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Super Apps: What makes them super and how to build them?

Super Apps: What makes them super and how to build them?

Apps which have multi-dimensional data about their users are more likely to provide new value to their users and therefore open new revenue streams for themselves and their partners.

Imagine this: an app like Airbnb has data about where and how frequently people are traveling, what experiences they like, and what is their buying power. They can use this data to suggest new destinations and experiences. Similarly, an app like DoorDash knows about its users’ choices of cuisine and when they are likely to order. They can use this data to push smart suggestions and deals.

Now imagine Google and Facebook: they know your location history, your search history, and what you like, and they can map out your entire social network. They know what you wanna buy and what you wanna sell. They know about important events in your life. They know who you meet. They can (and do) use this data to push you just the right deals and ads. Both Google and Facebook are limited by their business models. They make money when they serve an ad to you and make no money in the actual value-creation process.

Super apps are different. Not only do they have your data in multiple dimensions but actively make revenue when you utilize any service that is offered on their platforms, making them highly engaging and profitable.

What are super apps?

A super app is a consumer app with an underlying platform enabling payments, commerce, communications, logistics, and developer ecosystem; potentially allowing a large number of services for the users within a single interface.

Perhaps the best example of a super app is WeChat. The Chinese app allows you to chat with connection, order food and rides; pay other people, play games, and a lot more. This is the only complete super app in the world with a full-blown developer ecosystem. The app has over a billion users who spend more than 80 minutes on the app every day.

There are other examples such as Gojek and Grab as well, but they come nowhere close to WeChat when it comes to features.

Unlike Uber or DoorDash, who are primarily utilities as they provide rides or deliver food; WeChat is more of a lifestyle app. Most users will open Uber or DoorDash only when they NEED it. Like Instagram, WeChat is where life happens for more than a billion people. Unlike your app attains the status of a lifestyle app, it cannot be called a super app. Many existing startups in rides, food delivery, and payments space try becoming a super app; but they fail as they miss the key ingredient: human connection.

Ingredients of a super app

To open up a virtually unlimited number of use cases, the super apps need to build some key capabilities into their platform. It doesn’t matter if these capabilities are totally fulfilled in-house or through partners. What matter is that these should be made available to the users in a seamless user experience.

Communications Platform

Chatting or calling your connections is just the tip of the iceberg, super apps need a communications platform to enable other use cases. Hiring an online music teacher? Consulting with a doctor? Users will need state-of-the-art video capabilities for that. Are you a fitness trainer? Maybe you can use the group video to conduct classes.

The communication platform builds the human connection that a super app needs to make the platform sticky. Without this key ingredient, the app cannot achieve the status of being a lifestyle app.

Commerce Platform

The capability to buy and sell goods or services is a primary source of value for a super app. What can go on sale can range from goods such as food, grocery, medicine, etc to services such as handymen, online classes, and tow-trucking. Super apps open up a powerful new channel for small businesses like home chefs and artists which helps them make money while working on things they love. This leads to an entirely new economy coming to life and can be super helpful for regions where social development is necessary.

Other than businesses, super apps can enable common people to put up ads to sell their stuff as they do now on platforms like Craigslist.

Payments Platform

If a meaningful transfer of value is going to happen on the platform, then money has to change hands and this is where a payments platform comes in. Now the builders of the super app can always integrate third parties here if they only want to make the payments happen. But normally this leads to a sub-par user experience as users have to leave the app to complete some transactions.

Building a wallet within the app has other tokenization and gamification advantages which can. further, unlock more use cases.

Logistics Platform

Logistics capability in apps like Uber is used to provide rides to users. Uber leveraged the same capability to deliver food to the users as well. Super apps can use their logistics capability to enable their sellers in delivering their goods to the buyers in addition to providing rides etc.

Again it doesn’t matter if a super app builds its own logistics infrastructure or offers it through a partner. What matters is that the experience for the user should be seamless.

Development Platform

The last and key ingredient of building a super app is to expose all the platform capabilities to developers and allow them to build unique use cases on top of them. Providing APIs and mobile SDKs which make it easy to build new capabilities is the key here.

A few examples of what developers can do include building a charitable donations app that uses the payments platform, building a gift delivery app, building an excess food donation app where a rider comes to pick up the food, etc. Building a developer ecosystem and keeping a percentage of the transaction value, can open up new revenue streams.

How to build a super app?

Nothing about building a launching a super app is easy. The go-to-market strategy can be very hard to crack in these cases. You can only start with one vertical in the beginning and no matter which vertical you choose, there will already be a competitor there. The technology for super apps is not easy either. Building all the platforms and turning them into a cohesive user experience is not an easy or cheap task.

Here are some of our ideas about how to start building a super app:

  • Utilize strategic partnerships, especially in the domains of payments and logistics. Choose partners with flexible APIs which enable a good user experience.
  • Build bare-bones communication and commerce platform. There is no need to have all the features in the beginning.
  • Choose a niche and the right demographic to launch with. Maybe market the platform to online beauty consultants and their buyers? You will need to do your research.

Building and scaling a super app might be one of the most ambitious projects anyone can take on in the realm of entrepreneurship. There is a reason why there are not many super apps out there: it is very hard. However, we do believe that the user need exists for apps such as these, and the tech giants are unable to fulfill that need with their existing products. It is only a matter of the right people getting the right opportunity and access to the market, and a new breed of super apps will rise and a lot would wonder how they could ever live without them.

At Venturenox, we think big and want to build products that can make lives easier. Super apps are a topic we talk about a lot internally and when possible, we will definitely work on something around them. If you’d like to brainstorm with us, feel free to drop us a message.


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