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Over the past two decades, smartphones and applications have changed how we work, shop, travel, eat and everything in between. These apps have primarily been point solutions: Lyft helps you hail a car to get from point A to point B; DoorDash allows you to get food delivered from nearby restaurants; your online banking app puts the functions of a physical bank branch in your pocket.
While these point solutions have remained the norm in the U.S., recent disruptions in Asia show that we may soon have an app revolution. Super apps, or mobile applications that offer multiple disparate services within a single application, are rapidly gaining adoption and popularity in countries like Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In Indonesia, Gojek has evolved from a ride-hailing app to include everything from ecommerce to financial services. In a future defined by super apps, users will be able to order pizza, book a vacation, check social media and trade stocks without ever having to exit the app.
The evolution of super apps isn’t limited to Asia. In central America, Omni brings together mobility, finance and healthcare services. Each new function within the app serves as a driver for growth: According to Omni CEO Nayid Aguilar, the introduction of a ride-hailing service saw all transactions in the app — not just those focused on mobility — increase by 200%.
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While super apps have yet to see widespread adoption in North America, there are already signs of a coming shift. Major tech leaders like Amazon and Meta have shown consistent interest in expanding into new industries, with Amazon exploring healthcare services and Meta developing metaverse and blockchain solutions.
A recent report from Gartner predicted that more than half of the global population will become daily users of multiple super apps by 2027. Are we heading for a future in which we log into Amazon for everything from medical reports to streaming movies to online banking?
Moments of opportunity
The growth of super apps isn’t just being driven by the random convenience of having multiple services in the same place. Instead, these apps have emerged in response to a consumer desire for seamless experiences and ease of use. Having social media, retail, travel and ridesharing all in the same place may seem unnecessary — until a consumer sees the simplicity in booking their weekend getaway to Miami, creating a post about it on Instagram and buying a new swimsuit for the occasion without missing a beat.
The more utility a super app can provide consumers in one place, the better the overall experience. As consumers come to trust super apps to solve more of their problems, their brand loyalty and overall spending will increase in parallel.
Brands have an opportunity here to gain more attention — and share of the wallet — from each customer. By leveraging their existing customer data and analytics, these organizations can effectively predict what services their customers will want and when they’ll want them. Offering each product or service at the right time and in the right order smooths the path toward customer loyalty. As super apps grow, they’ll steadily capture more of each customer’s time, love and money.
Laying the groundwork
What do U.S. organizations need to do to become first movers within their industries and verticals? These three best practices will enable any brand to lay the groundwork for a future super app.
1. Future-proofing your business
Most businesses will be unable to take a linear path to develop a super app. Organizations will need to be creative as they think about which services to link together to drive adoption and meet the needs of their customers. Should a clothing retailer offer movie tickets and restaurant delivery? No idea should be dismissed out of hand. Instead, business leaders must think outside the box and then work to determine whether the idea has potential or not.
Of course, the organization must also have a strategy and focus on implementing and executing these creative ideas. There is a fine line between connecting different services to the benefit of the customer and trying to do too much. A creative yet logical idea should form the core of the super app, surrounded by a network of tools, services and products that enhance the customer experience.
2. Put data to work
A mediocre app will allow users to book a flight and also order food delivery. An exceptional app will recognize each user’s dining preferences, make a note of when they’ll be traveling to a new city, then suggest the restaurants they’ll most enjoy for a delivery order to their hotel. What’s the difference between these two experiences? Data.
The logistics of a good super app will require tremendous amounts of data and the knowledge of what to do with it. First-party data from sources like social media profiles and online purchases can help an organization to better understand its customers’ passions and preferences.
Every data point serves to make the super app more effective, delivering more value to the customer through tailored services and suggestions. A data-driven approach is also essential for the operation of the super app itself. Investing in the right tools for data monitoring and observability allows an organization to improve reliability and deliver the type of customer experience that fuels sustainable growth.
3. Build a strong team
No single organization will have all the tools it needs to build a super app on day one. To take advantage of this brief moment of opportunity, organizations will need to team up to create useful super apps. Potential super app developers should look for organizations that share their vision and values, while also prioritizing technologies that are easy to integrate and play well with others. Scale requires speed, and any technology partner will need to be able to keep pace.
The right technology partners can also support the technological functioning of the app itself. A true super app will be performing dozens of functions, serving millions of customers and processing terabytes of data every minute of every day. Brands must find technology partners that can help them predict, recognize and remediate potential problems before they occur. Even for point solutions, every minute of downtime can be costly. For a super app, a few minutes offline will have an outsized impact on financial performance.
We may still be years away from the rise of super apps on American shores. However, the first companies to get this challenge right will see a tremendous financial reward. Visionary tech leaders should start moving now to avoid being left behind — super apps will wait for no one.
Siva Padisetty is CTO for New Relic.
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