“Super apps”- A boom or bane to bankers?
Dhruv Agarwal explores the emergence of “superapps” and their symbiosis with the banking sector.
59.5% of the world (up from 51% in 2019) are internet users today, of which 92.6% access the internet through mobile devices. This growing number has propelled new disruptions in the internet industry.
The last 5 years have seen a boom of “superapps” from Asia which supplanted the “single purpose apps” popular in the 2000s that, as the name suggests, focused on solving one particular problem. The “superapps” combine the functionality of many “single purpose” apps in one. Instead of using Whatsapp for messaging, Facebook for social media, Ebay for marketing, and Uber for taxi services, superapps transcend singular functions with an all in one offering. These score in saving phone memory, and enabling users to access third party services without having to download separate apps.
While “superapps” check the many boxes of customer convenience, their emergence must be seen with caution, particularly by the banking sector. Although this trend seems unrelated to the banking sector, it is affecting it in more ways than apparent.
1. “Superapps” are distancing banks from their customers-
Besides basic banking services, WeChat and Alipay offer savings and investment products. Although these need to be developed and underwritten by banks, they cut-off direct communication with customers. This implies that banks are limited to setting regulations while “superapps” act as the intermediary and build customer experience.
2. “Superapps” provide better services to the customers-
“Superapps” have access to vast amounts of consumer data, using which they can make the customer experience more relevant, personalised, and targeted. They use social media and transactional data to assess risk for loan applicants and better target financial products to consumers. Traditional banks, on the other hand, fall behind in creating an improved customer experience due to lack of consumer data.
Regardless of these implications, “superapps” enable banks to build a reputation in the market through their convenient payment services. While the notion of payment services in a “superapp” is not surprising, the majority of these payments take place through traditional banking and card issuer infrastructure. For example, WeChat uses WePay (a JPMorgan Chase system) for payments and WeBank (China’s first digital bank) for banking products. Similarly, Grab, Line, and Gojek have partnered with banks for online-to-offline (O2O) services.
This symbiotic relation enables “superapps” to gain credibility and traditional banks access to larger user databases.
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