A super app is essentially a one-stop app created by a company, bundling a bunch of services or separate apps within it, aspiring to cover every need of the consumer such as social media, travel, cab services, movie tickets, utility payments, insurance, food, fashion, marketplaces, content, health and wellness to name a few. It is an all-encompassing self-contained online platform that is the need of an hour in the current online paradigm with users demanding all sorts of services within an umbrella.
The idea of the super app first gained popularity in China with WeChat, the messaging app that essentially acts as a platform for facilitating life online in the world’s most populous country. WeChat’s functions don’t stop only at a social group building level but it also functions as an e-commerce platform from enabling loans and day to day transactions. Commerce conducted through mini-apps that WeChat lets other developers build on its platform reached a staggering $240 billion last year alone, more than double from the year 2020 and is oly estimated to rise.
How does a super app work?
The Super app makes use of “mini programs”, analogous to the various apps that are available in phones in isolation. In the Super App, the information (Mini Apps) can be displayed as a list of icons, by user location or by relevance of the moment (by dates or special promotions). There is the Genus component that provides the ability to dynamically load applications and interpret them to have native behavior and for many users in China, WeChat ultimately becomes the Internet as a one stop solution for all needs online.
The USA has not been able to make noticeable dents in the world of super apps and while there has been the emergence of several self proclaimed financial super apps like Robinhood and Coinbase and PayPal have tried incorporating multiple features but many of those expansion products and features are undifferentiated commodities that don’t give users much reason to switch from an existing provider and more often than not, end up looking undifferentiated from each other.
Popular super apps
The Super app success stories have been mostly limited to Asia and Southeast Asia with China leading the helm.
Tencent Holding Ltd.’s We Chat has rapidly expanded into the largest super app phenomenon and WeChat now has more than 1 billion monthly active users globally. Beside from its basic sending messages, this super chat app can also be a commercial app which creates a lifestyle of commodification and convenience through combing multiple functions.
Users can access numbers of third-party services like hailing a cab, buying movie tickets, ordering food delivery, paying utility bills, or sending money to friends. All of these are integrated and can be done in one single app!
Alipay is the payment solutions affiliated with China e-commerce Alibaba. Alipay wallet now provides easy mobile access to purchase and pay for products and services from local restaurants, shops and other outlets, as well as to obtain discount e-coupons, and share product recommendations and red envelopes with friends, among other features. Alipay has successfully surpassed 230 million daily active users and 120,000 lite apps as of 2020 with increasing relevance in the average Chinese citizen’s life.
Grab is the fast emerging Singapore based competition to the already existing hegemony of WeChat and Alipay and with one swipe, you can experience anything in the consumer services sector. Initially leading in the shared transport sector Grab now has more than 2.8 million drivers and has introduced multiple on-demand transportation, paying bills, ordering food, and even booking hotels.
As the India population shifts to the smartphone more and more, companies are morse interested in increased revenue realistions. Alibaba sponsored Paytm now provides various banking facilities and tie ups with major f&b outlets including Dominoes, Pizza Hut and Flipkart owned paymet app PhonePe has tied up with companies such as Ola Cabs, Swiggy, Grofers, AJio, Decathlon, Delhi Metro, booking.com, etc to offer these services from within its own app.