Updated: Jul 24
Discover, Learn, Succeed: In-Depth Insights for Business Growth.
You have what? Around 50 - 90 applications currently installed on your phone? A statistic from 2019 shows that users average 80+ applications on their mobile devices even though they use only 9 or 10 on a regular basis (McCormack). These applications could vary from fintech apps to entertainment apps to food delivery apps. The point is, you have a bunch of separate apps that do a lot of different things. Now imagine if all of these functions were combined into one application. Want to send money to your friends? Same app. Feeling hungry? Get some takeout without ever exiting the app. Feeling bored? Watch movies without having to find your favourite streaming application in the endless menu of apps. That’s what a Superapp is. And it’s not a hypothetical concept either. They exist and are currently being used by over a billion people every day.
A superapp, primarily an eastern concept, is a mobile application that combines various personal and commercial aspects of a user's life into one platform. They are primarily used for communication and financial transactions, although features for entertainment, an online marketplace as well as social media platforms and more are also present.
The first app to be recognised as a Superapp was China’s WeChat. It boasts a huge user base of 1.2 billion users (Shimota). Its features include instant messaging for both personal and business uses, a digital payment gateway, a newsfeed, a VOIP service (much like Skype), as well as over 580,000 mini apps (Business Insider). These mini apps are apps within the WeChat ecosystem developed by third parties. In comparison, the App Store offered 500,000 apps from 2008 to 2012. This feature is what makes WeChat truly a superapp. The integration of so many apps with a single platform allows users an all-in-one portal for all their needs. As of today, only a handful of such Superapps exist and they are mostly concentrated in Asian countries and while the west has many apps in development to take on the title of a Superapp, none have actually managed to attain one so far.
So where are we now?
With most of these Superapps targeting the asian market, there is a lot of scope for such an application in the West. However, there is a reason for these apps’ success in Asia. Overall, Asian countries used to have laxer regulatory laws, especially ones that covered data privacy. The FinTech features of Superapps like WeChat and AliBaba owe some of their success to unregulated use of customer funds stored in their digital wallets to make clever investments. This combined with the fact that the majority of Asian users were first exposed to the internet using mobile platforms as opposed to the West’s desktop platforms. Asian companies were able to take advantage of this fact and hyper accelerate their growth of mobile applications as they added on feature upon feature that their consumers used in their daily lives.
Asian users have also shown a partiality to mobile payment gateways over credit and debit cards. This is largely due to the fact that marchants refuse to accept debit and credit cards due to transaction fees and infrastructure costs. In parallel, in the West, there is widespread adoption of the card system. There seems to be reluctance in adopting new technology in the West as compared to their Eastern counterparts.
All these factors have made it much easier for the growth of Superapps in the Eastern technoscape, while the West struggles to keep up with the growing trend of these all-in-one apps.