Prior to the 1950s, Americans discovered the benefits of department stores. Rather than having to go to individual specialty stores, they could enjoy one-stop shopping, moving from department to department. After the 1950s, shopping malls then appeared, expanding retail conveniences even further. Of course, in recent decades, malls seem to be meeting their demise as e-commerce and mobile apps takeover the landscape. In each instance, convenience drove major shifts in the way businesses connected with consumers. So, it’s completely understandable why all-in-one apps might not be the next big thing.
Interestingly, these all-in-one apps, which are also called super apps, are already here. In essence, these all-in-one apps are those that contain a variety of other “mini-apps” within their platform. And these mini-apps provide an array of services, allowing customers to remain on a single application. Rather than logging in and out, or having to re-enter payment info, everything is done on one site. This level of convenience is attractive, as some global markets have shown. While these all-in-one apps may not be prevalent in the U.S., they’ve certainly risen to prominence in other parts of the world. Therefore, don’t be surprised with super apps of the future begin to emerge in the U.S. as well.
“In many ways, super apps are shopping malls of the digital age. As more traffic goes through super apps, all but the largest merchants will need to consider that avenue.” – Neil Clasper at Verisk Financial Research
Looking to the East for Insights
When it comes to super apps of the future, we need not look much further than Asia to see that they’re coming. Several countries in the East are hosts for all-in-one apps currently. One of the largest ones is WeChat (whose parent company is Tencent, a tech giant you should know according to this Bold story!), which is hugely popular in China. WeChat currently provides an array of services within its platform including dating services, ridesharing requests, utility payments, and more. In fact, WeChat has recently been valuated at $240 billion, doubling in the past year alone. Interestingly, WeChat allows other developers the opportunity to create apps on its platform. This has enabled WeChat to expand its in-app offerings rapidly, much to the enjoyment of its users.
Of course, WeChat is not alone when it comes to all-in-one apps. In Indonesia, Gojek is one of the most widely used super apps. In India, Paytm, which started out as a mobile phone payment app, now represents one of the largest all-in-one apps. Others in the Asian marketplace also include Sea Limited, Alipay, Tokopedia, and Zalo. And Singapore’s Grab, marketed as the everyday-everything app, just went public in a $40 million special purpose acquisition deal. Given these developments, it was only a matter of time before super apps of the future hit the U.S. And that time has now come.
“A key ingredient of mobile loyalty apps is not only the integration of payment, marketing, and personalization, but what I term the gamification features embedded in apps that keep a customer engaged and coming back for more.” – Raymond Pucci at Mercator Advisory Group
U.S. Developments in All-in-One Apps
In recent months, Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta. The change of nomenclature was to reflect the company’s vision for expanding into the virtual realm. But being able to succeed in this direction could well involve being one of the super apps of the future. If all-in-one apps are lucrative today for companies in the physical world, they’re certain to be a gold mine virtually. Plus, a platform with dozens of apps within would continue to allow companies like Facebook/Meta content and information control. This is one of the reasons several companies look to be making acquisitions that would allow them super app status.
Facebook is not the only company to change its name recently. Square also recently changed its name to Block, which absorbed Square in the process. Block also includes Cashapp, Afterpay (loan services), and Tidal (music streaming). Wouldn’t it be intriguing if Twitter soon fell under Block’s umbrella, making it clearly one of the all-in-one apps? PayPal, which owns Venmo, is also well-positioned to become one of the super apps of the future. Some speculate that PayPal might even purchase Yelp to advance its in-platform services. Facebook, which already owns WhatsApp, recently added its own Marketplace. At present, none of these companies would be considered one of the all-in-one apps. But based on trends, it looks like each hopes to become one of the super apps of the future.
“Merchants are facing something of a dilemma. The preference for merchants is to control their own marketplace and communicate directly with their customers.” – Neil Clasper, Verisk Financial
The Super App Carrot on the Stick
For most mobile applications available today, revenues are generated through subscription models and/or ads. Facebook has certainly thrived in its advertising revenues on its social media platform. But super apps of the future offer a much larger payoff, particularly when financial services are included. Compared to advertising dollars, a small percentage of all transactions occurring on a super apps is tremendous. Apple and Google already appreciate this. This is why they’ve done their best to prevent all-in-one apps from accessing their mobile OS platforms. Such a super app would rob them of significant transaction fee revenues should it become widely used.
Since transaction revenues are the driving attraction for super apps of the future, significant changes may be ahead. Rather than Facebook, Apple or Google leading the way, it may well be other platforms to create the most popular all-in-one apps. Specifically, fintech companies like PayPal and Square could be better positioned to excel. Super apps that allow users to pay for services across all mini-apps on a platform easily and safely will have an advantage. This is why Apple added Apple Pay and Google added Google Pay. The big money is to be made in transaction fees when it comes to all-in-one apps. Therefore, don’t be surprised in the first U.S. super app isn’t grounded in financial services.