According to the Mary Meeker internet trends report, 51% of the world (3.8 billion people) are internet users, an increase from 49% (3.6 billion) in 2017. Smartphones are the primary internet access point for many people across the globe; emerging markets in remote geographies are a mostly untapped market for tech companies.
New trends are emerging that are closely tied with the growing number of internet users. Some of these major trends were described by Hans Tung of GGV Capital at the 2019 Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference.
Here are my learnings and takeaways:
For the past 20 years the model coming out of Silicon Valley has been the “single purpose” app. As the name suggests, these apps are single purpose and focus on solving one consumer pain point and have a clear, easy to use interface. These apps are built to be scalable at the global level with architecture that enable them to expand globally without changing much.
However, over the last 5 years there has been a new trend of “Super Apps” coming out of China. China has a rapidly growing, high density, urban middle class population that has enabled tech companies to capitalize on a “leap frog” effect.
Consumers embrace companies that are able to provide a service with a clear and intuitive interface; that service is then augmented by adding other services/functions. This encourages other merchants to want to partner with the app and provide their services on the app as well. Chinese users are accustomed to seeing a busier interface and appreciate the “one stop shop”. Users will be very loyal to an app that is easy to use, friction free, functional, provides good services and allows for a multifaceted experience. An example of a Super App would be an app where you can order your groceries, book travel, and buy a concert ticket all in one place.
This “Super App” creates an ecosystem where the user’s time is monopolized and there is no need for them to use a variety of apps. The Super App model is rapidly growing in emerging markets such as India, South America and Southeast Asia. The US/Silicon Valley model is to grow vertically and go global. The focus of these super app companies is to aggressively expanding horizontally and dominate a specific geography.
The emerging markets present the opportunity for digitally born companies to thrive. There is no outdated infrastructure to overcome in these markets – everything can be built and tailored to a new generation of internet users.
Many of these emerging markets (i.e. China) are densely populated areas which has spurred another new trend: the “group purchase model”. This has the potential to be a major macro trend and is worth looking into and understanding.
In developing urban areas (often in China in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities) there is an eruption of urbanization. You will see 20-30 buildings in a cluster, each building with 30-60 floors, each floors with 6-12 units per floors. This is an instant community of about 10,000 people. It becomes much easier to efficiently deliver goods to this one cluster (where there may be several thousand people receiving the same good). A dominant Super App enables the “group purchasing” model in these highly dense areas. Hans Tung from GGV articulates these trends in this video.
The developing super apps and “group purchasing” model trends are also spurring a new era in the payments space. In China it is nearly impossible to pay for anything with a credit card, everything is done through mobile payments. Anecdotally it has been said that beggars on the street in China will have a mobile payment QR code so donors can give charity via a mobile phone. Every mom and pop shop will have a mobile payments account set up. It is difficult to find anyone who wants to accept a credit card as payments as they do not want to incur the transaction fees. Legacy credit card companies such as AmEx, Visa, and MasterCard would be well served to consider how mobile payments may disintermediate their user base across all geographies. More smart mobile payment apps will continue to emerge with much lower transactional fees.
The world is becoming a smaller place as more and more people are becoming internet users. These developing geographies are untapped markets – digitally born companies who understand the needs of these consumers are racing to become to become category winners as larger legacy companies are too slow to meet the rapidly increasing demands of these markets.
As you consider your boards’ products, it would be very valuable to ask management to explain their plans to participate in these rapidly dominating new trends of group purchasing, digital payments, and emerging market Super App dominance.