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Smith Marketing PhD Student Wins Dissertation Competition

Jan 14, 2014
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A Smith doctoral candidate’s recent findings that guide marketers to focus beyond an online customer’s “last click” have drawn prestigious recognition from the Marketing Science Institute (MSI). 

Alice Li

Hongshuang (Alice) Li, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, is one of four winners of the 2013 MSI Alden G. Clayton Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Competition. Her study will be published as “Attributing Conversions in a Multichannel Online Marketing Environment: An Empirical Model and a Field Experiment," in the Journal of Marketing Research. (Click here to read abstract)

Li’s work, selected from a record-high 97 submissions, proposes a multichannel model to help marketers better evaluate their Internet-advertising spending in such areas as search keywords, emails and display ads.

The three-tier framework measures:

  • Shopper consideration of online channels such as display ads, organic and paid searches, and social networks
  • Visits through these touch points over time
  • The subsequent purchase from the company's website

The process also factors in “carryover” and “spillover” effects of channels and interventions at both the visit and purchase stages.

The approach is especially relevant for sellers of durable goods and travel services whose buyers tend to make multiple visits through multiple channels to their websites before deciding to whether make the purchase.

Though technology enables companies to expand their analysis -- as Li proposes, the less-intuitive “last click” or “weighted-average (of visits to individual channels)” approaches remain widely relied on, note Li and adviser P.K. Kannan, Smith’s Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Marketing Science.

Such metrics as "last click" weigh only visits resulting in a purchase and exclude other visits and significantly the information that can be derived from the non-purchaser.

 “Alice strongly deserved this award,” Kannan said. “It’s a tremendous honor for her and our doctoral program.”

MSI launched the competition in honor of its former president in 1984 to encourage marketing doctoral students to investigate issues of practical significance to marketers. Recipients are given $5,000 and the opportunity to continue developing their research with MSI support.

Debora Viana Thompson ’06 was a winner in 2004 and Smith marketing professors Michael Trusov (2006) and Wendy Moe (1999) have also won the competition.  

Li is on track to receive her PhD in spring 2014. Among earlier academic achievements, she is a 2011-2012 INFORMS Doctor Consortium Fellow and received UMD's Marvin A. Jolson Outstanding Marketing Doctoral Student Award for 2012-2013.

She holds a master's degree in resource and environmental economics from the University of Illinois and a bachelor's in agricultural economics from Renmin University in Beijing. Professionally, she has developed statistical models for marketing-data analysis for Marriott International and Adobe Systems, Inc.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.