Super-apps: a one-stop-shop for empowering small businesses

girl on phone in supermarket

In the last decade, super-apps have changed the face of the mobile app world.  Roughly one third of the global population are now super-app users, and in regions like Africa and Asia they’ve become a fact of life for accessing services online.

But although the focus is often on combining services like instant messaging, ride hailing and banking services, super-apps aren’t just for consumers. For people trying to launch or grow a small business, the all-in-one business model of a super-app can offer a new way to get all the digital tools they need in one simple place.

The reward of convenience and simplicity

For small business owners, super-apps mean one thing: convenience. On any given day, small business owners will have a thousand things on their plate, whether that’s filing accounts, keeping up with marketing, managing bookings, or selling to customers.

Juggling all of those administrative tasks with multiple apps only adds to the workload. When the core elements of their operation are spread across different systems with different logins, that alone can be a barrier to growing their business effectively.

Super-apps give them the ability to run things from within a one-stop-shop, with the intuitive user experience that comes from everything being under one ecosystem. There are already platforms moving to target small and medium-sized business owners for that reason. Enstack is a super-app designed specifically for SMEs in Southeast Asia that offers a digital platform for building an online store, managing inventory and accounting.

For the platforms themselves, there’s a huge opportunity to be found in serving small businesses directly. It’s about expanding to an entirely new audience, not just attracting more of the same users onto the app.

And it’s an audience with a lot of loyalty to give. Last year we surveyed 500 small businesses in Britain about their use of tech and found that 62% of them were not very likely or not at all likely to change their website provider once they’d settled on one.

The super-app for the small business

Earning that small business owner loyalty means understanding exactly what they need to launch, run and grow their company.

In our small business survey we found that 26% of respondents didn’t have their own website.

But changing that isn’t just a case of making website builders more available. They also need to be intuitive to use. Often website builders are designed with desktop users in mind, meaning mobile-first business owners have to get to grips with navigating the software itself before they can start building their site.

That’s a particular problem for small business owners in Africa, for example. It’s a market that’s heavily skewed towards mobile users – as much as 74%, compared to 25% market share for desktop. With so many internet users preferring their smartphone over their computer, it’s also a continent that’s increasingly populated by super-apps.

If a super-app targeting small businesses in Africa offered a mobile-first website builder, it would give them the ability to take their business online without buying any additional hardware. They don’t need to carve out time sitting in front of a laptop to play with the design – it’s as simple as taking their phone out of their pocket.

Paving the way for digital businesses

There’s also a chance for a super-app to go even further than offering just the tech tools. One of the more persistent obstacles for small business owners accessing tech is understanding how to get the most out of it. But a super-app can bridge that gap by providing educational content like tips and tutorials within the platform itself.

Once again, convenience is the key. They might be able to find the answers they need already, but having them packaged in the same place as the tools themselves means small business owners don’t have to waste time they don’t have searching the internet and figuring out what information they can trust.

Then there are some of the more bread and butter super-app features that can be combined with the tech. For example messaging gives them access to a community of fellow business owners for networking or mutual support, while a small business marketplace could help them make business purchases and partnerships from like-minded companies.

Tech is already being used to help people launch online businesses across the African continent. In December last year we partnered with tech company DigiTeams, who specialise in machine learning, AI and Web 3.0, to create more avenues for entrepreneurs in South Africa to set up e-commerce stores.

Bringing down the barriers for people trying to launch a digital business is a natural fit for super-apps. Their success in regions like Africa and Asia is in large part down to the limitations of consumer tech, where having one app for everything is a solution to low-end, low-storage smartphones. When they’re already helping consumers to access digital products with ease, it makes sense for super-apps to help small businesses do the same.

We’re on a mission for tech democracy for small businesses – are you in? Request a demo of our software, or get in touch to see how we could collaborate.

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