SuperApps – building a mobile platform ecosystem

Picture: BBVA

SuperApps are mobile marketplaces with built-in micro-apps for all occasions.

The most popular examples are WeChat, Facebook and a number of software similar in functionality (Yandex, Google). Such software gained the greatest popularity in China, today it is becoming known all over the world.

The development potential of such applications is extremely high due to the combination of useful functions and add-ons in one place. For example, Google Corporation absorbs other companies, creates more and more new options and forms its own ecosystem in every smartphone or tablet. Unlike WeChat, it affects many areas of life and goes far beyond the impact of social networks.

Unlike conventional mobile applications, marketplaces are not just one program that can work offline or with a connection to the global network. This is a whole set of utilities, that is, the integration of a number of independent functions into a single mobile platform (frontend). Given the possibilities of using frameworks and superapp APIs to work with various micro-applications or micro-services, a small program can be turned into a market with unlimited possibilities.

Developing and assigning superapps

The main development technology for superapps is a simple block diagram using partner services and integrated micro-applications. From the point of view of the experience of experts (as a backend), the following tools and technologies are allowed to create SuperApps:

  • For visualization (frontend) HTML, JavaScript, CSS are used – they provide a high-quality display of all data, a pleasant and friendly interface.
  • The backend is that part of the SuperApp that remains invisible to the user. Any programming languages ​​are used for its development, but most often Ruby, PHP, Python, Java.
  • To store user data and related information (with or without network access), DBMS integration is required through the use of MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB or other technologies.
  • Server applications, AJAX, frameworks or third-party libraries are used to ensure that the backend and frontend interact with each other in a quality manner.

To ensure that part of the application data is always available and does not take up much space on the user’s phone, caching is used. Synchronization and integration of new services are provided by similar development tools.

Who needs SuperApps and why

Feature-rich apps benefit both users and developers. From the point of view of businessmen and owners of SA, a number of advantages can be noted:

  • Presenting many services in one window provides additional income;
  • Diversification of the services provided does not require an increase in staff, including IT staff;
  • Convenience of service provision is necessary to increase user loyalty;
  • Extension of the ecosystem keeps the customer’s interest and warns against switching to other brands.

Users value application versatility for several reasons:

  • There is no need to search for related products and services – everything is reflected in one window;
  • All promotions and discounts are collected in one place;
  • Service providers undergo QoS with the owner of the superapp.

When using SuperApps, users are given additional discounts, a loyalty program is formed, there is a cashback and other benefits.

Superapps around the world: examples

The main audience of digital marketplaces is young people from the mobile generation who often use smartphones and gadgets. Superapps recruit their target audience through recommendations or through advertising campaigns. Often, target audiences are clients of one bank or operator using a single payment system and services. The largest SA in the world can be called:

  • WeChat is a messenger with a wallet, the ability to purchase and pay for services.
  • Alipay is a mobile wallet with integrated services for travel, shopping, providers.
  • Meituan is a service for subscribers where you can book a room, order food, buy a ticket, sign up for courses or spas.
  • Taobao is an Asian goods marketplace where you can buy everything from underwear to cars.
  • Grab is a taxi ordering application that has turned into a logistics service with an internal payment system.

Development of the superapp ecosystem: features

Most of the world’s SAs operate according to the same scheme:

  • Create their own application with a specific service or product list;
  • Buy out companies from related or same business sectors;
  • Diversify product and service offerings.

Some brands create new companies on their own. For example, Forward previously helped Tinkoff launch part of its additional services – a mobile operator. Only after that the provider began to cooperate with Vympel Telecom and bought some of his shares. Sber operates exactly according to the scheme – first it buys up businesses or is part of the founders, receives controlling stakes, and then adds new services to its applications and services.

Even though there are many arguments against the development of superapps, the technology is only gaining popularity. The abundance of icons and options can be compensated by a clear interface and high-quality structuring of options. To prevent users from worrying about personal data, you should use a high-quality backend with hacking protection.

What if you want to run a superapp?

Developing a SuperApp from scratch or creating a set of micro-apps is a complex task that may not pay off when it comes to small or medium-sized businesses. Running SA is definitely not needed if:

  • The company provides several services from related service industries;
  • The firm has no plans to expand, acquire other businesses, or create partnerships with other holdings;
  • There is no way to form a competent IT team capable of constantly maintaining the system, and outsourcing seems unprofitable or dangerous.