By Gijsbert Pols, Lead Product Strategist at Adjust
Super-apps are set to transform the landscape of personal banking, as developers continue to innovate mobile finance by transitioning away from banking apps to more lifestyle-focused financial apps with multiple functionalities.
These apps aim to address the wider financial needs of consumers beyond simply banking as 53% of finance app users who abandoned apps because they no longer needed them said that other apps covered their finance needs. This provides opportunities for banks to play a much larger role in the day-to-day activities of their customers by owning many different segments of a consumer’s financial planning outside of their regular banking.
Super-apps have been a defining feature of the modern economy in China and Southeast Asia for some time, disrupting the traditional finance industry and providing a template for vibrant mobile economies which are set to grow throughout 2022 in the rest of the world.
What are super-apps?
Super-apps cover multiple verticals and act as a single point of entry for multiple consumer functions. While the options of additional services can differ, payments are the defining feature of the super-app — the payment functionality is what ties the rest of the offerings together.
The unique selling point of a super-app that centralises so many functions is that users can complete multiple tasks or actions in one place. Super-apps remove the need to switch between programs or providers, meaning fewer registrations, fewer incidences of providing payment details, and an overall reduction of friction.
Many of the most popular Asian super-apps started out with a single purpose to entice uptake and mass usage before branching out to cover a mix of daily activities within a single tool — creating a super-app that offers users a range of different services within one app.
WeChat is the most obvious example of this. Initially launched as a communication app in a similar vein to WhatsApp, it has since developed into an integrated platform for social networking, ride-hailing, food delivery, restaurant bookings, payments, and gaming – and has established itself as the archetypal super-app. There are numerous stand-out super apps in Southeast Asia, such as Gojek and Grab, which have evolved from ride-hailing apps into all-in-one services that allow you to manage everything from housekeeping to insurance.
The rise of super-apps
With Google, Facebook and Amazon being less dominant in Asia, and completely absent in China, super-app developers were and are certainly better positioned to emerge as market leaders. Asian markets are also typically mobile-first, meaning super-apps hardly have to compete with existing desktop applications.
However, COVID-19 has accelerated the movement toward super-apps in the rest of the world. The pandemic has seen a sudden rise in the usage and adoption of non-touch payment modes. Banking apps provide not only a more hygienic way to manage finances, but also more convenient alternatives to cash payments —and super- apps advance this even further by unifying multiple services into a single platform.
Established digital players,such as PayPal, in the West have indicated their intentions to develop into the super-app space. Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he wants Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to function as an interconnected platform for private services. Uber has been straightforward about its ambition to become a super-app, confirmed by the $3.1 billion acquisition of Careem – a company striving to become the super-app of the Middle-East. Amazon and Airbnb have also expressed their interest in going down a similar path.
The future of banking apps
If the Western markets continue to take steps towards centralised, friction-reducing app models, digital banking could be reshaped entirely. The traditional banking apps we know today will be left behind as consumers look to super-apps for a better, faster and easier experience of financial planning and management, along with a range of other services.
With an expected decline of single-purpose banking apps, there are exciting opportunities within the mobile finance industry. As super-apps provide a more sophisticated, multi-functional experience, they give banks greater ownership over segments of a customer’s lifestyle. There are greater opportunities for personalisation and targeting, as well as partnerships with companies in other verticals. WeChat, AliPay and Paytm all allow third parties to offer mini-programs within their apps, with brands such as L’Oréal and Nike using these programs to market their products directly to the vast super-app user bases.
The traditional banking app model is no longer viable as the expectations and opportunities for mobile finance continue to expand. Super-apps which make it easy to transfer across any system, perform various lifestyle tasks and get services and information from any organisation are the future of digital banking as the industry expands into lifestyle management and beyond.