Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Understanding the bundling bias

Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased. 

To explain this concept using an example, consider a cinema offering a bundle of five movie tickets for $51 – much cheaper than the $75 it would cost to buy each ticket separately. However, the bundled tickets are only valid for a month. 

Let’s say that the consumer is a movie fanatic and manages to see three movies during those 30 days. With the remaining two tickets now invalid, the consumer has essentially paid $17 per ticket. If they had opted to buy three separate tickets, they would have paid $15 per ticket. Here, the bundling bias caused the consumer to spend more and in the process, receive less.

Exploiting the bundling bias in business and marketing

Businesses who sell bundled packages invariably increase sales and profit generation. If we return to the example of the movie fanatic, the cinema made an extra $2 on each movie the consumer attended. But it’s important to note that the cinema owner makes money on each ticket sold in the bundle – regardless of whether the consumer attends each of the five movies.

Of course, if the cinema also owns a candy bar, then it may lose out on sales if movies are less well attended. However, management can simply anticipate a lack of patronage by selling more tickets above and beyond cinema capacity.

Research has also shown that the nature of bundling is important for businesses. Physically bundling products together was found to be much more effective than the digital or monetary bundling of items

Bundling bias and the sunk-cost fallacy

The bundling bias has strong links to the sunk-cost fallacy, which is another cognitive bias describing consumer tendencies to follow through on something if money has been invested into it. If the movie-goer buys a single bundle of five tickets but sees three movies in a month, they are likely to determine that they have followed through on their investment.

This is because the bundle constitutes one “investment” – or purchase – and not five as in the case of buying each ticket separately. Bundling items also makes the cost of each ticket (and thus the cost of recouping the investment) less obvious to the consumer.

Key takeaways:

  • The bundling bias describes the human tendency to not make use of each product or service bought in a bundle.
  • The bundling bias can be exploited by businesses with smart marketing strategies. Anticipating that consumers will not use every product or service in a bundle, they can simply sell more to increase profits.
  • The bundling bias is closely related to another bias in the sunk-cost fallacy. With the cost of each product in the bundle less clear, recouping the initial investment becomes largely subjective which often leads to a reduction in bundle value.

Connected Business Concepts


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What is marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger

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