Last week I had the honor to present the findings of our Tenant Experience Gap report at the BOMA China Conference in Shanghai. The opportunity to share our research on the other side of the planet underscores the fact that CRE companies around the world are grappling with the same competitive challenges that we face here in the United States.
In markets like Shanghai, just as in the United States, CRE pros are asking themselves the same question: “How do we provide an experience that helps us attract new tenants and retain the ones we have today?” It made me feel almost at home, even halfway around the world.
Here are four interesting tidbits I learned at BOMA China:
1. Tenant Experience is a global issue
Not only did BOMA China make space for a presentation on our Tenant Experience Gap report (and translate it into Mandarin!), but they also conduct an annual tenant satisfaction benchmarking survey themselves. Sunny Zhang, BOMA China’s research director, shared the results of the 2019 survey—which is now in its third year—during the conference. It’s yet another indicator that competition for tenants is now the reality in China, even if that has not always been the case. In that sense, it is just like any other mature CRE market.
2. Technology trends are also a hot topic in Asia
The pace of technological change is another issue that transcends national borders. In 2018, we partnered with BOMA International on the CRE Technology Trends report, which identified some best practices of the industry’s most technologically effective organizations. Using this research as a foundation, BOMA China conducted a similar study for their domestic market. In the results presented at the conference, they pointed out a few interesting differences between the two markets:
- Both studies identified a group of “Achievers,” industry leaders in technological effectiveness. But while 23 percent of respondents to the BOMA International met the qualifications for this category, only 14 percent of respondents in China did
- As you might expect, Achievers in both studies are better than everyone else at selecting and implementing successful technology systems. However, only 23 percent of the Chinese Achievers regularly succeed in implementing highly effective solutions, compared to 54 percent of Achievers from the BOMA International study
- On the other hand, Chinese respondents were typically about twice as likely to be aware of CRE technology solutions involving cutting-edge solutions like robots, self-driving cars, drones, machine learning, and virtual reality
3. WeChat rules in China
One of my strongest impressions of the conference was that the messaging app WeChat is used by everyone for almost everything. Even the conference itself was promoted on the app (it didn’t even have an updated website!) If you’re not familiar with WeChat, think of it as a combination of texting, Instagram, and Twitter. The Chinese use this app constantly. As soon as I arrived at the event, I signed up and connected with the people at BOMA China through WeChat. Then I was able to receive important updates about the event through the app the entire time I was there.
In our Tenant Experience Gap study, conducted on the U.S. CRE market, we found that 80% of office workers use messaging as their primary means of communicating with friends and family, and nearly 75% say they are comfortable doing the same at work. WeChat shows that the Chinese market is even further ahead in adopting messaging for everything. It is a perfect example of how easy using one tool for all communications – professional and personal – can be on our lives and the lives of CRE tenants.
4. Shanghai Tower is jaw-dropping
During one of the event outings, we had the opportunity to visit the Shanghai Tower, which is almost 6 million square feet. Think about that number for a second. To put it into perspective, Building Engines headquarters is in a building of 600,000 square feet, which makes it only about 10% of the square footage of Shanghai Tower. They call it the “Vertical Bund,” referring to the famous Bund district across the river, whose stretch of European-style buildings that comprises 6 million square feet together. One of the most amazing parts of the building (besides the view!) is the fastest express elevator in the world. We went up almost 2,000 feet in only 53 seconds!
Beyond its sheer scale, Shanghai Tower is a small city unto itself. It has bookstores, coffee shops, bakeries, a museum, multiple event spaces, a hotel, and several gardens. Knowing I was going to get to tour this marvel of a building, I had high expectations. They were exceeded.
5. Everyone loves coffee
Speaking of superlatives, I got to visit another CRE establishment that was right up my alley: The Shanghai Starbucks Reserve Roastery, the largest Starbucks retail store in the world! My coworkers all know me as the guy who needs his Venti latte to get through the morning, so they understand how exciting this was. With over 25,000 square feet of space on 2 levels, it was, well, energizing. Even though tea is the preferred drink for most Chinese people, this place shows that there’s plenty of room for coffee lovers as well.
I’ve been to a lot BOMA events in my career in the CRE industry, but I’m very grateful to BOMA China for the opportunity to attend my first BOMA event outside the United States. The experience shows that many of challenges that the CRE industry is experiencing are relevant around the world. As more and more CRE investors, operators, and occupiers become global companies, it’s a situation that only looks to continue.