or other electronic device, or is a group of software packages which are sold together. Software which is pre-installed on a new computer is an example of bundled software. For example, as of 2017, most desktop, laptop and mobile computers are bought pre-loaded with various software and software applications ("apps"). A pack-in game is a form of bundled software.
Early microcomputer companies varied in their decision to bundle software. BYTE in 1984 observed that "Kaypro apparently has tremendous buying and bargaining power", noting that the Kaypro 10 came with both WordStar and Perfect Writer, plus "two spelling checkers, two spreadsheets, two communications programs and three versions of BASIC".Compaq, by contrast, did not bundle software, stating that "You remove the freedom from the dealers to really merchandise when you bundle in software ... Why should you be constrained to use the software that comes with a piece of hardware? I think it can tend to inhibit sales over the long run."MacWrite's inclusion with early Macintosh computers discouraged developers from creating other word processing software for the computer. Many companies sold multimedia upgrade kits--a CD-ROM drive, sound card, speakers, and "a boatload of bundled software"--during the mid-1990s.
In the 1990s and in the 2000s (decade) and 2010s, many consumer electronics companies designed home theatre equipment bundles, known as Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB). For a customer who already owned a TV, and in some cases a DVD player or other source for playing back movies, a HTIB package provides all of the electronics hardware, speakers and cables needed to set up a home cinema. There are three grades of HTIB bundles: economy bundles, aimed at the lowest price point; mid-tier bundles, the most common type; and higher-cost HTIB bundles made by BOSE and other higher-end manufacturers. At the economy grade HTIB package, the customer is provided with a basic home theatre set-up, with modest sound quality and relatively few options for adjusting the sound. The mid-tier and upper-tier packages offer better performance and more set-up options. All three HTIB tiers, though, have a similar value proposition for the buyer: the HTIB package ensures that all of the speakers are of the correct impedance and power handling capabilities, the cables are of the correct type, and the crossover points and other technical details have been set up by the manufacturer.
The most serious home theatre enthusiasts do not typically buy HTIB bundles, as they are a more sophisticated target market. As such, the most serious home cinema-philes typically purchase each component (power amplifiers, speakers, subwoofer cabinet, speaker cables) separately, so that they can choose which items meet their specific movie-watching goals. For example, a serious home theatre enthusiast may wish to have a large cabinet subwoofer enclosure with heavy bracing, a type and size of subwoofer cabinet that would not be found in any HTIB bundle due to its large size and high cost. As well, a serious home theatre enthusiast may wish to have a powered subwoofer with a user-adjustable crossover, a "subsonic" filter and other higher-cost advanced features.
In oligopolistic and monopolistic industries, product bundling can be seen as an unfair use of market power because it limits the choices available to the consumer. In these cases it is typically called product tying. Some forms of product bundling have been subject to litigation regarding abuses of market share.
United States v. Microsoft was a set of civil actions filed against Microsoft Corporation pursuant to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 Sections 1 and 2 on May 18, 1998 by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and 20 states. Joel I. Klein was the lead prosecutor. The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales. The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft's victory in the browser wars as every Windows user had a copy of Internet Explorer.