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In an era where consumers want everything in one place and at their fingertips, the ‘super app’ is gaining ground.

Originating in the Asian market, super apps have emerged as a driving force for innovation across retail, e-commerce and technology. Take China’s WeChat, which started as a social messaging app in 2011. Over time, owner Tencent has added more partners and capabilities, such as mobile payments, video games and conferencing. It now has 1.3 billion monthly users.

Users can do just about everything from one app; it is the primary way people communicate in China. And the trend is set to come to the west. Gartner predicts 50% of the global population will engage with more than one super app by 2027. So what does this mean for UK retailers and brands?

The UK picture

The opportunity for brands and retailers to learn from super apps is huge. By having multiple services in one place, brands can connect innovatively with customers and redefine the traditional shopping experience. 

We’re already seeing a growing number of western platforms achieving the goal of a unified mobile experience that encompasses various consumer activities – resembling a super app. 

The supermarkets have taken a step in this direction by adding mobile-first options within their apps. For example, Lidl’s triumph over Aldi in the Christmas period can be attributed in part to its Lidl Plus loyalty app. Customer data was gathered to enable personalised discounts, whichhelped to drive a 13.8% increase in sales year on year.

Amazon is another example. It has expanded its offering beyond e-commerce to Amazon Fresh, Amazon Prime and Amazon Pop-up stores. The strategic expansion into various sectors, including seamless integration of services and features, has transformed into an everything-in-one app that offers convenience and accessibility to users worldwide.

Privacy first

However, where convenience meets complexity, privacy concerns and user preferences will be important in shaping the digital landscape. Consumers are hesitant to have a single company as the gateway to all aspects of their online lives.

As companies learn more about their users, they must assume a greater responsibility to keep data safe. Establishing and communicating privacy is essential for building and maintaining trust. WeChat has been used to create a more user-centric approach by limiting its number of ads and stating a clear message that it values the user experience above all else.

Ultimately, there is no doubt modern brands and retailers can draw inspiration from super apps and utilise the aggregation of services to add meaning. With the power to revolutionise shopping experiences, brands must invest time and resources in how their digital services can benefit people’s lives, tune into what creates unnecessary friction, and champion what ultimately elevates the user experience.