Partnerships In Action: The Race to the next Super App – Key Takeaways

Today at AIBP Insights: Partnerships In Action: The Race to the next Super App, we addressed topics ranging from the super app ecosystems, data usage governance and privacy, and a vision of the future.

AIBP Insights is a series of discussions held online which brings together a focus group of ASEAN stakeholders to discuss topics related to enterprise technology adoption in the region.

In 2010, Blackberry founder Mike Lazaridis coined the phrase “super app”, describing it as a “closed ecosystem of many apps”. A super app is a single platform that provides multiple services for a seamless/unified, multifaceted, and efficient user experience. By leveraging an interconnected layer of products and services, a super app serves as a single point of access, and is dominating almost every modern day interaction.

A super app has the advantage of addressing all customer needs through a single digital platform. Customers today use a variety of applications for a variety of services, such as hailing a taxi, ordering food, and sending money to friends and family. The super app combines the creation of an ecosystem of connected applications, with data and information flowing between these applications, enabling highly and hyper-personalised experiences through the use of AI and machine learning algorithms.

The Super App Ecosystems

In Vietnam, Nguyen Quang Loc, Head, Digital Banking Partnership, Orient Commercial Joint Stock Bank (OCB), outlined that the topic of “super apps” has been discussed for a few years, and that many people are still struggling to create a super app that serves as an umbrella platform for multiple services. He emphasised the importance of businesses keeping their core value at the forefront of their app. For example, a transportation company like ComfortDelGro developing a super app will still prioritise transportation services, and a low-cost airline like AirAsia will prioritise flight booking.

David (Dave) Almirol Jr., Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Multisys Technologies Corporation, added that many financial institutions are creating mobile banking platforms/apps as a fundamental layer towards building a super app in the long term. Once mobile banking platforms/apps are introduced, financial institutions will slowly add payments to facilitate bill payments, e-commerce channels, as well as e-government services. It may not be a huge super app with all-encompassing services through a single app; rather, innovations will come in over time.

Mohd Khairil Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer, Axiata Digital, stated that replicating WeChat’s one-stop-shop super app in China is nearly impossible. Unlike WeChat, other super apps have no interoperability, for instance having Grab’s ecosystem in Lazada’s ecosystem and vice versa. Having said that, Khairil believes that businesses developing a mini-super app can focus on being the best of breed in a specific segment/vertical.

Sir Dave shared that in his experience building super apps for large conglomerates in the Philippines, businesses frequently want the brand affinity associated with building a super app. He also admitted that not every company can create a super app; it is a difficult task to undertake, and instead, businesses may have their own mini versions of a super app.

Data Usage Governance and Privacy

Integrating customer data and seamlessly integrating multiple services in a single platform is a key for a super app’s success. Super Apps have access to a large amount of user data. Super apps can discover transaction history, demographics, rating preferences, and more from e-commerce transactions alone.

Gaining consumers’ trust will be critical in the future, especially in the super app arena, where customer data will be a growing source of competitive advantage. Businesses are also using their vast wealth of data to deliver hyper-personalised products and services to their customers. Businesses that are transparent about the information they collect, give customers control over their personal data, and provide fair value in exchange for it will be trusted and gain continued and even expanded access. Those who hide how they use personal data and fail to provide value for it risk losing customers’ trust—and their business.

Mr. Loc shared that due to the frequency of fraud incidents and the lack of privacy literacy among Vietnamese, the majority of Vietnamese are unwilling to share their personal information with others. As a result, they follow closely with the central banks directives in terms of data usage privacy and regulations, and they will respect their customers’ privacy.

Sir Dave went on to say that once you have data, it is extremely powerful. Customers’ consent is necessary when they voluntarily or agree to share their personal data for a specific purpose. Furthermore, he stated that having a secure system is critical to gaining the trust of customers when it comes to providing personal information. On that note, Sir Dave added that eKYC processes are critical for mitigating and monitoring anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorism funding.

A vision for the future: Are super apps a tempest in a teapot, or are they the future? 

It would be easy to dismiss super apps as a Chinese phenomenon, but the reality is that they are emerging in almost every market around the world — and from unexpected sources.

In South East Asia, for example, the leading ride-sharing platforms, GoJek and Grab, have developed two super apps. Both apps now provide a variety of other services, ranging from food delivery to hotel bookings, and both compete to help consumers select and purchase financial products. In markets where the majority of the population is unbanked and lacks access to basic banking infrastructure, such as Indonesia, the pair has devised novel ways to reach new customers (such as using their ride-share drivers as mobile bank tellers).

The West is also moving in the same direction, albeit at a much slower pace. Part of the reason for the shift toward more all-encompassing apps is competition.

Consumers may not be looking for super apps in particular, but they do want the convenience and simplicity that super apps can provide. As the panelists concluded today, whether it is mini super apps or metaverses integrated into the super apps of the future, it is an exciting space that we look forward to.

The 2021 AIBP Insights series concluded this morning. Feel free to drop us a message if you wish to find out more about our recent focus group discussions, or if you would like to view the full session replay!


24 November 2021