During my time at PRS IN VIVO, I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to spend extended periods of time working in three of our global offices: 3 months in Shanghai, 3 months in Paris, and 40 months in Teaneck! Each of these unique experiences has allowed me to learn a bit more about the differences and similarities between these cultures and how people work and shop.
One of the main differences I noticed between work life in China vs. France and the U.S. was the advancement of technology. In our presentations, we often discuss how China is leading the path of e-commerce, and I was able to witness this firsthand. Even though Shanghai is the land of a thousand shopping malls (seriously, so many shopping malls!), it seems like most Shanghai residents prefer to limit shopping center usage to dining, browsing, and socializing, making most of their actual purchases online. E-tailers like T-mall, Alibaba, and Taobao are dominating the retail landscape.
Toward the end of my stays, I asked my colleagues where to do some last minute shopping for friends and family. French colleagues recommended I check out famous shopping centers such as Galleries Lafayette or Printemps or weekend markets set up in tourist areas, while my Chinese colleagues all had the same answer: order it off Taobao! (Side note: I ended up doing most of my souvenir shopping in Tianzifang, an area I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Shanghai.)
But advancements in technology aren’t just limited to online shopping. Brick and mortar stores have incorporated new advancements to draw in customers. A local skincare store featured a computer screen that scans shopper’s faces and recommends the best skincare and cosmetics for that individual’s skin type and coloring. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery (pictures 2 and 3) offers an Augmented Reality experience where shoppers can point their phones at areas of the store and information about the “bean-to-cup” story will appear along with collectible badges. While this is only one of two locations like it in the worlds, Teaneck employees can look forward to the New York location set to open later this year.
While the U.S. still has plenty of laggard businesses that don’t even accept credit cards, China’s embrace of mobile payment is so pervasive that even the population experiencing homelessness has adapted to using QR codes to accept mobile donations. Life in Shanghai would not have been possible without an app called WeChat. The Shanghainese use WeChat for EVERYTHING: mobile payment, texting, location sharing/navigation, social media, phone calls, ordering at restaurants while waiting to be seated, translation and more. You name it and WeChat does it!
It is definitely interesting to witness the differences between these cultures and countries. While some prioritize being on the cutting edge of innovation and utilizing technology, others prefer the leisure and enjoyment of visiting brick and mortar stores and perusing the products in person and many brands have started exploring ways to bridge the gap through innovative and engaging in-store technology. Experiencing these differences firsthand is what makes the world such a fascinating place to live and to travel.