In August 2022, Forbes featured an article about super apps, which painted a gloomy picture of their future prospects on the U.S. digital market. The idea that an extremely successful e-commerce model that has taken over huge markets of Asia, Africa, and Latin America will fail to accumulate the same audiences in the U.S. seems reasonably odd and paradoxical.
In this article, we will debunk the arguments that speak against super apps’ potential and show how they are actually being incorporated by the American tech industry right now.
Coming off with a very bold statement, the Forbes observer claims that Americans don’t actually want super apps—narrow companies do. Well, let’s see what the statistical data has to say.
Recent studies by Statista and PYMNTS reveal that as of November 2021, around 67% of consumers in the United States were interested in having multiple digital experiences integrated into one super app.
The age distribution indicates that 35% of millennials are interested in a comprehensive channel for online banking and payment service, and 45% of them and 31% of bridge millennials want a convenience super app for groceries, health, work, social relationships, and the home.
The survey shows that super apps are sought after by the younger generation of users, the audiences who actively use technologies now and will continue to do so in the future.
The Economist Intelligence Unit report suggests that 61% of surveyed executives are sure that super apps will have a positive potential impact on their organization’s revenue over the next five years.
Finally, over 80% of surveyed experts think that super apps might become the dominant platform for digital commerce in five years, naming access to a more extensive customer network as a top benefit that super apps provide to their organizations.
That alone is enough to conclude that the demand for super apps is there and, what is more important, it is coming directly from the consumers.
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In Asia, super apps initially took off in part due to the region’s strict digital marketplace regulations. Left with little to no choice in their app stores, people jumped at the chance of having homegrown applications that hosted all the digital services one would ever need.
Now, Asian tech companies who followed the super app model are thriving: in 2021 Chinese WeChat made a revenue of $17.49 bn, Indonesian Gojek reached 170 mln users, and Singaporean Grab was operating in circa 400 cities with more than 214 million app downloads.
Asian super apps
In Latin America, where the digital market is rife with foreign applications and programs, super apps like OMNi and Rappi are taking over.
A Costa Rican super app OMNi launched in 2019 as a bike rental service in a region where people knew nothing about super apps and how they could be useful. In the year 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, it managed to become the country’s most popular app, extended across the entire Central American region, and added a neobank, a streaming service, taxi-hailing, healthcare, and food delivery services. By 2022 it will serve more than 60 million users across eight countries.
OMNI super app
Colombian super app Rappi started out in 2015 as a food and grocery delivery platform. However, in 2022, it now serves as a “deliver-everything” app, operates in 9 countries, is valued at $5.25 bn and even chased off Uber Eats from the region.
This proves the fact that a young super app can successfully compete with established tech giants, having an unprecedented efficiency and convenience as its main advantage.
Rappi super app
Launched in Togo in 2018 as a mobility service, today Gozem is expanding to eight countries, has more than half a million users and offers ride-hailing, food and grocery delivery, digital wallet, cashless payment, and healthcare services.
VodaPay, a recent super app from the country’s leading telecom operator, was designed to facilitate financial inclusion. It allows users to have a secure digital wallet, do online shopping, pay bills, buy water or electricity, send money and order food.
The app’s high adoption rate speaks for its success: 2.2 million downloads and 1.6 million users since its launch in 2021. Although the economic and technical development in the region is behind those of Asia and LATAM, the super app success scenario plays out pretty much the same: a high-frequency product layered on higher-value services brings millions of users to the app.
In Europe, a region that is very well familiar with advanced tech services, the idea of super apps is also taking root.
Glovo, a Spanish super app that launched in 2015, today operates in 26 countries offering food and groceries delivery, presents and drugstore goods, as well as an on-demand delivery. The company has recently crossed the $1bn valuation mark and became the second privately-held Spanish company to attain the “unicorn” status with 2.5 mln monthly active users and 50,000 active couriers.
Another European company Revolut, a UK-based neobank with more than 18 million users, 150+ mln transactions a month and a value of $33 bn, branded itself as a financial super app in 2020, adding to its financial and banking functionalities Revolut Stays, a new service for booking hotels. In 2023, it started expanding to the Middle East and Latin America, aiming to become the world’s biggest financial super app.
What unites all these diverse examples of super app gold rush is one common feature that makes supper apps so lucrative—they are convenient for the users. The only question left is whether they will manage to conquer new digital markets.
An ambition for a super app is shared and supported not only by its potential American users, but also the biggest tech companies out there.
In 2021, PayPal announced their ambition to develop a super app for advanced payment, shopping, savings, and finance management services. The app launched later that year and plans to keep on expanding its functionalities.
Uber and Walmart are also looking into the super app direction with their recent announcements of developing one-stop applications that will combine various services. While Walmart is preparing the ground for its financial services super app, Uber is chasing the winning strategy of many Asian super apps, adding to its mobility application a new product, Uber Explore, a service that allows its users to browse and book experiences.
During his Twitter acquisition campaign in the spring of 2022, Elon Musk directly mentioned a Chinese super app WeChat as a potential growth strategy for the American social media platform, saying that there was a real opportunity of creating a WeChat equivalent. What started out as just a messaging app, transformed into an almost all-encompassing digital ecosystem with circa 1 billion monthly users. Twitter, which has an audience of 217 million people and a massive public influence, can do the same.
“The coming of super apps to the U.S. is not just around the corner, it’s already here.”
The Forbes article mentioned users’ underpowered devices as a major reason for the boom of super apps in Asia: when a phone cannot handle 40 to 50 different apps, a super app is just the thing to the rescue.
The majority of American smartphones, however, are capacious enough to store and run multiple applications. The only question here is whether anyone really needs to store 40 to 50 apps.
On average, Americans use only 9 apps on a daily basis. These nine apps can be perfectly integrated into one super app, creating a clearer and more organized digital experience, and saving device battery, which might be attractive to users and companies that are conscious about sustainable development.
Super apps wrap the most vital services into a convenient interface which provides users with effortless daily interaction and the apps—a solid user base. While the average retention rate for an app is about 12% after 7 days, the WeChat super app’s day 7 user retention rate stands as high as 98.3%.
Having once entered their data and signed up, users don’t need to hoard various accounts and memorize multiple passwords on their devices, instead, they engage in a faster and more frequent interaction with the app.
As the web privacy control gets stricter, super apps remain a safe space that users can trust with their data. Super app presents an enclosed digital ecosystem where the data stays within the system and is used to generate a more personalized content so that both the users and the partners of the super app benefit. Such an approach helps minimize the risks of cyber fraud and identity theft, and, consequently, increases user trust.
Malaysian super app Grab, for example, is developing its own ad service, GrabAds, which asks user permission for tracking and does not transmit user information to third parties. The data is used to match companies to verified and interested users, resulting in a more efficient and targeted advertising.
All things considered, super apps present a great e-commerce model that is seeing a rapid rise all over the world. With a solid consumer demand and proven history of success, it is only a matter of time when the next super app to shake the world emerges in America.
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