Best answer: Amazon's "Frequently Bought Together" bundles won't likely save you money, but you're probably not going to get ripped off either. These suggestions based on customer behavior can give you ideas for additional purchases, but you're better off skipping over them.
What is Frequently Bought Together?
Have you ever noticed the section underneath the main product image(s) and pricing information on an Amazon page? They usually group three products together that Amazon says its customers have frequently bought together, presumably because they are complementary products.
I assumed that purchasing the items together would result in some sort of discount (e.g. buying in bulk), but after some research, that doesn't appear to be the case. I decided to share a few examples of a morning of searching the e-commerce site to demonstrate the value (or lack thereof) of these kinds of suggestions.
Frequently Bought Together Sonos One case study
In this example, I looked at the fabulous Sonos One smart speaker (which I recently compared to the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen). In the image above you can see that below the speaker are three items that Amazon says its customers frequently bought together, which includes a Sonos Sub and a Sonos One SL.
Adding the prices of the three items, I came up with the same total that Amazon listed, so there was no discount to be had in buying them together (sad face emoji).
The good news is that these three items actually are complementary. The suggestion to get a Sonos SL instead of a second Sonos One saves you about $20 because it has all of the functionality of a Sonos One minus the microphone. If you're creating a set of smart speakers, you don't need two with microphones, so well-done Amazon.
Frequently Bought Together Fitbit Versa 2 case study
I've been flirting with the idea of buying myself a Fitbit Versa 2 for months now, so it's no surprise that my searches lead me to this product page. I was a bit perplexed, however, by the frequently bought together combo that Amazon presented me with.
In this case, it suggested that customers purchased both watch screen protectors and screen protector cases. These are essentially redundant products, which leads me to conclude that either Amazon's Fitbit customers are not educated about the available accessories, or the algorithm isn't accurate.
Frequently Bought Together Sportswear case study
For my final case study, I wanted to see how the customer recommendations were for non-tech products, so I looked at an item I've had on my Amazon wish list for a while — a pair of San Antonio Spurs athletic shorts.
As with the Sonos One example, the customer recommendations seemed to go nicely with the primary product. Amazon suggested that customers also bought a Spurs t-shirt and Spurs pullover, which together combine for a sensible workout outfit. The items were all priced similarly as well. So again, no savings, but a good set of recommendations here.
So what have we learned? Bundles don't equal savings
While it's now clear to me that these bundle suggestions don't equate to any savings per product, they do seem to be helpful if you're looking to build out a home-theater setup, plan a killer wardrobe, or get some DIY tools together. They aren't as clickbait-y as the "Sponsored Products Related to this Item" section that is further below the product, or the add-on section below the "Add to Cart" and "Buy Now" buttons on the product page.
Where I find the most value from these kinds of suggestions is in providing guidance for other products that I might want, but didn't know could be helpful. I often simply use these as ideas to aid in my continued search for other products (which might actually be cheaper). Bottom line, don't feel like you're locked into any of these suggestions that Amazon throws at you, but they might be helpful depending on your goals.
Versatile smart speaker
An attractive smart speaker for whole-house coverage
The Sonos One is great for pairing and putting all around your home. It supports every major music service as well as Alexa and Google Assistant.
You can hear it, but it can't hear you
The Sonos One SL has the attractive styling and awesome sound of the Sonos One but without those pesky microphones. It's a great second speaker!
Round out your sound
The Sonos Sub adds deep bass with no buzz or rattle, and pairs well with the Sonos One series of speakers.
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