Building a super app that can actually fly

July 14, 2023

Build a super app that can actually fly
The line between a good app and a super app is drawn by the versatility, functionality, and value an application brings to its users. What used to be standalone apps for diverse needs — hailing a ride, food delivery, grocery shopping, and more — have now been seamlessly combined into one powerhouse: the super app. But how exactly does an app transcend to become a ‘super’ app?

What makes an app super

In 2022, the global market for super apps was valued at USD 61.3B. Some of the major contributors to the rise in its popularity are the wider availability of internet and smartphones and the adoption of e-commerce and digital payments. Hence, it is only right that companies seriously consider penetrating the smartphone market. As they enter another competitive category, they must do it fast and right. 

First, let’s quickly define what a super app is. A super app is composed of multi-functional mini-apps that users may use or remove as needed. It provides services and features for diverse needs in a single ecosystem. Examples of popular super apps are Grab, Uber, WeChat, and GCash.

Building a super app means putting the whole ecosystem of your business into devices. This ecosystem puts the customer at the center of it all by providing services for what they need, what they do, what they want, and more. A super app delivers convenience by eliminating the need to transact in multiple applications for various activities and at the same time providing the security needed for their personal and financial data.

In preparing to build your first super app, you must remember three principles:

  • Agile organization. To successfully deliver a complex platform like a super app, stakeholders and team members must be empowered to make decisions, correct mistakes, and enjoy successes.
  • Curiosity to test quickly. The adoption of your super app will not just depend on how beautiful the interface is or how advanced your features are. You must have the openness to test ideas, get them out to the market fast, and adapt to your customers’ feedback.
  • Tech strategy runway for optimization. Target to make quick releases of your super app and plan for long-term optimization. This means that you have to align the technologies you will use to build the super app with this principle.

Building super apps 

By leveraging the design thinking process, here are the steps towards building your super app.

Step 1: Conceptualize

At this stage, business leads, designers, tech architects, and development engineers come together to formulate a vision of the super app when it is up and running. You will take into consideration the user persona, the problems you want to solve through the app, potential competitors, and more. Based on these information, you determine the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and immediately validate the viability of your super app through user testing.

Step 2: Plan

The team then creates a concrete plan to deliver the super app to the market. They will determine what features to prioritize, how much time it will take to deliver them, and what the deliverables are throughout the duration of the project.

Step 3: Develop

With the concept and plan in place, it’s time to develop your ideas into reality. Agile has proven to be an efficient approach to app development, promoting transparency, collaboration, and value-driven outcomes. It is also recommended to validate features through user testing every 2 to 3 sprints, to make sure that user feedback is always incorporated into the development. This also allows you to save time and money from developing features that users will not appreciate. 

Overcoming challenges

With the great power of a super app comes the great responsibility to make it work. A super app, while delivering more value in a single environment, is a complex platform to create and maintain. We want to give customers a convenient, seamless, and enjoyable experience — not errors, breaches, and downtimes; hence it is important to consider early the architecture principles and the risks that come with a super app.

Set your architecture principles

Architecture principles function as the foundation or guide for decision-making and execution. You need to set your architecture principles to complement your strategy, objectives, and business requirements. Your principles will also narrow down your approaches and pre-determine tradeoffs.

Let’s recall, as an example, Amazon’s Bezos API Mandate in 2002. Amazon’s then CEO Jeff Bezos declared in a memo that all services and functions had to be done through APIs. This event was one of the initial factors for the rise of microservices. It recognized the value of data flow and the flexibility to accommodate external developers and organizations. The tradeoff was added complexity and the need for strong oversight and governance.

Constantly manage risks

Any project worth pursuing carries its own set of risks. It is important to set the right and acceptable balance between risks and rewards.

Continuously re-assess and re-align your timeline, costs, and scope. Explore the pros and cons of acquiring new or more established tech. Determine the implications of working together onsite or remotely. 

Ensure reliability, scalability, and maintainability

Super apps have much more functionalities and services than the regular application. They need an architecture that will be able to handle such complexity to avoid downtime, ensure business continuity, and maintain high performance at scale. Some approaches to overcome this challenge are: having a modular design, leveraging event-driven/asynchronous architectures, implementing caching and CDN strategies, and automation.

Build partnerships and service integrations

Super apps rely heavily on partners and service providers that offer the services that users will need. When working with external partners, you may encounter issues with compatibility, interoperability, and security, among others. That’s why it’s important to define integration strategies, use API management tools, design with security in mind, and have sufficient documentation.

Leveraging a super app

Building your first super app can be quite overwhelming. The efforts and risks are high — but so are the rewards for your business and the benefits for your customers. In the next 10 years, the super app market is still expected to grow by over 27%. So there is no better time than today to get ahead of the flock.

For a more detailed discussion of super apps, watch the replay of our webinar, “From App to Super App: How to build a super app and make it fly.  

To get started on your super app journey, fill out the form below to book a meeting.