By Sue Azari, Industry Lead, E-Commerce at AppsFlyer
The super-app has arrived. Having everything in one place — even things you would not necessarily associate instantly with one another, such as food and transport or messaging and finance — is appealing to the region’s digital-native mindset. Offerings like Botim, Uber-owned Careem, and Majid Al Futtaim’s Xsight have sent others dashing to the drawing board.
While super-apps are the ultimate digital experience — so intuitive, responsive, and useful that they encourage engagement and user loyalty — they aren’t something every business can, or should, aspire towards. For many, their business model is simply too focused to warrant a multi-experience platform. However, what every app developer and marketing team should look to emulate are three strategies — the three Ps — that their super-app peers have mastered in the race to create impactful applications that keep users coming back for more.
Digital natives are demanding. They expect brands to not just know them but know them well. Super-apps are multifeatured and are built on a strategy that (in the age of privacy) allows them to gather and retain personal information such as age, profession, and interests, as well as record usage information like timings, devices, and transactions. The goal is to be able to individualize push notifications so that they become useful rather than irritating. A unique deal tailored to the user perhaps, or an alert that an item in which they had previously expressed interest is now back in stock.
Smart recommendations also fall under personalization. Collaborative filtering can connect a product to an individual by comparing their engagement and search history with those of other users (“people who bought this also bought...”). Listen to feedback, monitor behavior — anything to gain insights into what a particular user wants, so you can offer it to them before they find it elsewhere.
Another way of individualizing the experience is to allow users to customize it. While not strictly personalization, customization taps into another digital-native preference for self-service. From themes and layouts to the ability to adjust the frequency of notifications, customization puts users in control, so they can optimize the experience for themselves.
When you design your app, you must ensure it aligns with both business objectives and user needs. You could opt for a platform-native design (iOS or Android, say), which will tie you to app store guidelines for design, development, and distribution. Hybrid or adaptive approaches will allow the experience to work across platforms. And the responsive option (widely thought to be modern best practice) uses a mobile-first experience strategy but will, unfortunately, exclude the app from any of the major stores.
Research the market and the customer. How will your app solve a consumer problem? How will they engage with the app? Account for every touchpoint and think about the content and instructions that will shepherd each user to a positive outcome — for them and for the brand. Use every industry tool at your disposal. Wireframes of screens together with a solidly designed navigation system and information hierarchy can be used to build a prototype for users. Test early; test often.
And remember that mobile UX design is a significant departure from desktop design. Use these constraints to your advantage to juice up the responsiveness and minimize content display for a truly powerful UX. Slim everything down to its most basic so that the app encourages use and exploration.
Super-apps deal with a plethora of information — tapping into contact lists, recording order histories, facilitating financial transactions, and more. They, therefore, recognize that the privacy and protection of their users are paramount. Similarly, if you want consumers to even download your app, much less use it loyally, you must be in a position to assure them of their privacy, especially if you need them to agree to personal data gathering. One way in which super-apps do this is through the centralization of data. This makes it easier to encrypt data to the same standard as the app code, thereby protecting the organization and its users from any slip-ups that may have occurred during development. Thorough testing, including penetration testing, will be of further help. And do not be afraid of “deputizing” users by periodically reminding them to change their passwords and counseling them on choosing stronger passwords. If possible, integrate multifactor authentication (MFA) methods such as biometrics and OTP (one-time passwords).
When checking the strength of your own code base, never forget the inherent issues with third-party libraries. So many of these are free to use and as the functionality, and thereby the complexity of your app grows, they become ever more tempting. However, if they have vulnerabilities then these weaknesses are passed on to an app that uses them. So before incorporating third-party code, make sure it is tested in isolation. Examine the library’s versioning history to ensure that any known issues have been resolved in the version you are using.
Take care when sharing data between apps as the transfer may lead to threat actors discovering how it is done. That will leave you and your users open to compromise and may also lead to further trouble in highly regulated industries. Signature-based permissions are a way around this as they do not require any input from the user. Even in protecting their privacy, we should keep the experience slick for them. Developers must also look to the security of any application programmer interfaces (APIs) they use. By far the most popular method for transferring data between users, apps, and cloud hosts, APIs are a hacker’s dream and so they must use strong central authentication.
Whether an app can be all things at once (like the super-app) or must adhere to a singular focus (like most other apps), one thing unites it with all others regardless of function: success depends on the quality of experience. All the successful super-apps are master classes in UX design. Those that follow, super or not, have the potential of duplicating that rarest of commercial gems: user delight.