The Rise of Super Apps: What Are They and How Are They Changing the Mobile Marketing Industry?

By: Willy Tey, APAC research expert, GMO Research

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The concept of “super apps” was introduced over a decade ago by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis and has since become a global phenomenon. These all-in-one applications are reshaping the mobile market industry by offering multiple services within a single platform. 

What are Super Apps?
Super apps are multi-functional mobile applications that offer a wide range of services under one digital umbrella, such as messaging, social networking, ride-hailing, food delivery, bill payments, and online shopping. They have gained notable popularity in Asia, with companies like WeChat, Grab, and Gojek leading the way. Other examples of popular super apps include in Japan, and KakaoTalk in South Korea, showcasing the rapid expansion of this genre of super apps across the continent.

The Rise of Super Apps in Asia
Super apps have become increasingly popular because they make life easier for users. With the growing number of apps downloaded on people’s smartphones, super apps create a more seamless experience by combining various services into the single app. This integration not only provides more convenience for users but also boosts engagement and loyalty. Widespread smartphone adoption, fast-paced internet growth, and diverse populations in Asia create the perfect environment for super apps to thrive.

Prominent super apps like the ones mentioned above typically started with a core service, like messaging or ride-hailing, and then diversified into other areas before offering third-party services.

How Super Apps are Changing the Mobile Marketing Industry

  1. Data-Driven Marketing: Super apps gather vast amounts of information about their users, which enables businesses to customise marketing campaigns that are targeted and personalised. By examining users’ habits, likes, and backgrounds, marketers can fine-tune their strategies to connect with their ideal audience using the most effective messaging. For instance, GrabAds, the advertising platform of Grab, enables brands to launch data-driven marketing campaigns within the Grab ecosystem. Using the data, brands can zero-in on specific groups and interests, boosting the chances of engaging users and converting them into customers.
  2. Partnerships and Collaborations: Super apps often partner with local businesses, creating mutually beneficial relationships. By forming alliances with other companies, businesses can tap into new markets, expand their customer base, and increase brand visibility. Such partnerships also enable super apps to offer a wide range of additional services, potentially attracting more users to their platform.​​​​​​​
  3. Cross-Promotion of Services: Super apps allow businesses to showcase their services across various categories within the app/platform. For instance, when a user orders food delivery, they might receive a suggestion to book a ride using the same app. This type of cross-promotion encourages users to take advantage of multiple services within the app, resulting in increased revenue and better user engagement.​​​​​​​
  4. Subscription Models: Super apps have introduced various subscription models as a way to generate revenue. For example, Grab offers a subscription-based model called GrabUnlimited, providing users with exclusive discounts and benefits across its services. This approach not only helps the app generate revenue but also boosts customer loyalty by offering this added value.​​​​​​​
  5. Reduced friction and lower risk for small businesses: The centralised structure of super apps reduces the risk for small businesses looking to enter the mobile market. By integrating their services into an existing super app, these companies can avoid the challenges associated with developing and promoting a standalone app, allowing them to concentrate on their main offerings. In Indonesia, Gojek, which began as a ride-hailing app, transformed into a super app that provides a wide range of services, such as food delivery and digital payments. By offering a platform for small businesses to showcase their products and services, Gojek helped them access their large customer base with reduced risk, especially for food businesses and local restaurants. The platform extends their reach without requiring businesses to invest in delivery infrastructure.​​​​​​​

The Future of Super Apps
As the super app trend gathers momentum, we can expect more players to join the market while current players continue to broaden their services. The global super apps market size is expected to reach US$ 426.01 billion by 2030, expanding at a CAGR of 27.8% during the forecast period. The distinctive features of various markets, such as large populations, diverse cultures, and swift technological adoption, make these environments perfect for super apps to flourish.

Furthermore, super apps are already playing a crucial role in promoting financial inclusion by providing financial services like digital wallets and mobile banking. By bridging the gap between banked and unbanked populations, super apps are opening up new markets and opportunities for businesses.

Super apps are revolutionising the mobile app world and changing how people use their smartphones. By offering a smooth and user-friendly experience, super apps inspire innovation and foster healthy competition within the mobile marketing sector. Companies that can adapt to the ever-changing super app landscape will be well-equipped to take advantage of the incredible opportunities it offers. The success of companies like WeChat, Grab, and Gojek demonstrates the immense potential of super apps in reshaping the mobile marketing industry globally.

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This article was first published in the Q3 2023 edition of Asia Research Media

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