Picture: 123RF/dolgachov
Picture: 123RF/dolgachov

New digital sales platforms called super apps are the latest tech to be adopted by banks and consumer brands, even though local marketers are reticent about them.

A super app is an application, normally on your phone, that has multiple functions and purposes. It allows you to have an integrated experience in a single environment. You could buy groceries, a book, find a plumber, send a gift to a friend and order take-aways in a single app rather than using multiple websites and applications to do each of these functions.

Ryan Sauer of King James Digital tells the FM that consumers are moving away from using a variety of apps to fulfil specific needs, in favour of single sign-in apps that allow multiple functions. This can include applying for credit, making retail purchases, conducting service inquiries and taking advantage of social media offerings.

This shift, says Sauer, has motivated Vodacom and Nedbank to adopt the technology, making them the first in SA to do so. With these apps in the market and many more to enter, Sauer says it is becoming crucial for household brands such as detergents and food products to have a strategy in place if they want to compete in the super app world.

"Just to be in these spaces will not be enough," he says. "Brands will need to bundle offerings intelligently, optimise product placement and offer compelling incentives to purchase — whether it be discounting, couponing or delivering incentives. With rising consumer costs and marginal to flat salary growth expected in 2021, consumers will be shopping for value over product."

From a marketing perspective, super apps could be good for the companies that create them and the brands that use them. The creator offers customers a single point of entry to multiple solutions in a rich contextual ecosystem. Contributing services, meanwhile, will be available in this seamless and efficient environment for your prospective customer.

Ryan Sauer. Picture: Supplied
Ryan Sauer. Picture: Supplied

So, if the advantages are obvious why are marketers slow on the uptake? Sauer says: "Marketers often want to own the user touchpoint, data and engagement channel, allowing them to engage directly with consumers and understand their purchase behaviour and first-party data."

He warns, however, that it’s not always feasible to conceptualise, build, market and retain your own digital platform and application.

It’s a Catch-22: do you build it hoping people will come, or do you wait until you have the audience in place before you begin.

Sauer says this is often tricky. "Super apps allow businesses to integrate an offering to a large base of opt-in users with the smallest barrier to entry."

Divine Muragijimana, group head of global marketing and communication at fintech firm Cellulant, says the super-app model makes economic sense for businesses and their consumers, especially in mobile-first markets such as Africa and Asia.

"It’s the ultimate tool in an app-fatigued, consumer-centric and mobile-money-driven digital economy that Africa is fast becoming."

Marketers need to ask questions about cost to entry.

Says Sauer: "This really does vary depending on the business’s product set and the value and incentives they are offering to the super-app base as well as the agreement with the super-app partner to promote your business and offering to the base.

Sauer says the super app is simply another channel in the digital marketing mix.

"You may want to explore this channel to engage a different audience to your core market or maybe as a performance channel to drive trial and adoption of new product sets. Super-app strategies should align to your business objectives and marketing performance needs and not be seen as the silver bullet of your digital efforts."

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