The art of bundling and unbundling: 10 trends that prove everything old is new again

A gift hamper with a bundle of things inside

In the ever-changing world of consumer trends, it seems like everything old eventually becomes new again. What was once considered old-fashioned can suddenly become the latest craze, thanks to a little bit of rebranding and a lot of nostalgia. 

Here are some examples of bundling and unbundling trends that show how we keep circling back to the classics, albeit with a modern twist! 

01 Travel agents vs. DIY booking vs. curated experiences

  • Then: travel agents were the go-to for booking holidays, handling everything from flights to hotel stays.

  • Now: with the rise of online booking platforms people started piecing together their trips independently.

  • What’s next: the return of bundled, curated travel experiences is on the rise offering personalised itineraries without the hassle.

02 Satellite / cable TV packages vs. streaming services vs. bundles

  • Then: satellite / cable TV packages from the likes of Sky or Virgin bundled channels together offering a one-stop-shop for entertainment.

  • Now: streaming services like Netflix, Prime, Disney+ or Paramount allowed users to unbundle and pick what they wanted.

  • What’s next: bundles (like Sky or Virgin, Disney+, Netflix and Prime together) are bringing the bundling concept back to streamline user experience.

03 Department stores vs. specialised retail vs. lifestyle brands

  • Then: department stores were the original one-stop-shop for everything from clothes to home goods.

  • Now: specialised retail stores took over offering niche products with a focused approach (except Amazon of course which started selling just about everything!) 

  • What’s next: lifestyle brands are emerging (both on and offline) bundling products and experiences that fit a particular aesthetic or way of living.

04 Home phones vs. mobile phones vs. unified communication apps

  • Then: home phones were the primary means of staying connected with packages often bundling calls, TV and sometimes internet access.

  • Now: mobile phones unbundled communication from the home making it portable and accessible anywhere.

  • What’s next: mobile carriers are now rebundling services with unified communication plans that include unlimited calls, texts, data and subscriptions to entertainment services (like Netflix or Spotify) effectively combining multiple services into one comprehensive package once again.

Person doing exercise at home

05 Gym memberships vs. boutique fitness studios vs home fitness hardware

  • Then: Gym memberships provided access to a variety of workout equipment and classes in one location.

  • Now: Boutique fitness studios specialised in single types of workouts like yoga, spinning or CrossFit.

  • What’s next: Fitness hardware manufacturers like Peloton or NordicTrack bundling various workout types, personalised plans and virtual classes, making it easy to get a comprehensive fitness experience at home.

06 Phone contracts vs. SIM-only deals vs. all-inclusive plans

  • Then: Mobile phone contracts bundled phones with service plans.

  • Now: SIM-only deals allowed users to separate their phone purchases from their service plans.

  • What’s next: all-inclusive plans (like Apple One) bundle services like music, cloud storage and TV into one subscription.

07 Fast food chains vs. food trucks vs. food halls

  • Then: Fast food chains dominated the quick meal landscape offering consistent menus across locations.

  • Now: Food trucks brought a variety of specialized, gourmet and often locally-sourced options to the streets.

  • What’s next: Food halls are emerging as the new bundle, combining the variety of food trucks with the convenience and ambiance of a shared dining space.

Person listening to music via their mobile phone

08 Music albums vs. single tracks vs. streaming playlists

  • Then: Buying a music album bundled all the songs together.

  • Now: Digital platforms let us buy or stream single tracks.

  • What’s next: Streaming playlists are bundling songs again, creating curated lists that match specific moods or activities.

09 Personal computers vs. tablets vs. hybrid devices

  • Then: Personal computers were the all-in-one solution for work and play.

  • Now: Tablets and smartphones unbundled these functions into portable devices.

  • What’s next: Hybrid devices (like Microsoft Surface) are bundling the best of both worlds, combining PC power with tablet portability.

10 Restaurant dining vs. meal kits vs. dining experiences

  •  Then: Going out to a restaurant was a complete dining experience.

  • Now: Meal kits like Blue Apron unbundled the process, bringing restaurant-quality ingredients to your home.

  • What’s next: Dining experiences, such as chef’s table dinners or themed pop-ups, are rebundling the concept of eating out, offering unique and immersive dining events.

So there you have it – ten trends that prove the pendulum of bundling and unbundling is always swinging. Whether we’re reimagining the way we travel, watch TV or enjoy a meal it’s clear that what goes around often comes back around - with a few modern tweaks to keep things interesting 😀