News & Insights

Looking forward to Super-Apps

12 Apr 2023

Dan Tull


In today’s society, mobile applications (or apps) have become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. They serve multiple functions, whether as essential tools to complete tasks or as methods of escapism when a break is in order. They also give a nice profile of an individual, with what emphasis is put on certain apps, be it social media accounts in the form of Instagram and TikTok, or more productive offerings such as Photoshop or iMovie. Whatever your preferred selection of apps is, it all might be about to change. In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards the development of “Super Apps” – mobile applications that offer a wide range of services and functionalities to their users. Apps such as WeChat, Gojek, and Grab have been leading the charge in this regard, offering users everything from messaging and social networking to ride-hailing and food delivery, all within a single platform.

Efficiency is a super-power

Super Apps originated in Asia, where companies like WeChat, Grab, and Gojek started as messaging or ride-hailing apps but expanded their services to include other features. For example, WeChat, which started as a messaging app in China, now offers a range of services like mobile payments, e-commerce, ride-hailing, food delivery, and social networking. 

Super Apps aren’t as common in the Western world, although we have started to see elements of them trickle through, with services such as Uber sharing user data across both of their Uber and Uber Eats apps. 

The concept of Super Apps has gained popularity globally, and many companies are now trying to build their own Super App platforms. The trend is driven by the growing demand for convenience and seamless user experiences. By offering multiple services in one app, Super Apps save users time and effort and provide a more integrated experience.

What does this mean for the future?

This shift in approach to app development could mean big things for the way companies approach their market position. Using a singular point of interaction is definitely a benefit for users of multiple services that come under the same company offering. 

The future with more Super Apps is likely to see a further convergence of digital services within a single platform. As more companies compete to offer a wider range of services and features, Super Apps are likely to become even more integrated and comprehensive.

For businesses, this could mean both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, Super Apps can provide a new channel for customer acquisition and engagement, allowing businesses to reach a broader audience and offer more convenient and seamless experiences. For example, businesses could partner with Super Apps to offer their products or services within the app, or leverage the app's user base to drive traffic to their own website or mobile app. This would mean big things for smaller companies that perhaps don’t have the resources to develop their own app but have the business model for a service that could be brought into an existing platform. 

On the other hand, Super Apps could also pose a threat to some businesses, particularly those that operate in industries that overlap with the app's core services. For example, a Super App that offers ride-hailing services could potentially disrupt the traditional taxi industry even further than it has been already. Imagine a Super App that offers mobile payments could potentially compete with traditional banks and financial institutions. There is also the looming concern of market monopolisation by the giants. How quickly could Amazon start to look at absorbing food delivery services as part of their Amazon Prime offering?

According to Gartner, the trend towards Super Apps is set to continue and grow rapidly in popularity. The research firm predicts that by 2027, half of the population will be using more than one Super App, signalling a significant shift in the mobile app industry.

This prediction is driven by the increasing demand from customers worldwide for mobile-first experiences that are both impressive in their capabilities and user-friendly in their design. Younger generations, in particular, are expected to be at the forefront of the Super App movement, pushing it forward as they seek more convenient and seamless ways to access a range of services through their smartphones.

As the popularity of Super Apps continues to rise, businesses will need to adapt to this trend by developing their own Super Apps or partnering with existing ones to offer their services within them. Failure to do so could result in being left behind in a rapidly evolving market.

Superpowers have super weaknesses

Despite the convenience that Super Apps offer, there are growing concerns about the overall power of the technology industry, and internet regulators in regions such as the US and Europe have become increasingly critical of companies developing such apps. This has led to orders for local firms like WeChat to open up their platforms to rivals, as seen in China.

Moreover, the proliferation of smartphones worldwide has led to overcrowded app stores and tighter restrictions on targeted advertising, making it difficult to replicate the success of Super Apps. Single-purpose apps are comparatively faster, more responsive, and easier to navigate than Super Apps, which can negatively impact the user experience.

There is also a heightened risk of data breaches when using Super Apps, as they tend to store more personal data to facilitate the delivery of their services. In 2020, Tokopedia experienced a severe data breach where the data of 91 million users was stolen and shared by hackers.

Additionally, if a user loses access to their Super App account or is banned from it, they also lose access to multiple real-life services and digital applications, which can be incredibly inconvenient.

While the concept of Super Apps has undoubtedly revolutionised the mobile app industry, it is clear that there are also potential drawbacks and risks associated with them. As such, it remains to be seen whether they will continue to dominate the industry in the long run, or if their popularity will gradually wane in the face of evolving regulations and user preferences.

Will this mark the end of apps as we know them?

In short, no. There is still very much, and likely always will be, a need to keep certain services streamlined and simple. Something like Netflix would be bogged down if suddenly the app featured the ability to order food whilst watching a movie and would ultimately move further away from the purpose of the service. The user experience is the most important element of a successful app, if the user cannot quickly and easily get around without feeling frustrated or confused then they will often seek alternative services. There have even been cases historically where apps have countered this by splitting their apps into functional areas, like when Facebook decided that Messenger required a dedicated app. 

With all that said, it remains an exciting period to see what will come of the rise of the Super Apps and whether it will bring about a new era of development and business structures. 

For more tech trends and insights, read more here.

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