Are you already using a super-app?

What does the app of the next generation look like?
10 July 2018

Mobile app makers are spending sleepless nights thinking about their app’s ecosystem. Source: Shutterstock

In today’s world, especially for those living in megacities such as New York, London, Paris, or even Singapore or Hong Kong, a smartphone is a necessity.

On these smartphones, residents are able to book a cab to work in the morning, order for lunch or snacks during the day, get a ride to the movies after work and tickets for the show they want to watch, book a table at a restaurant and get a deal on the meal, among various other things.

Smartphones have integrated themselves into the city-life, and quite successfully. However, as a customer, there are usually a lot of different apps that you need to use in order to get your life in order.

Buying something on an app means you’ve got to either pull out your credit card (and risk your checking account being hacked) or pay via another app that you’ve chosen to be your e-wallet. Going to the movies includes getting tickets on one app, paying on another, and booking a ride on a third.

What if it all could be integrated into one app. For you as a consumer, that’s pure convenience – and something you’d accept and integrate into your life more easily. For a business, it makes absolute sense as they expand their portfolio and wow their customers with a more comprehensive ecosystem of supporting apps.

Apps: Who gets to own the ecosystem?

However, the question then arises, who – or which businesses – gets to be the builder, curator, and aggregator of the ecosystem?

In China, where the concept of the superapp originated, WeChat started playing that role a couple years ago. Today, it’s cemented itself into the lives of residents so much so that local media recently reported that the platforms payment segment, called WeChat Pay, will now be accepted at brick and mortar stores in the US. The decision was made to facilitate purchases from Chinese tourists headed to the US.

But China isn’t alone. Superapps are a rising trend in Asia and the US.

Paytm, one of India’s leading electronic wallets and new-age payment banks has built itself into a superapp as well. Users can not only make payments, but also invest in gold, book movie tickets, and buy merchandise on its ‘integrated’ e-commerce platform.

Earlier today, ride-hailing service Grab announced that it is evolving its platform into a superapp for the Southeast Asian market. The company said it will now offer content, entertainment, and allow API-based integrations with other businesses such as grocers and multiplex theatres.

And while Asia has seen more action in terms of the rise of superapps, the US has witnessed strong intent from two key players in the market: Uber and Lyft.

Both the players are working on expanding their platforms from offering cab rides to allowing users to rent bikes, share scooters, book bus and train tickets, and someday in the future, allow them to make a series of purchases on the app that will provide users with a more ‘complete mobility solution’.

The right answer? Anyone who isn’t waiting for permission can take that place and become the builder of the next superapp. Lyft and Uber are already making big strides, especially when it comes to mobility solutions.

However, the entry of a more comprehensive player is awaited. Who will it be?