It's a Bird...It's a Plane! It's Super App!
A Super App is essentially a one-stop mobile platform that is programmed to cater for every imaginable need. It is an umbrella app that has an army of contextual apps embedded into its system, making its features indispensable to its users and to a certain extent, our society.
Introducing Super Apps
The term ‘Super App’ was first associated with Tencent’s WeChat app. The holy grail platform is used by over 1.2 billion active users in China. WeChat boasts multi-purpose features servicing all personal and business-related mobile activities. This includes instant messaging, social networking, digital wallet payments, and engaging enterprise features that have generated over $250 billion in annual transactions.
Such a super app allowed people to connect with family and friends, shop, book transportation, order food, pay in stores, send money to peers, and engage in business without having to run multiple apps on their smartphones. It was well-received that not only has it reached decades-long success but has also been instrumental in boosting the country’s economy. Five years after its launch, WeChat was able to generate revenues that accounted for 30% of China’s GDP in 2016. Since then, WeChat was able to establish a successful ecosystem that infinitely thrives on each other.
The success of WeChat can be attributed to three factors. The first is the completeness of its services within the platform. Second, the limitless opportunities and value it provides for users and businesses alike, and last but not the least, its ability to keep systemic co-dependency running like a well-oiled machine, making the app unbeatable even up to this day.
In this article, we’ve rounded up some characteristics that make up great super apps in this day and age.
Budding Super Apps Would Most Likely Be Household Name By Now
No new app gets ultra charged just right after its launch. Not even WeChat. Super apps gradually move their way up into this title. They hook users in, culturally integrate themselves, and keep the momentum going by offering more essential features to customers. With this, they gain trust and a reputation as one of the leading apps in a particular niche, making them a household name. It can take many years of integration until a community is fully immersed in the experience. So it is only then an app can be deemed as an indispensable tool for modern-day convenience.
Have a High-Open Rate Feature
Super apps should carry at least one initial function that millions or billions of people would want to use daily. Social media networking or instant messaging features top the list because it connects people from near and far together every day. This is followed by e-commerce and fin-tech features which are now a vital part of the global retail framework.
Is a Sole Mobile Destination
Super apps aren't called ‘super’ for nothing. These multi-use platforms are sole mobile destinations wherein a user won’t have to jump from app to app. It should house all the necessary mini apps to carry out messaging, e-commerce, social media, content sharing, enterprise solutions and services, games, and financial transactions. More than services, the mobile destination should also be able to provide engaging and relevant user experiences for long-lasting loyalty.
Has its Own Digital Wallet Feature
Super apps thrive when people start trusting them with their hard-earned money, making this feature crucial to their success. According to Worldpay’s 2021 Global Payments Report, digital and mobile wallets have now become the leading payment method for e-commerce and POS transactions globally. And by 2024, a forecast shows that 50% of all e-commerce transactions and a third of point of sales transactions will be done through e-wallets as customers enjoy faster and more convenient ways of paying for goods and services through QR codes and NFC technologies.
Has Room for Collaboration & an Eye For Collective Growth
Super apps are mighty powerful, but sometimes, they’re just more powerful with their sidekicks.
Super apps must have the ability to collaborate with other vendors to provide services beyond their capabilities. This may include partnering with ridesharing companies to enable transportation services within the super app. Invite grocery companies to give customers in-app shopping options. Or provide content creators with platforms to boost user engagement. These efforts for collective growth will not only strengthen co-dependency, but it can also downplay competition and provide more value to their users.
Super Apps In The West
Social media firms are slowly dipping their toes into this strategy because of its massive potential. It is becoming more evident as we witness giants acquiring their competitors. Many apps started morphing from single-use apps to full-scale applications offering expanded features.
Take Facebook for example. The app started as a social media networking site where people and businesses can connect and share content with each other. Later on, instant messaging features came into the picture. The Facebook messenger app allowed live location sharing, voice and video chats, and bots for business automation. Further developments include the marketplace where you can advertise and now shop directly from the app. Other Meta apps such as Instagram and Whatsapp also expanded their features beyond social networking and instant messaging to provide more value to their customers. The Instagram shop let consumers shop directly when browsing social media content, while Whatsapp piloted a localized business directory feature in São Paulo that allowed users to find local shops and services nearby.
Moreover, e-commerce brands like Amazon also expanded their features to accommodate financial transactions with Amazon Pay among many others.
These are all just a taste of how companies are slowly supercharging their apps in the region. It’s only a matter of time before we see leading apps take their current platforms and transform them into full-service apps that we will all depend on for life, work and play.
As to who will prevail as WeChat’s western counterpart, we are far from certain at this point. Many factors may be limiting key players from reaching massive success. Aside from high competition rates, we have to consider that the super app concept originated from countries with underdeveloped technology infrastructures. It’s hard to imagine that a single entity will be able to monopolize this market the same way as WeChat has done initially. Super App companies also require strong positive relations with the government they operate in to ensure smooth integration into its systems. And with all the regulations in place, this could pose another challenge for companies looking to take on this path in this part of the world.
Nonetheless, the possibilities are endless. Super apps still hold a promising future for the app industry and the economy as a whole. So If one can’t achieve a WeChat status, then niche-specific super apps may have a better chance.
So for now, let’s sit back, relax and keep our eyes peeled for more exciting things to come in the mobile app space.