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Millennials and Gen Z Set to Drive Super apps Adoption in the West

Vlad Dobrynin, CEO & Founder of Humans Group, explores the background of super apps, their impact in Asia, and why he believes it's only a question of time before they appear in the Western world. And it won’t be big companies that dominate this space. It will be the smaller operations and start-ups. 

Image Credit: Business of apps

Is the Western world ready for super apps? Super apps are huge in Asia. Apps like WeChat, Alipay, Gojek and Grab have become almost essential for daily activities and have been major economic drivers. So why haven’t they had the same success in Europe and the US? And will they ever?

Before we answer these questions, let's look at what has driven success in Asia. Emerging economies like China, Indonesia and the Philippines missed the desktop internet revolution in the 90s and 00s. So when smartphones hit the market, previously unconnected populations were able to adopt the internet. This became the norm and the adoption of mobile apps and services became second nature.

Driving micro-economies

A large segment of the Indian and Chinese populations didn’t have bank accounts. Super apps gave them an opportunity to adopt digital banking. WeChat and AliPay also spurred micro-economies in rural areas, which lacked traditional infrastructure driving adoption even further.

Undoubtedly, the low penetration of bank accounts in Asia has aided the rise of WeChat, for instance, but consumers in the West tend to have long-established relationships with banks and retailers, which makes it harder for them to trust virtual providers. 

Brake or growth? 

So could act as a brake on super app uptake in the West? Millennials, the generation born between 1980-1995, don’t have the mental barriers that older generations have. Research from tech industry researchers Cushman & Wakefield reveals that in the West seismic demographic and cultural shifts are set to play a role in adopting super apps, especially among Millennials. 

Making up about 40% of the world’s working population as their spending power increases, Millennials are becoming increasingly influential consumers. The majority of Millennials have visited a bank, but they are predominantly mobile-oriented, with around 94% actively using online banking services. 

They also use online banking services regularly at a rate three times that of older generations. These statistics, combined with the increased use of contactless payment methods and a declining reliance on cash, have been key considerations in the rationalization of retail bank branches and ATM networks over much of the western world. In England, for instance, an estimated 30 percent of bank branches have shut in the past three years.

Banks don’t communicate

To compound matters, nearly half of Millennials do not think their bank communicates to them. As such this generation has little affinity to existing bank brands. Among those surveyed, 73 percent of Millennials said they would be more receptive to financial services from tech companies such as Google, Apple and PayPal than their current bank. Additionally, 33% believe that banks will not exist within five years. 

Hot on the heels of Millennials is Gen Z, born between 1996-2012. While they are still in the early days of their banking experience and professional careers, there are already some indicators of their intent. This is the first generation exclusively born into the digital age, making them more tech-savvy and according to Cushman & Wakefield receptive to super apps. 

Generation Z doesn’t know a world without mobile banking. And that presents opportunities, and challenges, for financial-technology companies. Millennials ushered in the era of financial IT by embracing payment apps. But Gen Z grew up immersed in this technology and they won’t be attracted by ease and novelty the way earlier generations were. They don’t want products that are designed for masses of users. Instead, they are looking for highly personalized experiences.

Recent research from PYMNTS found that 40% of millennials reported being very or extremely interested in a super app. Millennials are leading the way in tech adoption and interest in a super app — this makes sense, as they have often served as a bellwether for shifts in consumer preferences.

Mobile is the way forward

Millennials and Gen Z appreciate that lifestyle-driven super apps can offer the ultimate in convenience. Gen Z is particularly fond of mobile payments. While Gen Z’ers use a variety of digital payment methods, they strongly favour using their mobile phones and watches. 

According to a study by Logica Research, more than 6 in 10 Gen Zers said mobile devices were their most popular method for digital purchases. The study also found Gen Z’s use of mobile payment apps for in-person payments is expected to rise from 5% today to 19% in the future.

By having all the tools they need in one place on a mobile device, rather than using countless different apps, they can avoid a frustratingly fragmented journey. You can use a super app to research, choose, redeem, pay and collect or whatever you need which all suggests that super apps look as though are set to become part of a consumer's everyday life. 

Super app recipe

So what’s the actual recipe for a successful super app? Irrespective of geography there are common threads. Boiling it down, the task of any super app is to identify different services people need from a super app. For instance, the super app we launched in Uzbekistan, HUMANS.uz, combines telecom services (MVNO business model), a fintech service, and a shopping marketplace. It has been enormously successful. 

Its success is based on a number of factors. It leverages the increasing amount of time people are spending on their smartphones and delivers services people need and at good value, which in turn creates customer loyalty. These are the secrets of success for all super apps irrespective of the geographies they are available in. 

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