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The rise of the Super Apps: Gamechanger for African e-commerce

The rise of the Super App: Gamechanger for African ecommerce - Startup Lagos

The Super App

Coined back in 2010, by Blackberry Founder, Mike Lazardis, the term ‘super app’ denotes a closed ecosystem of many apps that offer seamless, integrated, contextualized, and efficient experiences’. These apps offer a unique value and more than one core functionality. The apps will enable users to enjoy payment solutions, e-commerce functionalities, mobility, and communication all into one single app experience.

The end goal of Super Apps is to create experiences that help users to enjoy seamlessly the services that they need at their fingertips. As internet penetration constantly increases, and an increase likewise in the use of smartphones, many companies are thinking this way to minimize storage space, and maximize service offerings.

Significant moves last year by big companies like Bolt, a ride-hailing business, branching out into e-commerce and delivery, as well as WhatsApp launching its digital payments services in various parts of the globe, as well as its cryptocurrency payments pilot in the United States, have shown this new app pivot.

Companies like bolt are looking at repositioning as a Super App to capture more customers.
Bolt has repositioned its business to take on more service offerings

African e-Commerce and the opportunity

With China’s proliferation of cheap low-end smartphones across markets globally, it is easier for countries to leapfrog desktop technology and go mobile instead. Reports show further that smartphone shipments into Africa have grown by 13.2% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2021, to over 22.8 million devices. This is giving a needed boost to mobile app architecture and growth, especially in Africa.

Appsflyer State of eCommerce App Marketing Report 2021 report shows that globally, there was a rise of over 48% in e-commerce app installs, to the tune of over 4.5 billion app installs in 2021.

In Africa, the story wasn’t much different with an increase in app installs across South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya by 41%. Nigeria recorded the highest growth at 43%, followed by South Africa at 37% and Kenya at 29%.

However, e-Commerce in Africa has not enjoyed much success. This is primarily because B2C e-commerce in Africa has not really been able to inspire consumer trust. The what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) maxim has been flunked by e-commerce outfits, resulting in social media backlash and trends like what-was-ordered vs what-was-delivered. This dearth of consumer trust has made most consumers prefer physical retail outlets to online retail stores.

There has also been a difficulty in combining physical service with digital enablements. Digital solutions in e-commerce are meant to accelerate the level of growth and scale of retail business while combining with traditional systems. Also, in Africa, there has been a fixation with global brands that have not permitted consumers to offer a greater share of mind and heart to local e-commerce brands. This is constantly making B2C e-Commerce operators pivot to B2B models. As B2B models, it is easier for them to connect with businesses through client marketing.

B2C e-commerce also struggles with the marginal cost debacle. While these businesses are weighed down already by fixed costs and sunk costs, they still have to cut costs to meet up with competitive pricing by other smaller retail outlets. This forces them into a dangerous corner. As Michael Dell observes significantly, while online spending has increased globally by remarkable numbers, customer expectation for speed, service, and security has escalated exponentially. This implies even more that customers are looking for more reasons to trust these e-commerce brands.

However, it is the case that e-commerce brands already sit on a lot of data from customers across Africa. It would be useless to let that data lie without finding ways of leveraging it for more value. This is where the game changer for e-commerce can come. While some may suggest a pivot to B2B e-Commerce, a move to Super App status can offer remarkable benefits.

The unique game-changing play and benefit of the Super App are that it enables:

  • Users to enjoy ease-of-service and save on storage at the same time,
  • A low product development cost,
  • A faster time to market
  • Effective onboarding of customers as the data is already handy.

African Super Apps: The new way

With Africa’s expanding youthful population, which is the youngest in the world, and the appetite, innovativeness, and energy of this section of the world population, there are huge opportunities for this new type of app, especially for e-commerce companies. By expanding its offerings, e-commerce would be enabling users to have greater reasons to connect with their brands, trust their services, and in the long run, increase their share of mind and heart in the market.

Many fintech and ride-hailing apps are already making the needed pivot to Super App status. In North Africa, a fintech startup like Halan is already offering its users a buy-now-pay-later financial service that includes services like microfinancing, ride-hailing, and grocery delivery. Also, a mobility startup in Algeria, Temtem had recently launched its Temtem ONE Super App version offering e-commerce, transport, and delivery services. Both apps actually started out as ride-hailing apps.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa Super App is yet another with services across mobile money transactions, ticket booking, deliveries, and low-data-consuming mini-apps. Through the app, its users can shop freely on its e-commerce platform, Masoko, play games, apply for jobs, and get the news on the go.

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