Super Apps for Shopping and Paying – Will it Play Out in Peoria?

For years, ecommerce and payment pundits have looked to
developments in China as the harbinger of things to come in this space. In
China, both ecommerce and mobile payments have taken off much faster than in many
of the “Western” markets. The popularity of making payments through social apps
is another area where Chinese consumers are leading the way.

It is with this in mind that was I very interested in a recent PaymentSource article, Gen Z will give rise to ‘super apps’. In this article, author Henrik Nilsmo references examples of Chinese companies that are building apps that combine social media, shopping, payments, and more into a single digital experience for the consumer – or “super apps”:

In the future, different payment methods will be directly linked to different channels, and increasingly the purchase and payment experience will have to seamlessly blend into one.

One prime example of the experience I am talking about is what we call “retail-tainment”: in China, virtually all major social media platforms have fully integrated e-commerce and digital payment solutions. At the same time, and not surprisingly, Chinese e-commerce websites have transformed themselves into social media platforms. Digital influencers have their own products and online stores, where they turn followers into consumers and earn thousands of dollars with it. Online search in super apps also allows consumers to find recommendations not only on the web, but also on social media posts and private conversations. For Gen Zs, everything has to be connected and we’ll very likely see this similar pragmatic attitude from them develop outside of China throughout this decade.

While super apps seem to have taken off in China, there have
also been attempts at fully integrated “all in one” solutions in the U.S. Many,
if not all, of the social apps purport to have some type of payment capability.
Success has been mixed.  I think the P2P
payments have fared better than perhaps straight up purchasing from a retailer
solutions at this point in time.

If the super app is going to make it in the U.S., the author
rightly points out it will likely start with the digitally native Gen Z
consumers.  That said, there are some
certain barriers or hurdles consumers in the U.S. will have to overcome before
a successful full-scale adoption of a super app.

One of the biggest barriers is that more popular social networks
will have to earn trust at a much higher level than they currently have. As I
have said many times before when it comes to people’s money, if there is no
trust, they are not going to have confidence that their money is safe. It is
key to remember that trust and perception of security are inextricably linked.

Additionally, there is a meaningful portion of the
population that likes to shop. These consumers pride themselves on getting the
best price, and will not necessarily buy directly from an ad or an influencer’s
suggestion. Instead, they will leave the app and look for the better deal.

I am not saying the supper app won’t work in the U.S., but I
do think that just because it works in Beijing, doesn’t mean it will play in

Overview by Peter Reville, Director, Primary Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group

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