Super apps have seen significant growth across Asia, as the likes of WeChat expanded its services to reach far beyond messaging, with mobile payments and e-commerce. But could now be the time for Europe and North America to catch up in the space, as its popularity continues to grow?
Super apps may finally be ready to go global; according to a new study by business insight provider Gartner, which predicts that around 50 per cent of the population will be engaging with more than one super app by 2027 – signalling a significant shift in the mobile app industry.
While the concept has yet to grip the Western world, across Asia, a number of advanced apps have enjoyed success. WeChat, Gojek and Grab are just a selection of those that have led the charge toward providing a platform for everything from messaging and social networking to transportation and food delivery – all on a single platform.
These apps continue to surge in popularity across the continent in part thanks to their simplicity, flexibility and ability to reduce clutter on mobile devices, improving financial organisation.
Jeremy Baber, CEO of payment card provider Lanistar, said: “The concept of super apps stems from a growing demand for convenience and seamless user experiences, offering multiple services in one place to provide a more integrated experience for people. This is particularly useful in a world where there are so many commercial apps and offerings from multiple businesses.
“Despite the popularity of super apps in other markets, Europe is behind in the super-app race. We have seen some household names begin to explore the possibility of diversifying their apps, such as Uber, Klarna and Lydia, but have much further to go to reach super-app status.”
Is the Western world catching up?
Uber has already made a number of strides in an effort to diversify its offerings to become a travel super-app. What was once a simple ride-hailing app now includes capabilities to hire a car to drive, compare prices, purchase flights, train and coach trips, order food delivery, and even book a ride on a commuter ferry across the Thames in London.
It appears Uber’s aim revolves around becoming the dominating force for all things travel, with reports that it could eventually even integrate hotel bookings.
Meanwhile, Klarna, most commonly known for its Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services, has also been gradually expanding its app services to include virtual payment cards and personalised shopping feeds for each user.
While advancements are clear in this area, regulators in the US and Europe are increasingly critical of companies developing super apps, suggesting that they heighten the risk of data breaches and store more personal data for the delivery of their services.
“As well as navigating potential regulation and security challenges, app creators must also be mindful of their core service – and whether becoming a super-app will overshadow their existing purpose,” Baber said.
UK and European businesses need to hop on the super app train
Baber concluded: “Like any emerging technology, product or app, risks often come into play. Super apps must have security in mind and given their vast reach across industries whilst underpinned by financial transactions, regulation is already at the top of the agenda.
“Despite this, the popularity of super apps will likely continue to rise. So, UK and European businesses need to hop on the train by either developing their own or partnering with existing providers to offer their services to avoid being left behind in a rapidly evolving market.
“The UK may be behind in the super-app race compared to Asian competitors, but we should expect to see the emergence of this new fintech application in coming years.”