Combining Computational Intelligence into Marketing – Dr. Xi LI

Combining Computational Intelligence into Marketing – Dr. Xi LI

Born with a strong sense of curiosity, Dr. Xi Li is deeply interested in marketing strategies and economic phenomena. Impressed by the high quality of research and the rapid growth of HKU Business School, Dr. Li had officially joined us in July 2021 as an Associate Professor in Marketing.

Curious about product pricing in supermarket

“When I shop in the supermarket, I always pay attention to product price. I ask myself why a product is sold at $100 yesterday, but at $80 today. Why isn’t it sold at $80 every day? Is this really good for the company?” Dr. Li said with a laugh that he was already exhibiting the curiosity of a researcher prior to becoming a marketing scholar.

Although being interested in marketing and economics, Dr. Li had chosen to study computer science in his undergraduate years. He explained that, “The IT sector was taking off back then, and I had a strong feeling that it will be world-changing. In addition, the more I know about computer science, the more I realise how it can be used to solve managerial issues and even helping managers to make marketing decisions.” After being trained as a computer scientist, Dr. Li had also taken a Master’s degree in Operations Research and a PhD in Management, and combines knowledge from these areas to address real-life marketing problems. Although existing economics and marketing theories can explain a lot of business phenomena, the emergence of new issues requires marketing scholars to create new knowledge, and provide new answers. The opportunities and problems that big data brings to marketers are one of them.

Researching quantitative marketing with a two pronged approach

As the development of big data is gaining steam, Dr. Li is interested in studying how this new player can facilitate marketers in pricing and other marketing decisions. In addition to conducting empirical research, Dr. Li also strives to leverage his expertise in computer science to better analyze marketing data. “Other than traditional numerical data, text, graphics and videos are also data that could potentially be processed into big data. I am seeking to develop algorithms to help marketers use these data to understand their consumers.” said Dr Li.

Studying big data from policy making perspective

A recent paper written by Dr. Li studies the privacy issues brought by big data. “Nowadays firms may know you more than you know yourself. For example, search engines know about your interests, ride-hailing apps record your daily routine, sales platforms understand what products and brands are your favourites. As the information asymmetry between firms and consumers have reversed, consumers often feel uneasy about it,” said Dr. Li.

Against this backdrop, Dr. Li had conducted a research from a policy making perspective on how government regulate private companies on their data collection behaviours. Dr. Li posits that firms will explore every possible avenue to collect data from consumers without government regulation. The paper will look at existing data regulation regimes in the EU and the US, and also the Chinese government’s follow-up actions against the data hoarding behaviours of Didichuxing. Dr. Li believes that firms should strike a balance between profit maximisation and social responsibilities. “Data collection is neutral, but the government should take the market condition into consideration while deciding whether restrict a firm’s data collection practice,” said Dr. Li.

To nurture marketing students with advanced computational knowledge

Apart from contributing his expertise in computer science to propel the development of marketing research, Dr. Li also seeks to upskill the competitiveness of HKU marketing majors’ students by equipping them with advance IT skills. He foresees that quantitative marketing is the future, students must learn how to conduct big data analysis in order to stay relevant in the market. In sem 1 2021, Dr. Li will be teaching digital marketing for undergraduate, delivering knowledge of algorithms and big data for postgraduate.

Dr. Li believes that HKU Business School is an ideal place for academic research. He commented that, “The reputation of HKU and the faculty’s strong connection with the Asian-Pacific business community can definitely help marketing scholars to conduct research more effectively, which in turn enables scholars to deliver update knowledge to students, and nurture high quality talents for the society.”

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