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For more than a decade, the Asian tech ecosystem has been dominated by “super-apps:” platforms such as WeChat, Alipay, and Meituan that offer an enormous network of services all in one integrated app.
In contrast, analogous services in the U.S. have remained largely distributed, with a larger array of apps and websites each offering users a smaller subset of functionalities.
Super-apps are single applications that offer multiple diversified services for everyday personal or commercial life, rely on a common financial transaction platform, leverage intra-app data to tailor offerings, and are widely adopted.
For example: WeChat, Alipay, and Meituan in China; PayTM and Tata Neu in India; GoTo GoJek in Indonesia; and Zalo in Vietnam
According to an article on HBR, super-apps have been successful in Asia due to the fact that many Asian consumers' first experience with the internet was with mobile platforms that were designed as super-app ecosystems from the ground up.
This allowed early tech players to quickly grow their user bases as they incrementally added new services spanning a wide range of everyday needs.
In the U.S., many leading tech companies started out before the widespread adoption of smartphones, offering narrow, web-only services on personal computers, such as search (Google), social media (Facebook), e-commerce (Amazon), and others.
These companies later developed mobile apps, but each still offered only limited services on each app.
Super-apps have not found success in the American market due to a number of factors, including different growth paths and market positions, regulatory, technological, and cultural contexts, and organizational and financial reasons.
The tech leader is also afraid of feature bloat, which occurs when too many features are added to an app, causing it to slow down and become less engaging for users. This can also lead to some functions being seen as "second class" in consumers' minds.
A 2022 consumer survey found that 72% of U.S. respondents would be interested in using a super-app.
Recent trends suggest that US companies may be moving towards more integrated apps, with Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg expressing interest in creating "everything apps."
A learner | Writer on Medium | High curiosity about psychology and human development.
Super apps are top-rated in Asia, while it's not very common in the US. What happened? Let's find out through the HBR article.
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