What is Super App and Why It Is Taking Over Asia
There is an app for just about anything. But imagine, instead of switching through several mobile apps for several services, what if you have a one-stop platform for most of your needs. That kind of app is not the future anymore. Maybe you are using it without knowing: it’s called the super app.
Definition of Super App
The term ‘super app’ has been around longer than you think. It was coined back in 2010 by Mike Laraidis, who founded BlackBerry. Its original definition was an 'ecosystem of apps that customers could use as a part of their life thanks to the seamless, integrated, and efficient experience'. This definition is still true today, capturing the full meaning and value of super app.
Simply speaking, a super app is an app with several apps inside it. These smaller apps are not necessarily related to each other but exist under one umbrella, which is the super app.
WeChat, which is used by 1.2 billion people, mostly Chinese, is a perfect example of super app. It ubiquitously combines everything from messaging, payments, e-commerce, and a lot more within it. This all-in-one nature makes it indispensable for many users. WeChat is allegedly the inspiration behind Meta (formerly Facebook), which owned Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and more.
Some other examples include China’s AliPay, India’s Paytm, Singapore’s Grab, Indonesia’s GoTo, Vietnam’s Zalo, and South Korea’s Kakao.
Many other unicorns such as Shopee, Traveloka, and AirAsia are also expanding services offered in their applications, poised to soon become super apps.
These super apps usually start off with only one service, like ride-hailing or messaging. Then they evolved to include other services such as food delivery, digital payment, bill payments, mobile phone top-ups, music streaming, social networking. The list goes on.
Super App is taking over Asia
In Asia, super apps rule.
Grab, for example, is now in 8 countries, including Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This Singaporean super app is serving more than 187 million users in over 350 cities.
Indonesia’s highest-valued tech unicorn - GoTo Group, which owned Gojek and Tokopedia, is responsible for 2% of the country’s GDP.
Or we have Paytm, India’s biggest startup. Its digital payment services have more than 350 million users and counting. It also has become a fully digital bank licensed by the government.
In South Korea, 87% of the population is using Kakao’s platform.
Most of these countries have young generations. They are super familiar with digital devices and services. Whenever they need something, the first thing they do is grab their smartphone and open an app.
Besides, considering the impact of super apps, it has both opportunities and threats to banking industry.
- The engagement with super apps helps banks create trust in services and build a brand reputation by delivering a unique and seamless customer experience (CX).
- However, super apps also disintermediate banks from their users.
However, Super App is not doing so well in the Western world
Why super apps are omnipresent in Asia, but there is NO legit super app in Europe or even America?
For now, the most pertinent answer is data privacy.
In most Asian countries, there aren’t any standard laws and regulations on controlling the way tech giants use their customers’ data. On the opposite, Europe is serious when it comes to data privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework is proof of how much Europe cares about this matter.
One thing about super apps is that they rely on user data so that they can share between their mini-apps and with 3rd-party integrations. With such data protection laws, super apps seem like an absurd idea in western countries.
Moreover, the competition is fierce in these regions. It’s virtually impossible for a newcomer to get past Facebook or Google. The Western tech market thus becomes more fractured. And no player can effectively dominate some parts of it to become a super app.
Also, while Apple doesn’t have any super app, they have a superphone. Their iPhone has most of the digital services in itself, including Apple Music, Apple TV, iMessage, Apple Pay. In this sense, Apple’s operating system iOS closely resembles a super app, where other Apple’s proprietary apps and third-party apps exist.
What Makes a Super App
What are the superpowers of super app? Actually, there is no universal recipe for a super app. Just like not every superhero wears a cape, there is no set of functionalities we can use to define a super app.
But most super apps have one thing in common: they aggregate several mini-apps that otherwise users would need to switch between apps to use. For example, normally you have to switch between Messenger for messaging, Shopee for shopping, PayPal for paying for something, and Tinder for dating. But Chinese people can do all that in one WeChat.
This is also the selling point of super app.
After all, who has the time to switch through a bunch of apps (each of which consistently asks for new updates) and remember all those separate passwords when you can have one app that does it all?
This explains why some of the biggest companies are behind all-in-one apps: not only about the opportunity to improve customer experience but also the ambition to build a bigger customer base and have a larger share of customers’ wallets.
In general, an app should offer the following services to be considered super apps:
- Social Platform
- E-Commerce Services
- Financial Services
- Loyalty Program
At the end of the day, the purpose of either super app or superphone is to keep users engaged in it, and keep them from switching to their competitions.
The 8 super apps in Asia
By dominating in their niche and offering more services around it, these super apps will very like continue to thrive in the near future.
WeChat has grown spectacularly in just one year, accumulating 100 million monthly users. After four years, the app attracted up to 500 million users. And after six years, it gathered 900 million users. As of 2020’s second quarter, there were 1 billion people using WeChat, according to Statista.
Millions of Chinese use AliPay at least once a day to pay for street food, clothing, bus tickets, and traffic penalties. Allegedly, even the homeless in Beijing use Alipay payments. This Alibaba’s payment system also provides a multitude of other services such as retail, bookings, utility bill payments, ...
Careem is a car-hailing service that is a subsidiary of the American company Uber. It is headquartered in Dubai and operates in over 100 cities in 15 countries, including the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.
Gojek is Indonesia's on-demand multi-service platform and digital payment technology company. Now valued at $10 billion, Gojek has evolved into a super app that provides more than 20 digital services of diverse types around its ride-hailing products. It is now operating in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. As of June 2020, Gojek reported to have over 170 million users throughout Southeast Asia.
Meituan provides its 260 million app users with an advertising marketing platform. Its huge database of demographics, geography, consumption habits, and interests of target clients all contribute to making advertising more effective.
In India, Paytm is the mainstay. In 2016, this payment app was reported to process 1 billion transactions, which were worth more than $5 billion dollars. The app has up to 180 million active accounts as of 2017’s first quarter. It recently has added merchant features that let users to book airfare and train tickets. and buy goods from Paytm Mall - it e-commerce sub-division Paytm Mall.
Grab is a Singaporean multinational company with a valuation of over US$10 billion. It has a heavy presence, especially in Southeast Asia since it has acquired Uber’s subdivisions. Grab also invested in OVA, Indonesia’s payment platform, future cornering this market.
Moreover, it has raised $2 billion from SoftBank and China’s Didi Chuxing to launch GrabPay — a branded mobile wallet app and payment service.
Momo now has up to 20 million users, 10,000 partners across a variety of industries, including consumer banking, insurance, e-commerce, shopping, and transportation. With 12 million users, 12,000 partners, and 100,000 POS, MoMo has a lot of advantages. So far, the company has formed partnerships with 24 domestic banks and international payment networks, including MasterCard and Visa.
You may want to read: Growth of the Super Apps: Opportunity or Threat to Banks?
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates on digital application.