Super Apps: Is DeFi Blockchain the Key to Their Expansion?

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“For every application, a platform that has been built and successfully serves its users for a certain purpose. The next quest is how to make your application a necessity in the users’ lives. At this pivoting point, a lot of businesses and platforms turn to the “super app” strategy.

In this article, MinhTam Nguyen, Ops Manager at ShuttleOne shares her thoughts on super apps, and whether defi Blockchain is the key to their expansion. 

MinTamMinTam
MinhTam Nguyen, Ops Manager at ShuttleOne

2021- the era of working from home, the boom of digital applications for every possible need for the human being. Many digital companies grew massively during this time of social distancing and remote work. Businesses are adopting and digitizing themselves at the fastest rate we have ever seen. Digitalization is finally happening.

But most importantly, what’s next for businesses after digitising themselves?

For every application, a platform that has been built and successfully serves its users in a certain purpose. The next quest is how to make your application a necessity in the users’ lives.

At this pivoting point, a lot of businesses and platforms turn to the “super app” strategy.

The idea for a super app is that users can use a single platform for everything (or most things) that they need, which results in a high recurring usage and activity and a viable ecosystem within the app.

In Southeast Asia, useful platforms such as Grab or Gojek, started with one main usage: ride-hailing. Once they reach a certain user volume, the apps expand to multi-service platforms where users can order food delivery, package delivery or even as a payment solution to restaurants and stores.

The super app strategy

The super app strategy appeals to both sides of the platform, the developers and their users. Developers continuously increase the impact and constantly grow their platform to its highest market potential, while users can enjoy the convenience of using a single platform for their needs. Not only appealing for Consumers, B2B applications can also study the strategy and adapt themselves.

Imagine if you are a software marketplace that helps corporations find the best suite software for their needs. Once the client finds the software, they will proceed with the procurement and implementation process. Most of the time, the following steps take place outside of the platform where the client and the software reach a deal, the client wire the money to start the project. What is the biggest hurdle that affects a buying decision for anything? Money, how much and how fast they can pay. What if you, the software marketplace, can remove this hurdle out of the equation for your clients? How fast can we speed up the buying decision when money is not the problem?

Looking at the successful cases of “super app”, Wechat and Alibaba in China, or Grab and Gojek in South East Asia, we can find a common theme: the key to make an app become highly recurring and extremely useful for their users is to remove the rigid payment through seamless solutions. If you go to any Chinese consumer target stores, the most popular payment methods are Alipay and Wechat. Grab is also trying to push GrabPay as a standard payment method in its markets. Super apps also can take a step further and remove the cashflow hurdle for its users by offering loans and credit. In China, Alipay and Wechat dominate the market, the applications also offer microloans to its users to borrow small amounts to pay for food delivery or hotel booking on its app.

So how does a software marketplace, or any other applications, can adapt the “super app” strategy? When a client faces a capital or cash flow issue during the buying process, sometimes they need to find solutions outside of the marketplace, like looking for government grants or bank loans. Sometimes, if the issue needs complicated solutions to solve, the deal mostly falls through. What if they can apply for such grants and loans directly on your application so that there are no delays in getting the deal?

The idea of a super app makes sense and appealing, but yet, there are few applications that have reached the state of a “super app”.

The missing key: Why all platforms aspire to be the next super app, but few can make it?

If we look at Gojek and Grab, both start as ride hailing apps from the start and aim to become super apps. However, the result is much different for them.

In Indonesia, it is safe to say that Gojek is a super app here, but outside of Indonesia, it is not. A Gojek user in Singapore cannot pay for Gojek services while travelling to Indonesia. The inability to extend payments across markets due to payment fragmentation in the region made Gojek unable to become the super app outside of its home country.

Grab, on the other, can let users pay for services without a limit on geography. A user can pay for services in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia without a problem. Instead of relying on integration with third-party payment, Grab took the issue into their hands and built up their own financial services and payment system.

Removing the hurdles in payment and cash flow increases user experiences and as a result makes people willing to use more services offered by the platform. But to become a super app where users can use multiple services with you, it is often needed by the platform to take the payment and financial solutions upon themselves.

The reason not many applications and platforms can apply the super app strategy is money, as building your own financial services requires capital. A lot of them.

Blockchain technology may be the answer for the super app race

Up until now, building a super app is a playing field for “big boys” only. Grab, Alibaba or Wechat all became unicorns before building their own financial services.

That is before blockchain technology. Continuously being praised as the innovation that will change the financial infrastructure for the better. Blockchain is giving people and companies access to financial services that they can never get before.

Let’s take a look on how blockchain will be the major components for the super app strategy:

  1.   Solving the payment issue

Gojek faces the payment issue when they intend to expand their services to various markets. Users in one market cannot seamlessly pay for the service when travelling to another country. The reason for this difficulty is the fragmentation of payment services in Asia. Unless using regional payment platforms, Gojek needs to onboard a local remittance vendor for each market.

Blockchain remittance is a financial solution that removes the rigidness in relying on central systems, exchanges or banks for payment. Instead of relying on its own resources to build a payment network, applications can adapt blockchain payment which can be accepted and paid anywhere and in any currencies. It is secure, fast, low fee and innovative for cross-border payments, especially for platforms servicing in multiple markets.

Blockchain remittance solutions such as Circle, Stellar Lumens or Coins.ph allow users to send and spend money in an instant and are available for platforms to adopt as their native payment solution.

  1.   Solving the cash flow issue

Advance, credit or loans are well-known methods to acquire a paying client. The decision-making process is one step faster for the client when they do not need to worry about coming up with the money at the time of purchase. That is why credit cards are a widely popular payment method for consumer applications.

However, not all clients can get access to financial services. There are almost 80% of consumers and 65% of SMEs businesses are not getting access to financial services such as loans and credit. If your potential paying customer needs a loan to buy your service and gets rejected by the banks, chances are the deal is gone.

Decentralized finance (DeFi), a solution implementing blockchain technology, solves this issue by removing the gatekeepers and middlemen and connecting the ones in need of borrowing directly with the ones with capital power.

As a platform becomes a super app, the next step is to offer credit and loans for the potential paying customer to remove cash flow rigidness. Using DeFi infrastructure, platforms can start offering credit to their users, while the capital requirements for platforms to offer loans service is removed.

Many platforms have adapted the DeFi solution to offer loans and credit to their users in their own ecosystem. GeTS, a B2B cross-border trade platform available globally, offers financing services to their users in cross-border purchases for trade cargo, e-commerce products and even management software. A B2C grocery platform in South East Asia, HappyFresh, offers microloans solution to its drivers as part of the incentives participating in the platform, using DeFi infrastructure. 

More super apps are coming

Blockchain-based financial solutions such as remittance and DeFi could potentially level the playing field for platforms to become multi-services solutions for its users. By removing the resources required in infrastructure and capital, applications that successfully remove payment and cash flow rigid using these new innovative solutions in their own way will create high recurring users and viable ecosystems.

The need for multi-services within one application has become essential in the age of online convenience. Applications that are fast to adapt to the rising needs of its users will rise and become the next super app. 

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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