Zhenzhen Zhao is an Associate Professor with Digitalisation Academy at SKEMA Business School. Her research interests include intersection of human–computer interaction (HCI) and digital economy. She is particularly interested in the implications of virtual community, mobile applications, gamification, user experience, and design thinking.

Could you tell us more about your field of research, particularly the intersection of marketing and human-computer interaction (HCI)?

My research focus lies at the crossroads of marketing and human-computer interaction (HCI). In the era of digital marketing, a multitude of digital platforms has emerged, such as websites, mobile apps and virtual communities. My research delves into understanding user behaviours within these platforms and shaping their behaviours through interface design. Our approach involves experimental design rooted in psychological foundations.

What results surprised you the most?

I am astonished by the inadequacies in the design of digital platform interfaces. While there is often a strong emphasis on the aesthetic aspects of interface design, the user experience is frequently overlooked.

In our article titled “What Influences Creative Performance in Idea Co-creation: Competitive, Cooperative, or Coopetitive Climate?”, our research examines the prevailing competitive or cooperative models on current crowdsourcing platforms. We propose that competitive platforms could benefit from incorporating cooperative features, such as allowing users to generate ideas that can be viewed, liked, and commented on by participants. Similarly, introducing rewards and leaderboards to cooperative platforms can make them more coopetitive, enhancing both the quantity of ideas and the level of creativity.

In our article “Expert-Centric Design Inspection of Branded Apps: A Detailed Examination of Marketing and Interface Design Features,” we employ evaluation criteria to assess 73 apps developed by 11 leading global FMCG brands. The findings reveal that branded app designs frequently fall short in addressing crucial design features. These shortcomings include insufficient guidance for users to find products based on their needs, a lack of placement for key information in easily readable displays, and a failure to make the search function readily available, among others.

What is the research you are currently carrying out?

I am presently engaged in multiple research projects, all centred around exploring how interface design can influence user behaviours on digital platforms. One project involves designing crowdsourcing platforms to enhance participants’ creativity, while another project focuses on designing matching apps to balance users’ ambivalence between their desire to share personal information and their reluctance to do so.

How does this study impact society at large?

Interface design plays a crucial role in the success of digital products and platforms. The interface is often the first point of contact between a user and a product, it directly influences the overall user experience. Interface design is essential for designing platforms that are not only visually appealing but also capable of delivering a positive overall experience. This positive experience, in turn, is crucial for achieving consumer satisfaction and retention — the ultimate goal of marketing.

Extended read

  • Zhao, Z., Renard, D., Elmoukhliss, M., & Balague, C. (2016). What affects creative performance in idea co-creation: competitive, cooperative or coopetitive climate?. International Journal of Innovation Management, 20(04), 1640002.
  • Zhao, Z., & Renard, D. (2018). Viral promotional advergames: How intrinsic playfulness and the extrinsic value of prizes elicit behavioral responses. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 41(1), 94-103.
  • Zhao, Z., & Huang, Z. (2023). Expert-centric design inspection of branded apps: a close look at marketing and interface design features. Information Technology & People, 36(4), 1385-1413.
  • Zhao, Z., & Oberoi, P. (2022). Designing crowdsolving Ba: A closer look at the features of crowdsolving platforms to manage organizational knowledge. Information & Management, 59(4), 103641.
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