Cannibalization is a term used in product management to describe the scenario where a new product or product line takes sales away from an existing product or product line. This can occur when the new product is similar to the existing product or when the new product is positioned as an upgrade to the existing product.
“Unintentional Cannibalization” happens when a company introduces a new product, and instead of attracting new customers, it takes away sales from one of the company’s existing products.
Imagine a bakery selling a popular chocolate cake. If the bakery introduces a new chocolate fudge cake and people start buying the new cake instead of the old one, the bakery hasn’t necessarily gained more customers or more sales – it just shifted them from one product to the other. This is like the new cake “eating” the sales of the old cake. That’s why it’s called “cannibalization”.
When it happens without the company intending or expecting it, it’s “unintentional cannibalization”.