“That’s the dream,” said Barney Stinson, a character in the popular series How I Met Your Mother in the face of any good ideas that might come to mind. In digital times, the dream would be to have one or two applications to solve what now requires a dozen: paying taxes, ordering delivery, investing, shopping online, social networking, and so on.
That dream of the previous paragraph is already a reality: the trend of “superapps” is increasingly important worldwide. The most renowned, the one that has marked the way, is WeChat, which is even known as “the app for everything in life”. If it existed in Argentina, it would replace at least 30.
The interesting thing is that in all these applications they will incorporate mobile payments. WeChat did it with WeChatPay and Alibaba with Alipay, a journey that was followed by Mercado Libre with Mercado Pago.
“They are business models in which the community is what counts. Horizontal and vertical integration is what allows companies to manage a greater part of the value chain,” economist and payments specialist Ariel Setton told iProUP.
According to the expert. “WeChat is a messenger, a marketplace, a means of payment, among many other things. But the important thing is that everything is done within the same app. The key to do it is to develop the internal services”.
“And this is what Facebook does with Whatsapp Pay in Brazil, which somehow breaks the multiapp structure it currently has: a Facebook app, which contains marketplace. Another app for Messenger, which does not have its own payments yet, another app for IG, and a last one for Whatsapp”, he develops.
WeChat and AliPay are far from being the only ones:
Grab: it is the first “decacorn” (a company valued at u$s10 billion) in Southeast Asia. It allows to order food and cabs, hire digital ads and pay online, among others
Gojek: in Indonesia, it offers 18 products, from delivery to financial services and even massage services
Shohoz: he started out selling digital tickets but his focus was on becoming superapp. Through it, 50,000 trips and 3,000 meals are ordered. It has 100,000 registered drivers (Uber style) and more than 2,000 restaurants
This business model is the star of the Asian continent. But in Europe you can already see cases such as Deliveroo, a food delivery app, which received u$s575 million in a round led by Amazon to scale up and add transport services, money, tickets, travel and a wide etćetera.
“They try to get you to have your whole digital life inside the app and this provides a data-based business model, since they can provide a free service because they actually monetize themselves on the other hand. They have super granulated information to offer you credits, as Mercado Libre does”, explains economist and fintech specialist Ignacio Carballo to iProUP.
In his vision, “these companies have understood the needs of their consumers in order to build their loyalty so that they can perform as many operations as possible within a single app.
Rappi and Paid Market
In Latin America, there are two logical candidates to follow, in one way or another, these same steps: Mercado Pago and Rappi.
In the case of the latter, it burst in with a series of new features in early July. And it is presented in its communications as “the technology super app”. Its intentions are more than clear.
“With this launch we achieve what no platform has done in Latin America: create a last mile ecosystem in which we become the ‘remote control’ of the users by offering them everything they want through the same platform,” says Juan Sebastian Ruales, Global Director of Rappi Entertainment.
The app is integrating several icons in its homepage:
Games: it has more than 150 games and expects to reach 130,000 weekly users
Live Events: Broadcast live events and allow fans of artists from around the world to have personalized experiences
Live Shopping: offers the possibility to buy “live and direct” during those events
Rappi Music: a kind of competition for Spotify
Games and Events are already available in Argentina, while the other two options are expected in the coming months. This is in addition to food delivery, “favors” (courier), cash withdrawal or expense sharing.
“Rappi has been investing heavily in developing community. We all know that the value is in having users who enter the service regularly and consume something. We have to see where they are going, since they have the support of the king of community apps, which is Softbank,” Setton said.
Free Market could aim at this goal. According to Setton, the Argentine unicorn “took a strategy more similar to WeChat than to Facebook: in the same app it allows to have the marketplace, the payments and the Credit Market”. However, he indicates that “if you want to manage the funds in your account, you have to migrate to MP, where the investments are, payment schedule, etc.”.
In times of pandemic, Mercado Pago launched a feature for neighborhood merchants to have direct contact with their customers, who can search for locations near their location (within a two-mile radius using their cell phone’s GPS) and place orders through WhatsApp.
“The context called for a change in habits, now we are consuming more and more inside the cell phones,” Alejandro Losada, manager of Mobile Wallet in Mercado Libre, told iProUP.
“On the one hand, small retailers are hard hit; on the other, the consumer wants to use less and less cash. This is why we are starting to add additional features”, says the manager. And he adds: “One of our latest launches is related to merchants, who can now create their own discount and promotion campaigns within Mercado Pago”.
The case of Facebook
WhatsApp, on the other hand, suffered a setback in Brazil: the Central Bank of this country had suspended the system that allowed the use of the messaging application to send money through chats, but then allowed the tests.
“We hope that all WhatsApp users will be able to send money to friends and family or buy a product directly from the app,” the messenger told iProUP.
In addition, they note: “We are excited to work with many local partners to offer this innovative resource that will help people and increase economic activity in the country, especially in these difficult times.
But it is not the only application in the Facebook ecosystem that seeks to add several functionalities to become a super application, although in its cases more specialized than its Asian counterparts.
Instagram, by case, and with the pandemic as a scenario, launched the “Support Local Business” sticker, for people to express their commitment to small businesses, as well as a function to order food from a sticker in Stories or a button in the profile of gastronomic stores. These take the public directly to the PedidosYa, Rappi and Uber Eats apps to complete the purchase process and schedule delivery.
In addition, Instagram and Facebook launched Shops, which makes it easy to create an online store that potential customers can access.
“Companies can choose the products they want to include in their catalog and then customize the look of their store according to their brands. In addition, visitors can send messages to the store through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to ask questions, get assistance or track deliveries,” the Zuckerberg company told iProUP.
The signatures follow
There is another giant that keeps adding functionality. This is Uber, which stopped being a technological platform that offers mobility solutions a long time ago: now it proposes other alternatives.
The company explains that several markets in the world -not yet in Argentina- when one opens Uber’s app, one can find several options beyond travel and delivery:
Connect (called Uber Flash in Argentina), which allows you to send and receive articles
Hourly, now available in 50 cities around the world, which is used to rent a driver and his car for a few hours to make different journeys in the same trip
Transit, which integrates public transportation into the Uber app and thus compares all the mobility options available in your city
In addition, they recently incorporated the Cornershop service to make supermarket purchases directly from the Uber and Uber Eats apps. The platform will also provide supermarkets with a new tool to add more analysis data on their sales and optimize the stock of their products.
“To some extent, the pandemic has caused Uber to accelerate its efforts to move from a ride-sharing company to a logistics platform for food delivery and shipping other items,” the company told iProUP.
Another “potential” superapp is Ualá, which adds functions but always within the world of finance. “We built a financial services marketplace that brings together different solutions from the best suppliers so that our users can manage everything from one place,” confides Pierpaolo Barbieri, its CEO and founder, to iProUP.
The executive points out that they started “less than three years ago with an app and a card as a base” and have already issued “more than 2 million cards”. “From the app, users can have a totally free account, make purchases anywhere in the world, invest in common funds, pay for services, recharge the SUBE, request loans and quote consumption,” he completes.
“The superapp depends on each market. In the United States and Europe there are more apps and they are more segmented, each one doing one or two things very well. It depends on both business strategies and the amount of resources you can put into it,” concludes Losada.