Imagine an ordinary day in your life. You pick up your mobile phone and enter an app to communicate, then you consult a product you want to buy online, you order a transport online, you order a takeaway, you make a transfer to a friend from your phone or upload a photo to a social network... and so on.
Have you ever stopped to count how many apps you use in your day-to-day life? Maybe we go through 10-20 apps to get the actions we want to perform.
In some countries there are platforms that allow you to perform all these actions in a single application, a Super App, without leaving your environment. A very common concept in Asia for years, especially in China, where they keep the attention of users for different reasons, as they offer services ranging from being a space for messages, to using it to make banking transactions.
They are defined as a mobile or web application that provides multiple services, including payment and financial transaction processing, effectively becoming a self-contained online communication and commerce platform that encompasses many aspects of personal and business life.
They emerged in Asia and some of the best known are Indonesia's Gojek or China's WeChat, bringing together features of social networking, instant messaging or payment and money transfer manager, among many other functions.
Interestingly, the Super App concept was first mentioned in 2010 by Mike Lazaridis, founder of BlackBerry. But it took many years before the world actually got its first super app: WeChat.
Alipay, another Chinese giant, was born as a wallet of the e-commerce platform Alibaba and has also become a very popular Super App that includes all kinds of everyday services, including financial services, thus transforming itself into a unique Marketplace for its users.
Gradually Super Apps in different segments have been emerging in other countries and their philosophy is: "Have it all under one place".
Looking to the tourism sector and the American continent, some companies are taking firm steps towards this new concept of developing a single app, such as Uber, which earlier this year launched a pilot in the UK of a travel Super App to integrate train, flight, bus and hotel bookings. In the US, Uber has also launched the Uber Explore business line, for booking restaurants and leisure activities, making Madrid the first European city, the second outside the US, where Uber will test the new Explore service.
In the financial sector, Swedish fintech Klarna, currently the fifth most valuable startup in the world, evolves its business model to also become a Super App aimed at facilitating the shopping process for any online consumer, solving the possibility of shopping in all online shops through its Super App.
One of the most surprising aspirations of the Super App is X, the 'super app' that Elon Musk wants to turn Twitter into, offering very diverse services and with such a variety of tools and utilities as: instant messaging, video conferencing, social networking, news, payment gateway, online shop, restaurant reservations, food delivery, travel planning and booking, dating, online gaming, carpooling... anything else Elon?
In short, a complete ecosystem, concentrating the maximum daily activity of its users, in the style of WeChat, which is the only one that brings together all, or almost all, segments at the moment.
Let's not forget other big companies that are studying the possibility of developing a Super App, such as Meta, Google or Amazon. We will see who succeeds.
From a consumer point of view, as the app economy grows, consumers face an increasingly saturated landscape of apps from different sectors, which can be frustrating for them as they need to keep up with the latest, learn how each one works and jump from app to app. All this makes them welcome the idea of a single app to take care of all their digital needs in a convenient way, in an app that combines social, business and financial solutions in one place.
But let's look at the downsides: sometimes apps fail, or have problems with security hacks. Also, having all your tools in a single application can make you very vulnerable. Nor should we lose sight of frictions of privacy problems, since this Super App would know everything you do. And finally, there are some critical voices pointing out that the grouping of these large companies is stifling the economy and innovation.
We will see what happens, and if, as in China, these Super Apps are imposed in the rest of the world.
Author: Laura Darder
Founder and Marketing Director Mrs Disruptive
The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.