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Are Super Apps Retail’s Omnichannel Grease?

All-in-one super apps represent a major step in frictionless retail and payment experiences, with appeal among high-spending age groups.

The idea of a single app to integrate payments, banking, messaging, mobility and more finds a parade of hopefuls ranging from Microsoft to Twitter working on (or rumored to be interested in developing) a unified app, though one has yet to materialize in North America.

In her early January musings on the year ahead, PYMNTS’ Karen Webster pegged the evolution of these all-in-one digital platforms as one of her eight defining trends for 2023 with the concept expected to scale and benefit from increase investment.

“There are a small number of players with the critical mass of consumers and businesses to play the role of this digital front door, to become the app that is ‘super’ because it is a single place to manage most or many of the everyday interactions related to how consumers shop, pay and manage their money,” Webster wrote.

Read: The Eight Trends That Will Shape Payments, Retail, and the Digital Economy in 2023

In Asia, super apps are a way of life, from China’s WeChat, owned by tech giant Tencent, to contenders including Tata in India, Gojek in Indonesia and Grab in Southeast Asia.

Gauging super app demand beyond China, the study “Super Apps For The Super Connected,” a PayPal and PYMNTS collaboration based on a survey of nearly 10,000 consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Germany, found it is high-earning, high-spending millennials who are most engaged with the Connected Economy activities that super apps present in one interface.

As current online behavior is perhaps the best way to measure the impact of a super app, the study examined online activities today that would be mirrored in an eventual super app.

“The most common activity that millennials conduct online is grocery shopping. In fact, 76% of millennials in these four countries bought groceries online in the 30 days prior to our study — considerably more than the 65% of baby boomers and seniors who did the same. Similarly, 70% of millennials across these countries used connected devices to order food from a restaurant compared to 60% of Gen Z consumers who did the same.”

Extrapolating super app interest in making retail purchases from those findings, we see in the chart that millennials are leading the charge with nearly six in 10 (58.2%) shopping for retail items via digital means, followed by slightly older bridge millennials at 53.5%, Gen X at 48.2% and Gen Z at 47.3%.

Get the study: Super Apps For The Super Connected

The Players Emerge

Taken along with the grocery and restaurant figures, the study concludes that “these highly connected consumers are accustomed to integrating digital activities into every aspect of their lives. Data suggests that digital consolidation via a super app is the next logical step in their progression toward a more digitally integrated lifestyle.”

Not coincidentally, many see PayPal as perhaps the best-positioned of the major payments players to morph into a super app, given the collection of digital tools already on its platforms.

In a 2022 blog post, it said, “PayPal is ahead of the curve gearing up to become a fully-fledged super app, offering financial tools, educational material on crypto together with the ability to buy, hold and sell crypto, bill payments, and peer-to-peer fund transfers via Venmo (US only). An in-app shopping section, with personalized deals and perks for shoppers, is also on the horizon.”

In December, news broke that Microsoft may be pursuing a super app of its own, although that’s more about the company’s mobile search ambitions than it is connected shopping and banking — two of the super-powers on which WeChat and others have built a business.

Similarly, Twitter owner Elon Musk started a tweet storm in Q4 with the opening salvo “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” adding in a subsequent tweet that “Twitter probably accelerates X by 3 to 5 years, but I could be wrong.”

Read also: What is a Super App?

PYMNTS Data: Why Consumers Are Trying Digital Wallets

A PYMNTS study, “New Payments Options: Why Consumers Are Trying Digital Wallets” finds that 52% of US consumers tried out a new payment method in 2022, with many choosing to give digital wallets a try for the first time.

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