By Jason Fuentes, VP of Business Development, Wildfire Systems
“Super apps” aren’t just your run-of-the-mill mobile application. They satisfy a wide range of services for users and have gained significant attention in the fintech and banking industries in recent years. These apps usually include an array of financial services, communication tools, and many other common useful functions. Examples of super apps around the globe include Gojek in Indonesia and Grab in Southeast Asia, but the most well-known is China’s WeChat. Not simply a do-it-all communication app, WeChat is also used to universally pay for goods and services, or even hail a taxi. By providing a convenient experience that delivers instant value to the user, WeChat has successfully cemented itself as the “go to” app for Chinese consumers – in effect, a [digital] jumping-off-point to all the user’s essentials. With an estimated 58% of the Chinese population already using WeChat, the incentives for building a super app are clear to every company on the planet, including non-financial ones.
PayPal is often cited as the first non-Chinese company to achieve super app status, but many others are also working on similar projects. In the race to create the next singular app to do it all, the competition is increasingly fierce, with many of the world’s largest companies aggressively investing into various “moonshots” – many being squarely aimed at achieving super app status. For example, Microsoft recently announced their intentions in the space, and we’re already aware of the suction from Apple’s convenient hardware-to-software combination, one that Mark Zuckerberg would like to see dissolved, as Meta rockets ahead of the pack hoping to meet us again in the not so distant future.
Not to be overshadowed by the tech giants of Silicon Valley, Walmart, the king of retail with over 150 million unique U.S. shoppers monthly, recently made their move, and announced the acquisition of two fintechs on the same day. No, they did not acquire state-of-the-art banking infrastructure to launch another bank, rather, the acquisitions help them solve a leading pain point for their customers: access to comprehensive and digital personal banking on demand.
Why did Walmart enter this space? It’s important to recognize that the Walmart customer, historically, has been overlooked by traditional financial institutions, who have largely been focused on attracting a more affluent user. By filling this void for their customers and empowering them with the financial management tools they want, and the shopping features they need for a more convenient shopping experience, it’s not hard to predict the app that Walmart shoppers are most likely to open first the next time they need something. Exposure to the Walmart brand through a super app that customers are likely to use daily? No wonder Walmart was eager to dive into fintech with their version of a super app.
How super apps super charge customer loyalty
As for the remaining banks and the bevy of utilitarian apps also racing to achieve super app status, they will need to find their own way to create more engagement with their customers. This is the ultimate prize: maximizing customer engagement to drive loyalty. Increasing time with the customer also leads to more opportunities for monetization, thus increasing revenue that results from capturing as much of a user’s attention and commerce as possible.
Data is another valuable asset that these companies seek to gain through a super app. By providing users with a diverse ecosystem of features and tools, these companies can also gather a wealth of data regarding customer preferences and behaviors. These valuable insights can then be used to tailor marketing and improve the overall customer experience, largely to help usher in an even deeper relationship with the user by delivering contextually relevant experiences that continuously add value.
But, as the appetite for super apps continues to grow, building one is not simple. Beyond significant investments to build or piece together a technology stack capable of supporting a broad swath of services relevant to a large user base (and having the ability to scale to do so), a clear monetization strategy is also required to succeed. Enabling more services, beyond the core business that originally attracted the user, is a common strategy of a super app to help them capture more of the user’s time and attention. Other key considerations include personal utility, infallible security, and maximizing convenience. Most importantly, the whole suite of services must be streamlined and delivered to the user through a trusted experience that can stand out from the competition.
The trend towards super apps is likely to continue as companies look for ways to increase customer engagement and capture valuable consumer data. While building a super app is a significant undertaking, the potential rewards in terms of customer loyalty and new revenue streams make it an attractive option for many financial institutions, technology companies, retailers and more. Any company considering building a super app needs to determine if pursuing a super app is worth the time, effort, and cost that’s needed to create a centralized, branded hub of valuable utilities that simply becomes part of consumers’ lives and everyday routines.
About the author
Jason Fuentes builds strategic revenue-enhancing partnerships between Wildfire and financial institutions and fintechs, helping them incorporate value-adding customer loyalty features powered by Wildfire’s white-label cashback platform. With deep experience building productive partnerships at fintech startups as well as ecommerce and media companies, Jason brings a unique blend of expertise across sales, partnerships, marketing, operations, and product management in multiple industries that help him facilitate the delivery of positive results for Wildfire’s partners and stay on top of payment and fintech industry trends.
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