Who will build Belgium’s next super app?
The super app trend isn’t dying down anytime soon. It was reported last month that Microsoft is considering building one. Musk tweeted that buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating his. Closer to home, KBC recently snatched the ‘Best mobile banking’ app title again, due in part to its vast array of banking and non-banking digital features. Now, when does it make sense to go ‘super’?
First: What’s a super app?
A single mobile environment that offers a plethora of services closely and/or loosely related to the app’s core functionalities. Those services can be both self-created or integrated through partnerships with other companies.
A few examples:
Why would you build a super app?
The benefits of this type of apps for the companies offering them are quite evident. When done right, super apps allow companies to draw in new users, increase users’ time spent on the platform, lower churn, capture user data across services and open up new revenue streams. If your platform gets big enough, you could even start selling advertising space on it. Going super means increasing your grip on the customer by offering ‘more’: more to do, more to see, more to measure, more to sell.
It is far from a simple thing to accomplish though. The rise of the most successful super app, WeChat, was largely made possible by unique circumstances: rapid mobile tech adoption and legislation making it harder for apps from outside of China to enter the marketplace. The West is in a different situation entirely. We have become accustomed to fast-improving single-focus apps that may be strong enough by themselves to render any bundled version of them unnecessary. That leads us to a central challenge for those select few with the resources to even consider evolving towards super apps: how will you create added value for the user?
Why would you use a super app?
Let’s start with reasons why you would not.
1. If you’d be worried about giving up a lot of personal data
By using a single app for what you would otherwise do in five different ones, you are effectively helping a company circumvent limitations on cross-app tracking. If it happens on their turf, it’s their data.
2. If you’d be worried about becoming too reliant on just one app
Users that posted pictures of the recent protests against the Chinese president had their WeChat accounts shut down. These users lost access to financial, health and social services they depend on daily, with only limited options to set it all up again in an alternative platform. It’s a whole different deplatforming ball game than just getting kicked off of Twitter.
3. If you’d simply not see any additional benefits
One environment with a whole bunch of features or apps in it is basically how any smartphone works. If all a super app does is put together functionalities you already use, that might not be enough to convince you.
This is where it could become interesting enough to set aside your reservations:
1. If you’d save time
In theory, super apps could make you more efficient if they:
- Require only one central login & user account
- Apply the same user experiences principles and pathways across features or mini apps
- Centralize customer service
2. If you’d get better at decision making
While giving up more personal data may be a big threshold, if the provider succeeds in making your data work for you the exchange may prove worthwhile. Getting more complete insight into your personal spending could help you save more, for example.
3. If you’d get better deals
If the entire package becomes cheaper than the sum of its parts, that alone could be a reason to sign up. It’s how Amazon turned roughly 65 percent of its shoppers into Prime members.
In Belgium, it seems to be mostly financial players moving into super app territory. Where else could it make sense? Below, we have listed areas in which we would like to see centralized platforms, based on what the user could get out of it. We have purposely stayed away from business-driven combinations that may feel random (eg. combining ride hailing, e-commerce and dating) but focused on horizontal integration within the same industry instead.