Bundling Vs. Unbundling

Bundling is the process of combining multiple products or services within a unique offering. Unbundling is the opposite; it consists of taking one part of an offering (often the most valuable) and provide it as a stand-alone product and service at a more reasonable price. Bundling is usually effective as an expansion strategy, as more products and services are added. Unbundling instead works well as a market entry strategy. The newcomer can take only the part of an incumbent offering, break it apart, and offer that as a lower-priced alternative to quickly gain traction.

DefinitionBundling refers to the practice of combining multiple products or services into a single package or offering, often at a discounted price compared to purchasing each item separately.Unbundling is the opposite approach, where a company divides a bundled offering into individual components or services, allowing customers to pick and choose what they want.
Market StrategyA bundling strategy aims to maximize revenue and customer loyalty by offering convenience, cost savings, and a comprehensive solution.An unbundling strategy focuses on meeting specific customer needs, fostering flexibility, and potentially reaching new market segments.
Product/Service OfferingsTypically involves packaging multiple related products or services together, such as cable TV and internet services, or software suites like Microsoft Office.Involves offering individual components or services that were previously part of a bundled offering. For example, streaming services providing single-channel subscriptions.
Pricing StrategyPricing is often lower when bundled, as it offers cost savings to customers and encourages them to purchase more.Individual components are typically priced separately, allowing customers to pay only for what they use or need.
Customer ValueCustomers appreciate the convenience and potential cost savings of bundled offerings, as they get a more comprehensive solution at a discounted rate.Unbundling can provide customers with the freedom to choose, tailoring their purchases to their specific requirements, potentially reducing costs.
Cross-Selling OpportunitiesBundling creates opportunities for cross-selling, as customers may discover and adopt additional products or services within the bundle.Unbundling may reduce cross-selling opportunities but allows for focused marketing of individual components to specific customer segments.
Customer Lock-InBundling can lead to customer lock-in, as customers who subscribe to a bundle may find it more challenging to switch to competitors due to the convenience and perceived value.Unbundling typically reduces customer lock-in, as customers can easily switch to alternatives or competitors for individual components.
Market PenetrationCan help companies penetrate the market more effectively, especially when introducing new or lesser-known products by bundling them with popular ones.May facilitate market entry for niche or specialized products that cater to specific customer needs, potentially expanding market reach.
Examples– Cable TV and internet bundles.<br>- Fast food combo meals.<br>- Software suites like Microsoft Office.<br>- Mobile phone plans with bundled services.– Streaming services offering single-channel subscriptions.<br>- Airlines charging for individual baggage and in-flight meals.<br>- Modular smartphone components that users can assemble.
Regulatory ConsiderationsMay face regulatory scrutiny in some industries to prevent anti-competitive practices or ensure fair pricing and consumer choice.Often faces fewer regulatory challenges, as it promotes consumer choice and flexibility, aligning with market competition principles.
Market TrendsDespite the popularity of bundling, some markets are shifting towards unbundling, especially in tech and media industries, to meet evolving consumer preferences for customization.The trend of unbundling has gained momentum in various sectors, including media streaming, where consumers prefer to choose individual content subscriptions.
ProfitabilityCan be highly profitable, especially when customers perceive significant value in bundled offerings, leading to increased sales and customer retention.Profitability depends on effective pricing strategies and the ability to upsell additional components or services to customers who have chosen unbundling.
Risk ManagementMay carry the risk of customers perceiving bundled offerings as overly complex or containing unnecessary features, potentially leading to dissatisfaction.Risk management in unbundling involves ensuring that individual components meet customer expectations and ensuring a seamless experience when used separately.
Customer SatisfactionHigh customer satisfaction is achievable when bundling addresses customer needs effectively, providing convenience and cost savings.Customer satisfaction relies on offering a clear and straightforward selection of individual components and ensuring they work well together when chosen separately.
Innovation OpportunitiesInnovation opportunities may focus on creating new bundled offerings that anticipate customer needs and preferences, potentially creating new markets.Innovation often centers on refining and improving individual components, addressing specific pain points, and offering more choices for customers.
Long-Term ViabilityThe long-term viability of bundling depends on continually adapting to changing customer preferences and ensuring that bundled offerings remain relevant and competitive.Unbundling’s long-term viability relies on offering a range of high-quality individual components and maintaining customer satisfaction through flexibility and choice.


Bundling is a business process where a series of blocks in a value chain are grouped to lock in consumers as the bundler takes advantage of its distribution network to limit competition and gain market shares in adjacent markets. This is a distribution-driven strategy where incumbents take advantage of their leading position.


Unbundling is a business process where a series of products or blocks inside a value chain is broken down to provide better value by removing the parts of the value chain that are less valuable to consumers and keep those that in a period in time consumers value the most.
An entry strategy is a way an organization can access a market based on its structure. The entry strategy will highly depend on the definition of potential customers in that market and whether those are ready to get value from your potential offering. It alls starts by developing your smallest viable market.
When entering the market, as a startup you can use different approaches. Some of them can be based on the product, distribution or value. A product approach, takes existing alternatives and it offers only the most valuable part of that product. A distribution approach, cuts out intermediaries from the market. A value approach offers only the most valuable part of the experience.

Key Similarities between Bundling and Unbundling:

  • Value Chain Manipulation: Both bundling and unbundling involve the manipulation of the value chain, which is the series of activities that a company performs to create and deliver a product or service to the market.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: Both strategies aim to provide better value to customers by understanding their needs and preferences. Bundling combines products or services that complement each other, while unbundling focuses on offering the most valuable parts of a product or service to meet specific customer demands.
  • Market Strategy: Both bundling and unbundling are strategic approaches used by companies to gain a competitive advantage and expand their market presence. They are often employed as part of product development and market entry strategies.

Key Differences between Bundling and Unbundling:

  • Product Packaging: Bundling involves combining multiple products or services into a single offering, often at a discounted price. This creates a complete and integrated solution for customers. Unbundling, on the other hand, involves breaking down a bundled offering into separate components and offering them individually or in smaller packages.
  • Strategy Purpose: Bundling is typically used as an expansion strategy by companies with a strong market presence. It allows them to leverage their distribution network and limit competition in adjacent markets by offering a comprehensive solution. Unbundling, on the other hand, is often used as a market entry strategy, especially by newcomers or disruptors. It enables them to enter the market with a more focused and cost-effective offering that targets specific customer needs.
  • Market Positioning: Bundling is often associated with established companies that have a broad range of products or services and want to increase customer loyalty and sales by offering bundles. Unbundling, on the other hand, is often associated with innovative startups or new entrants who want to disrupt the market by offering targeted and specialized solutions.
  • Customer Perception: Bundling can be perceived by customers as offering convenience and a one-stop solution, but it may also be seen as limiting choice and forcing customers to pay for things they don’t need. Unbundling, on the other hand, can be perceived as offering more flexibility and cost-effectiveness, allowing customers to choose only what they want.

Bundling Examples:

  • Telecom Companies: Many telecom providers offer bundles that include phone service, internet, and television packages.
  • Fast Food Combos: Fast-food restaurants often bundle a main item, side, and drink together at a discounted price.
  • Software Suites: Companies like Microsoft bundle multiple software products together in suites, such as Microsoft Office which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
  • Travel Packages: Travel agencies often offer bundled vacation packages that include flights, hotel stays, and excursions.
  • Gaming Consoles: Many gaming consoles are sold in bundles that include the console, a game, and sometimes additional accessories.

Unbundling Examples:

  • Airline Ancillary Fees: Airlines used to offer one price that included many amenities. Now, many airlines have unbundled their pricing, charging separately for checked bags, seat selection, meals, and more.
  • Music Streaming: Before streaming, consumers had to buy entire albums to listen to a few favorite songs. With platforms like iTunes and Spotify, consumers can buy or listen to individual tracks.
  • Television Streaming: Instead of comprehensive cable packages, services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ allow users to pick and choose the specific content providers they want.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Instead of purchasing an entire software suite, companies can now subscribe to individual services on platforms like Salesforce or AWS, picking only the functionalities they need.
  • Online Education: Rather than enrolling in full degree programs, platforms like Coursera or Udemy allow students to enroll in specific courses or specializations.

Key Takeaways:

  • In summary, bundling and unbundling are strategic approaches used by businesses to create value for customers and gain a competitive advantage.
  • Bundling involves combining multiple products or services into a single offering, while unbundling involves breaking down bundled offerings into separate components.
  • Bundling is often used as an expansion strategy by established companies to leverage their market position, while unbundling is used as a market entry strategy by newcomers to offer targeted and cost-effective solutions.
  • Both strategies are customer-centric and aim to meet specific customer needs and preferences.

Key highlights on bundling and unbundling:

  • Bundling:
    • Combines multiple products/services into one offering.
    • Used by established companies for expansion.
    • Increases sales and customer loyalty.
    • Can limit individual choice but offers convenience.
  • Unbundling:
    • Separates bundled offerings into individual components.
    • Common as a market entry strategy for newcomers.
    • Offers targeted, cost-effective solutions.
    • Provides customers with flexibility and choice.
  • Shared Characteristics:
    • Both manipulate the value chain.
    • Adopt a customer-centric approach.
    • Used as market strategies for competitive advantage.

Read Next: Bundling, Unbundling.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT Analysis, Growth Hacking.

More Strategy Tools: Porter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF Framework.

Connected Business Concepts And Frameworks

Supply Chain

The supply chain is the set of steps between the sourcing, manufacturing, distribution of a product up to the steps it takes to reach the final customer. It’s the set of step it takes to bring a product from raw material (for physical products) to final customers and how companies manage those processes.

Data Supply Chains

A classic supply chain moves from upstream to downstream, where the raw material is transformed into products, moved through logistics and distribution to final customers. A data supply chain moves in the opposite direction. The raw data is “sourced” from the customer/user. As it moves downstream, it gets processed and refined by proprietary algorithms and stored in data centers.


Distribution represents the set of tactics, deals, and strategies that enable a company to make a product and service easily reachable and reached by its potential customers. It also serves as the bridge between product and marketing to create a controlled journey of how potential customers perceive a product before buying it.

Distribution Channels

A distribution channel is the set of steps it takes for a product to get in the hands of the key customer or consumer. Distribution channels can be direct or indirect. Distribution can also be physical or digital, depending on the kind of business and industry.

Vertical Integration

In business, vertical integration means a whole supply chain of the company is controlled and owned by the organization. Thus, making it possible to control each step through customers. in the digital world, vertical integration happens when a company can control the primary access points to acquire data from consumers.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Integration

Horizontal integration refers to the process of increasing market shares or expanding by integrating at the same level of the supply chain, and within the same industry. Vertical integration happens when a company takes control of more parts of the supply chain, thus covering more parts of it.

Horizontal Market

By definition, a horizontal market is a wider market, serving various customer types, needs and bringing to market various product lines. Or a product that indeed can serve various buyers across different verticals. Take the case of Google, as a search engine that can serve various verticals and industries (education, publishing, e-commerce, travel, and much more).

Vertical Market

A vertical or vertical market usually refers to a business that services a specific niche or group of people in a market. In short, a vertical market is smaller by definition, and it serves a group of customers/products that can be identified as part of the same group. A search engine like Google is a horizontal player, while a travel engine like Airbnb is a vertical player.

Entry Strategies

When entering the market, as a startup you can use different approaches. Some of them can be based on the product, distribution, or value. A product approach takes existing alternatives and it offers only the most valuable part of that product. A distribution approach cuts out intermediaries from the market. A value approach offers only the most valuable part of the experience.

Backward Chaining

Backward chaining, also called backward integration, describes a process where a company expands to fulfill roles previously held by other businesses further up the supply chain. It is a form of vertical integration where a company owns or controls its suppliers, distributors, or retail locations.

Market Types

A market type is a way a given group of consumers and producers interact, based on the context determined by the readiness of consumers to understand the product, the complexity of the product; how big is the existing market and how much it can potentially expand in the future.

Market Analysis

Psychosizing is a form of market analysis where the size of the market is guessed based on the targeted segments’ psychographics. In that respect, according to psychosizing analysis, we have five types of markets: microniches, niches, markets, vertical markets, and horizontal markets. Each will be shaped by the characteristics of the underlying main customer type.


According to the book, Unlocking The Value Chain, Harvard professor Thales Teixeira identified three waves of disruption (unbundling, disintermediation, and decoupling). Decoupling is the third wave (2006-still ongoing) where companies break apart the customer value chain to deliver part of the value, without bearing the costs to sustain the whole value chain.


Disintermediation is the process in which intermediaries are removed from the supply chain, so that the middlemen who get cut out, make the market overall more accessible and transparent to the final customers. Therefore, in theory, the supply chain gets more efficient and, all in all, can produce products that customers want.


Reintermediation consists in the process of introducing again an intermediary that had previously been cut out from the supply chain. Or perhaps by creating a new intermediary that once didn’t exist. Usually, as a market is redefined, old players get cut out, and new players within the supply chain are born as a result.


As startups gain control of new markets. They expand in adjacent areas in disparate and different industries by coupling the new activities to benefits customers. Thus, even though the adjunct activities might see far from the core business model, they are tied to the way customers experience the whole business model.

Bullwhip Effect

The bullwhip effect describes the increasing fluctuations in inventory in response to changing consumer demand as one moves up the supply chain. Observing, analyzing, and understanding how the bullwhip effect influences the whole supply chain can unlock important insights into various parts of it.


Dropshipping is a retail business model where the dropshipper externalizes the manufacturing and logistics and focuses only on distribution and customer acquisition. Therefore, the dropshipper collects final customers’ sales orders, sending them over to third-party suppliers, who ship directly to those customers. In this way, through dropshipping, it is possible to run a business without operational costs and logistics management.


Consumer-to-manufacturer (C2M) is a model connecting manufacturers with consumers. The model removes logistics, inventory, sales, distribution, and other intermediaries enabling consumers to buy higher quality products at lower prices. C2M is useful in any scenario where the manufacturer can react to proven, consolidated, consumer-driven niche demand.


Transloading is the process of moving freight from one form of transportation to another as a shipment moves down the supply chain. Transloading facilities are staged areas where freight is swapped from one mode of transportation to another. This may be indoors or outdoors, depending on the transportation modes involved. Deconsolidation and reconsolidation are two key concepts in transloading, where larger freight units are broken down into smaller pieces and vice versa. These processes attract fees that a company pays to maintain the smooth operation of its supply chain and avoid per diem fees.


Break bulk is a form of shipping where cargo is bundled into bales, boxes, drums, or crates that must be loaded individually. Common break bulk items include wool, steel, cement, construction equipment, vehicles, and any other item that is oversized. While container shipping became more popular in the 1960s, break bulk shipping remains and offers several benefits. It tends to be more affordable since bulky items do not need to be disassembled. What’s more, break bulk carriers can call in at more ports than container ships.


Cross-docking is a procedure where goods are transferred from inbound to outbound transport without a company handling or storing those goods. Cross-docking methods include continuous, consolidation, and de-consolidation. There are also two types of cross-docking according to whether the customer is known or unknown before goods are distributed. Cross-docking has obvious benefits for virtually any industry, but it is especially useful in food and beverage, retail and eCommerce, and chemicals.

Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an early form of lean manufacturing created by auto-manufacturer Toyota. Created by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1940s and 50s, the Toyota Production System seeks to manufacture vehicles ordered by customers most quickly and efficiently possible.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating errors or defects in a product, service, or process. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola as a management approach based on quality fundamentals in the early 1980s. A decade later, it was popularized by General Electric who estimated that the methodology saved them $12 billion in the first five years of operation.

Scientific Management

Scientific Management Theory was created by Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 as a means of encouraging industrial companies to switch to mass production. With a background in mechanical engineering, he applied engineering principles to workplace productivity on the factory floor. Scientific Management Theory seeks to find the most efficient way of performing a job in the workplace.


Poka-yoke is a Japanese quality control technique developed by former Toyota engineer Shigeo Shingo. Translated as “mistake-proofing”, poka-yoke aims to prevent defects in the manufacturing process that are the result of human error. Poka-yoke is a lean manufacturing technique that ensures that the right conditions exist before a step in the process is executed. This makes it a preventative form of quality control since errors are detected and then rectified before they occur.

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is a fundamental component of lean management. It describes the personal observation of work to learn more about it. Gemba is a Japanese word that loosely translates as “the real place”, or in business, “the place where value is created”. The Gemba Walk as a concept was created by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System of lean manufacturing. Ohno wanted to encourage management executives to leave their offices and see where the real work happened. This, he hoped, would build relationships between employees with vastly different skillsets and build trust.


Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.

Andon System

The andon system alerts managerial, maintenance, or other staff of a production process problem. The alert itself can be activated manually with a button or pull cord, but it can also be activated automatically by production equipment. Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal: green (no errors), yellow or amber (problem identified, or quality check needed), and red (production stopped due to unidentified issue).

Read Also: Vertical Integration, Horizontal Integration, Supply Chain.

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