Despite data privacy concerns, WeChat has expanded into a platform with over one billion active monthly users, and its offerings go far beyond messaging services.1 It provides integrated services from mobile payments to taxi, restaurant, and retail apps – all within its platform. Now banks are starting to develop and roll out super apps as a way to remain competitive in an ever-evolving payment landscape.
The rise of super apps
The term “super app” is often credited to Blackberry founder Mike Lazaridis. “Super apps are applications that once you start using them, you’ll wonder just how you lived without them,” he said back in 2010, the same year that China’s WeChat – perhaps the quintessential super app – was launched.
What is a super app?
An omnichannel platform for all of our digital needs, a super app is one single application designed to provide a range of solutions for customers, all within one convenient interface. It’s a Swiss-Army-knife approach, with financial solutions as the basis – but offering the capabilities to seamlessly provide further functionalities that are relevant to the consumer. This could combine cashless and mobile payments, investment platforms, insurance solutions, and reward schemes – all without the customer having to leave an app.
Why are super apps on the rise?
We’ve come a long way since Snake on the Nokia 6110, the very first mobile app, hit our screens. We’ve all become used to doing more on our smartphone, from communications, to entertainment, payments, investments, e-commerce, and managing appointments. One 2021 study estimated that we spend up to 4.8 hours a day using mobile apps, and with the world in our pockets, we are constantly seeking maximum convenience and efficiency, using services designed to solve customer problems.2
Open APIs and the ability of modern apps to share data is another reason super apps are on the rise, with indications pointing to increased collaboration in the future. A bundling of services that increases company control over the entire customer journey means a bigger market share. What’s important is that companies ensure consumer attention is focused on them – engagement and ease of use is key.
“The digital world is setting the pace and creating challenges, especially for the banking sector. Customers expect banks to offer propositions addressing additional needs, and not only traditional financial services. A super app is the latest trend in digital disruption: an all-in-one app that does everything,” highlights Tobias Ott, Member of the Management Team, Secure Digital Payment Division, at Swiss software company Netcetera.
In banking, super apps exist across the world, all with varying levels of maturity. There’s Singapore’s Grab, China’s Alipay, Latin America’s Rappi, the UK’s Revolut, and Australia’s newly launched CommBank super app, for example.
Meeting – and exceeding – customer expectations
Nowadays, consumers want banks to address a variety of needs, and not just to provide traditional financial services.3 User experience is at the heart of this. One study revealed that 58% of respondents would switch to another provider if its mobile banking app supported a greater number of actions, and 49% would do the same if a competitor offered an easier-to-use mobile banking app.4
“In such an ever-evolving environment, banks can only remain competitive if they strengthen their relationship with customers by creating engaging and meaningful capabilities for their apps,” says Ott. “When this is implemented properly, a bank’s customer is less likely to move [to a rival] and more likely to use additional services from the bank.”
Customers also want increasingly personalized services, and are happy to share their data in return for benefits.5 This demands a high level of trust – to freely share their personal information, consumers must feel comfortable doing so, and banks should consider incentives for data sharing. The wealth of data acquired can, in turn, help banks to provide better services.
But with so many solutions available, where do banks considering a super app begin? “Start with what brings value from traditional banking capabilities and build a roadmap of adjacent services,” suggests Alex Gatiragas, G+D Global Head of Digital Solution Experience. “For example, having a quick review of loan products that is seamlessly linked to an automobile review site would make a great feature for customers. A further adjacent service could be linking this to estimates for car insurance. The trick here is to try to make the UX as seamless as possible, so as to avoid multiple repeated entries from the customer.”
Ruediger Vogt, G+D Head of Payment 4.0, agrees that user experience is key. “To successfully compete with heavyweight consumer players like Amazon, Facebook, PayPal, or Walmart, banks need to put the customer at the center of their strategy. It’s about creating a whole ecosystem with strong partners, allowing third parties to offer their services through the super app. Also, the smart use of technology is important. Biometric authentication can enhance security and convenience. Augmented reality will lead to a full immersion of the user. And advanced anticipation models using the vast collection of user data in a super app can optimize the offering.”
Indeed, the management of data is also important. Having the data and understanding the data are two very different things, and taking a data-driven approach is necessary to ensure customer demands are met.
When CommBank Australia launched its super app in 2021, CEO Matt Comyn said the bank’s intention was to move beyond customer service and deliver “more rewarding experiences and better outcomes that will build a deeper, more trusted relationship with our customers.”6 Banking super apps are increasingly crossing over into the lifestyle segment, and as Comyn understands, that goes far beyond offering traditional banking services.
Maximum security – without impacting customer experience
“For banks, the protection of their clients is crucial,” says Vogt. “This means a super app that is tied to a bank must offer a very high level of security. And do that without negatively impacting the user experience. For authentication purposes, this can be achieved by using facial recognition or behavioral biometrics, for example. A token cockpit can be integrated as a remote controller of payment cards for all digital channels, reducing the risk of fraud. Multi-layered mobile app protection and in-app monitoring ensure protection on the client side as well as a constant analysis of potential threats by an advanced AI engine in the cloud.”
The message is clear: banks developing super apps must ensure an optimum user journey, a wide range of services, and a seamless UX, all without compromising on security. It’s a challenge, but the rewards are vast – a bigger market share, a wealth of consumer data, and long-term customer loyalty. Super apps are a growing trend, and consumers’ growing desire for greater convenience shows that they offer great value.
The Kind of Creative Thinking That Fueled WeChat’s Success, Harvard Business Review, 2019
The State of Mobile in 2022: How to Succeed in a Mobile-First World As Consumers Spend 3.8 Trillion Hours on Mobile Devices, data.ai Research, 2022
How can banks transform for a new generation of customers?, EY, 2021
How to flourish in an uncertain future: Open banking, Deloitte, 2017
Consumers across the globe are increasingly comfortable sharing their data, GDMA, 2022
CBA reimagines banking for the digital economy, CommBank Australia Newsroom, 2021
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