January 3, 2023 - Story

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:

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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.


Who’s next?

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.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

We’d like to see a Belgian super app that combines:
FOOD & BEVERAGE

The large supermarkets in Belgium have struggled in the past to effectively combine user data across different services in their ecosystem, and translate it to a smooth experience. However, some of them have been venturing into new areas such as online grocery shopping, gearing them up towards further horizontal integration.

Imagine if your current supermarket app could:

  • Show you relevant content and products based on personal preferences, nutritional requirements and food intolerances across services. 
    “Oh you’re a lactose intolerant person with a focus on organic foods and a love for Thai cuisine? Look at your recipes and ingredients for the week!”

  • Offer all-in-one home delivery that doesn’t put up walls between shopping for separate ingredients & items, meal packages and cooked meals. 
    “While you’re ordering this pepperoni pizza, would you like to have your food items for tomorrow delivered at the same time?”

  • Give you an overview of personal & family spending on food monthly, getting tailored discounts and promos allowing us to spend less across services. 
    “You’ve spent more on takeaway last month than on fresh vegetables, would you like some easy-to-make dish ideas?”

  • Allow you to compare prices across providers for the same items. 
    “You could get this same Nutella jar for €0,90 less right here”

  • Show you which promos and discounts are available to optimize your shopping basket. “You could spend 7% less on your current shopping basket, discover how”.

ENERGY

Energy remains a hot topic due to innovation and unpredictable price fluctuations. Players in this market could offer us a centralized platform with:
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Living more energy conscious is no easy feat when there’s no way to get a complete overview on your consumption stats. Providers could grant their clients a lot more personal control over their energy by combining data points. Also, they could serve as a central guide in the complex field of durable renovation and anything that comes with it. Of course, the idea is not new, but we haven’t seen providers step up to the plate yet. 

How would you like it if your current energy provider app could give you:

  • A complete dashboard for energy consumption both at home and on the road, in case you’re driving electrical. 
    “Compare the amount of electricity you’ve consumed this month to last month in your kitchen, living room, bathroom and car”.

  • Notifications on where you seem to be using significantly more energy than the average household, and advice on how to deal with those possible problem areas. 
    “Your refrigerator from 2014 has used more than your oven, dishwasher and dryer together last quarter. Find deals on new refrigerators here.”

  • Central communication with a team of licensed contractors, installers and maintenance & repair experts that can use your data as a basis for tailored advice and work. 
    “Chat with your energy team about how to optimize your home consumption and book a free consultation at your address”.

  • And of course, getting energy, device, installation, maintenance and equipment discounts.

FITNESS

Covid lockdowns have turned many people towards different health and fitness apps. We’d like to see those apps expand by integrating:


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Anyone would tell you that getting and keeping fit takes a holistic approach, from exercise to healthy eating and sleep. However, most apps in this space seem to have a single focus (even when they offer additional services). We would like to see a high-quality integration of features across disciplines, all linked to a central user account.

Imagine if your current gym app could:

  • Help you to create, follow and evaluate holistic personal fitness programs based on accurate data, aiming for both short and long term goals 
    “If you’re trying to improve your overall strength without losing weight, we would advise this workout, meal and sleep plan based on your profile input.”

  • Truly facilitate the optimization of eating and sleeping habits, not only through advice but by hooking you up with the right providers and products as well 
    Have trouble eating a fresh meal at least once a day? Order these 3 easy & healthy meal packages and see if it helps.”

  • Allow personal trainers to use your data to provide highly personalized follow-up 
    “Hey Kenny, your exercise stats are through the roof this week! I’ve put together these new routines for next week, to help you reach the next level. Don’t forget to stretch!” 

  • Filter out low quality fitness influencers from true experts that can stimulate you to continuously learn and improve 
    “Listen to this new podcast episode on how to train for a half marathon and stay injury free, by Courtney Dauwalter”.

  • Find a way to create a user community that has value beyond sharing exercise stats & routes

MOBILITY & TRAVEL

Probably the most predictable area out of these four, but we look forward to one super app that combines:


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It is interesting that some large international platforms such as Uber have expanded from ride hailing to food delivery and other services. However, as a user, we would like an overall solution that is focused purely on mobility. Show us how to get from point A to B in a faster, cheaper, more comfortable or more sustainable way, for any type of situation. In addition, these apps could provide us with options for a short or long stay in case we are traveling.

It could be ‘super’ useful if your navigation app would:

  • Show you alternatives for any long trips you are planning 
    “I see you are planning a car ride to the South of France. Awesome! This is how much you would spend extra if you’d take a plane and rent a car at your destination”.

  • Notify you on any possible problems on your daily commute 
    “Trains are on strike tomorrow, book a ride here before noon and get to work in time!”.

  • Show you the easiest way to reach events and get home safe 
    “You can go to Sportpaleis by car, but parking could be tricky. Discover how to get there with public transportation or how our private chauffeurs can get you there and back”.

  • Show you how much you are spending on mobility each month, per category 
    “This is how much you’ve spent on fuel, public transportation, scooters and taxis this month”. 

  • Give you one digital wallet for tickets and accounts for any type of transportation, from buses to electric scooters. 

  • And again, give you package discounts on all things mobility.

What’s next for you?

We are sure that multiple Belgian companies are already working on these concepts in some way, shape or form. It’s easy for us to philosophize about future platforms here without having to worry about the hard work that’s ahead of them. In any case, we hope that whoever goes super next tries to create actual added value for their customers.

What are your organization’s digital ambitions for the next few years? And how can we help you in making those tough decisions? Fill out our contact form and swing by for a chat!

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Stijn Verhaeghe

Stijn Verhaeghe

Digital Strategist

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