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Data and creativity are key for brands to establish their presence on super apps

By Vivi Wang | Business development director, South East Asia

June 20, 2019 | 5 min read

A new breed of apps is taking South East Asia by storm. Super apps – single umbrella platforms that provide a range of services – are beginning to transform how the lifestyle needs of users are being met. Spurred by the success of platforms such as China’s WeChat, the two key super apps players Grab and Go-Jek, are announcing new partnerships, launching new services and consolidating existing ones into their respective platforms. As they battle it out to be the best all-in-one app, mobile users will soon be spending increasing amounts of time in their super app of choice.


The growing consumer base expects immediate, seamless access to content, products and services.

The emergence of super apps is not surprising in mobile-first South East Asia. With improved cellular infrastructure and the falling prices of both smartphones and data, consumers here spend more time on the mobile internet than any other market – with average screen times tallying 3.6 hours daily. This democratisation has contributed to significant e-commerce activity on mobile - especially in Indonesia where 76% of all internet users make purchases from their phones. In fact, Indonesia has the highest rate of mobile e-commerce than in any country in the world.

This growing consumer base expects immediate, seamless access to content, products and services. So how can brands establish their presence on these evolving platforms?

Harnessing layers of data are key

With more services being integrated into singular apps, the demographics of the consumer base changes - customer loyalty will be strengthened as they grow to become increasingly reliant on the convenience provided. In the past few months alone, Grab announced the launch of four new services within their app - hotel booking, video streaming, ticket purchasing and trip planning services.

Additionally, these services can be paid for via GrabPay – which is quickly becoming a popular mobile payment option in the region – to offer a seamless experience for users. Data collected from these apps will offer valuable consumer insights, as each user profile will become increasingly layered due to the different services that they use.

The sheer volume of users on super apps means rich datasets can be developed for more effective targeting. For example, a passenger who regularly travels to and from a certain location at specific times of the day (e.g. commuting to work) with the Grab app – who also has a habit of ordering McDonalds via the app if they leave work after 8pm – might be tempted by a well-timed ad alerting them of a new, limited edition menu. By harnessing the three elements of data, platform, and algorithm effectively, marketers can better leverage ad features for more meaningful, timely and relevant ads.

Staying relevant in a mobile-first future

As super apps – and the services they offer – begin to make strides, and new players enter the arena, the competition to capture and sustain the attention of users will intensify. This means that advertisers will have to innovate to develop new strategies that ensure ads targeted are relevant, timely and effective.

As users of these multifunctional apps will generate a wealth of data like never seen before, it will be virtually impossible for brands to not adopt programmatic solutions if they want to provide non-disruptive, personalised ads with the immense amounts of data generated.

Brands that are able to leverage programmatic to make sense of these rich datasets with native advertising will be the ones that triumph. Native advertising, or ads that blend in with the app’s in-feed content, coupled with personalisation, enable brands to offer value to a targeted audience, to spark interest and make users want to engage further with the brand without compromising on the user experience. By displaying such non-disruptive, personalised ads, brands can better target the different demographics within the super app’s consumer base.

While super apps are still in their infancy stage in South East Asia, if China’s success is anything to go by, advertisers around the region will be watching their growth carefully. With consumption habits leaning heavily towards in-app, brands must know how to use this knowledge to reach out to old and new audiences alike.

There is no doubt that super apps are set to dominate this region – and the world – and we are heading into an exciting era. For brands and marketers who want to stay ahead of the game, harnessing data, thinking creatively and really understanding your consumers will ensure your brand stays relevant, both now, and in the future.

Vivi Wang is the business development director for South East Asia at Mobvista.

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