Consumers in our tech world, dominated by Android and iOS applications, have got used to using various mobile apps for different purposes.
When you want to make a money transfer, you use your bank application. For food delivery, you open the relevant delivery solution. If you need to book a hotel for a weekend getaway, just open the accommodation app and find the best option for you.
At least that’s how things work in the EU and USA. In some other parts of the world, digital users find all these services within a single platform, usually called the super application (i.e., super app).
This guide explains the concept of super apps, the technical requirements for their development, and pros and cons of building and using such platforms.
What Is a Super App?
A super app is a platform that contains a set number of basic features which ensures a seamless experience of using diverse services for consumers.
The core difference between a super app and a regular mobile application lies in their subordination: a super app is the umbrella platform that encompasses a certain number of smaller, mutually related mobile apps.
A super app and its related miniapps create a unique, consumer-centric environment for consumers to make educated choices by adding or removing apps in line with their needs, in the long run, or per single interactive session.
Who Needs Super Applications?
In theory, a super application is a practical option for large companies, consortiums, holdings, and all businesses that offer several layers of services.
From a user’s point of view, it sounds perfect. Who wouldn’t like to have shelf-ready solutions you can simply reach out to when you need them? Instead of opening – and swiping between – separate apps, which isn’t the most convenient UX in the world, a super app lets you choose the right app quickly and effectively, with a touch of a fingertip.
Want to make your weekly order of groceries via an eCommerce icon, immediately initiate the payment touching the relevant button from the sidebar, and choose a shipping provider? A super-app platform would let you do all this in a single place.
It’s also feasible from an engineer’s perspective, because all this stays within the ordinary mobile app development procedure.
What’s the catch then?
The main issue for development and implementation of super apps and the miniapps within them are legal and security regulations, as explained below.
How Do Super Apps Work?
Users register and authenticate within a super app gaining access to an array of functionalities seamlessly integrated into the app. Messaging and social networking function together with e-commerce and shopping features, complemented by integrated payment solutions.
BM Insight: Having applied various complex softdev services that our holding offers, we’ve been working on several groundbreaking fintech projects, aimed at revolutionizing the payment market. Along the way, we’ve perfected building such solutions. If you want to find out more about earning consumer trust via online transactions, read the article Securing User Trust: Best Practices for Digital Solutions, by our Milena Petrovic.
These apps support third-party services via mini programs, developing a user-friendly system, rich with diverse applications.
User engagement is achieved through location-based services, content consumption, and personalized recommendations. Designed for cross-platform accessibility, super apps prioritize security and privacy while continually evolving to meet user demands.
Thanks to a comprehensive suite of services, these large solutions improve users’ daily lives, redefining the way people interact, transact, and consume content in the digital realm.
Technical Background Behind Super Apps
Mini services are seamlessly integrated into a super app through a modular architecture, treating each mini program or microservice as an independent module. The super app provides well-defined APIs, integration points, and a centralized user interface, allowing users to navigate between various mini services effortlessly.
Single sign-on ensures a unified authentication experience, and shared resources and data facilitate consistency across functionalities.
The super app’s UX design is here to bring a cohesive user experience, and deep linking enables direct access to specific mini programs.
The app ecosystem is managed to ensure the quality and security of integrated services, with developer tools, documentation, and monetization opportunities provided for those contributing mini services. This integration approach creates a comprehensive and user-friendly platform that combines diverse functionalities within a single application.
Covering Cybersecurity Bases
The key security features for a super app include robust data encryption for both transit and storage, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of user data.
Implementing strong authentication measures – including multi-factor authentication – helps verify user identities and prevent unauthorized access.
Apart from that, secure backend integration, with thorough validation and checkup of input data, protects against injection attacks.
Continuous monitoring, logging, and regular security audits identify and address vulnerabilities promptly.
Let’s not forget a comprehensive incident response plan to efficiently handle potential breaches and adopt user privacy regulations to maintain user trust.
Finally, regular updates and patch management, coupled with employee training on cybersecurity best practices, contribute to cultivating cybersecurity for every app, super apps included.
Of course, other unexpected challenges might appear along the way, so engineers must be ready to handle such issues and learn on the go.
The Pros and Cons of Building a Super App
Building a super app contains various advantages and challenges that need careful consideration. Bringing a super app brings the following benefits to both engineers and end users:
- Super apps are a one-stop-shop for users; a comprehensive range of services within a single platform give users unparalleled convenience.
- With multiple integrated services, super apps can increase user engagement and retention, as users are more likely to stay within the app for various needs.
- Developing a single app that combines multiple functionalities can (but doesn’t have to) be cost-effective compared to creating and maintaining separate apps for each service.
- Super apps are practical for cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Exploring one service can lead users to discover and use other related services.
Nevertheless, launching and maintaining a single app brings the following issues and challenges:
- Building a super app can be technically complex, requiring careful planning, modular architecture, and effective integration of diverse functionalities.
- Developing and maintaining a super app demands significant resources in terms of time, skilled personnel, and financial investment.
- Integrating numerous services seamlessly within the app may pose challenges, especially when dealing with third-party providers or diverse technologies.
- In regions where super apps are prevalent, the market may be saturated, making it difficult for a new entrant to gain user adoption.
- Super apps are often heavily dependent on the success and policies of the underlying platform, which may pose risk to long-term sustainability
- Integrating numerous services raises concerns about user data privacy. We’ve already explained the stringent legislative in the US and other areas in the West in terms of personal data collection and processing. These are all things that tech companies must take into account when thinking about developing super apps.
Based on the above, the decision to build a super app should align with the target audience, market conditions, and the capacity to manage the complexities associated with such a comprehensive platform.
The Global Use of Integrated Mobile Applications
If we look at the globe, we can see that our planet has been divided into two separate geographical regions, super apps-wise. The eastern part of the globe has been using super apps for more than a decade, while the western part is yet to develop their great super applications. Let’s have a look at some technological, economic, and social circumstances that have led to this division.
Super Apps Rising in the East…
The East has adopted super apps more quickly in the last decade. Out of 2.68 billion active daily users worldwide, the vast majority of these people come from Asia, notably the Far East. This region is the home to the greatest super app in the world – Chinese WeChat. What started as a chat app in 2011 has become a mastodon solution used by 1.1 billion people – with more than 450 million active daily users, and dozens of integrated miniapps for various walks of life.
An article published by Forbes in April 2006 showed that there had been 111 million Internet users in China at the end of 2005, which made about 10% of the nation’s population back then.
At the same time, about 70% of the Americans were regular Internet users, which approximately amounted to some 200 million US citizens that year (according to Pew Research).
Fast forward to 2023: the percentage of Chinese actively using the Internet surpassed 75% in June last year, which translates to a bit above 1.1 billion users. The US at the same time counts around 311 million Internet users, surpassing 90% of the entire population.
Nice, but what has all this got to do with super apps?
The Chinese web market – and the Far East tech market in general – is a mobile-first community. Reliable and relatively fast Internet technology penetrated that region only in the late 2000s and early 2010s, which coincided with the advent of smartphones. Knowing that China was during that time (and still is) the largest global smartphone manufacturer, the pieces of this supper app puzzle start falling into place.
Another crucial factor that nurtured the fast growth of super apps in that area was the high percentage of population that didn’t have access to electronic banking services. The fastest and most convenient way for people to start using digital transactions was adding the payment options to in-progress apps.
… And Setting in the West
The development of web-based services has been different in the West. The US and Europe (at least its western half) saw the rise of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, meaning that this was a web-first market.
With the growth of the mobile market, desktop and laptop users added smartphones to their plethora of digital devices. However, the regulations regarding personal data protection, such as the EU’s GDPR or its US counterpart the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and compliance requirements date back from that pioneer period of the Internet.
Even though smart mobile phones have taken the westworld by storm, the legislation hasn’t significantly changed so far. Mobile users’ personal data protection is one of the vital legal requirements for all the governments west of Warsaw.
China and most other countries in Asia cherish a tradition of different rules when it comes to accessing their citizens’ personal data. Due to such loose legislation, their super apps don’t have to comply with such stringent rules around users’ financial and personal data.
For all the technological, socioeconomic, and legal regulations stated above, super apps still haven’t made a significant impact in the West. However, the current technological advancements will pave the way for a stronger role of these integrated solutions.
Future Application of Super Apps
There’s no universal direction we could point at in terms of the future development of super apps. However, there are certain indications about the pathways we can expect.
In China and the other tech markets governed by super apps, we can expect the further growth and abundance of services. The galloping entrance of artificial intelligence in all walks of business life will certainly result in even more integrated features, with AI-assisted suggestions, promotions, and cross-selling options.
In the western hemisphere, the points of view advocated by tech trailblazers and regulatory bodies will keep differing. Nevertheless, based on the current state, we can probably expect less stringent legislation that would allow for quicker development of some sort of super apps. For instance, Elon Musk has allegedly announced certain additional functionalities for X (former Twitter) that could qualify to call it a super app (source: https://www.theverge.com/23940924/elon-musk-x-twitter-all-hands-linda-yaccarino-super-app). Furthermore, the number of different features that Meta Company already maintains could soon officially grow into a super app platform.
Generally speaking, our increasing need to digitize our life – from sheer eCommerce and shipping services to secure and fast payments, to advanced social media functionalities – seem to naturally guide us toward super apps. Given that the global population will have reached 8.4 billion by 2028, and most of these people will have a smartphone as the central point of their daily errands and obligations, the future looks very super-appish for various fields of work.
Or as Amy Webb, the CEO of the Future Today Institute, defines it in her interview for The Wall Street Journal’s YT channel:
“The first champion that emerges and creates a seamless, frictionless super app-like program that allows doctors to plug in their data, such as electronic health records, will be a huge game changer, a massive disruptor.”
BM Insight: Our efforts in the industries that improve people’s lives have yielded several noteworthy collaborations. One of the latest achievements is the launch of the Carna Health’s Bermuda Screening Program for people suffering from chronic kidney disease on this island. BMGH, as the technological partner in this endeavor, works diligently to come up with the necessary tech stack and enable the further development of this system. Even though it’s not a super app, our goal is to integrate as many services as possible into the Carna Health solution and bring the most common clinical whole blood tests into the comfort of the patient’s home.
The Final Word
IT companies must fully comprehend the current market condition to predict what trends will dominate the future of software services. Only ten years ago, super apps were only one of many potential routes that the Internet could take. Today, several billion people are dependent on super apps, which make their lives easier. We need to keep a good eye on the future growth of this market, looking for potential opportunities, taking into account all the relevant legal and security features.
Marko Krstanovic is a software engineer and technical officer with a proven track record of delivering exceptional mobile applications. His expertise spans various programming languages and technologies, including iOS and Flutter, which he has used to create seamless and secure client apps. With over five years of experience, Marko is a true innovator in the tech industry, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in mobile app development.
Pavle Bobic is a resident content marketing strategist and business writer at BrightMarbles Group Holding. A long-term holder of master’s degree in the English language and literature and once-teacher, he has been producing content in biztech, IT, fintech and eCommerce since 2013. His expertise drills deep into the correlations between information technology, business development, and financial technology, with a pinch of SEO on the top.