A Model-Based Embedding Technique for Segmenting Customers
59 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2015 Last revised: 15 Dec 2017
Date Written: January 20, 2017
We consider the problem of segmenting a large population of customers into non-overlapping groups with similar preferences, using diverse preference observations such as purchases, ratings, clicks, etc. over subsets of items. We focus on the setting where the universe of items is large (ranging from thousands to millions) and unstructured (lacking well-defined attributes) and each customer provides observations for only a few items. These data characteristics limit the applicability of existing techniques in marketing and machine learning. To overcome these limitations, we propose a model-based embedding technique which takes the customer observations and a probabilistic model class generating the observations as inputs, and outputs an embedding --- a low-dimensional representation in Euclidean space --- for each customer. We then cluster the embeddings to obtain the segments. Theoretically, we derive precise necessary and sufficient conditions that guarantee asymptotic recovery of the true segments. Empirically, we demonstrate the speed and performance of our method in two real-world case studies: (a) upto 84% improvement in accuracy of new movie recommendations on the MovieLens dataset and (b) upto 8% improvement in the performance of similar product recommendations algorithm on an offline dataset at eBay. We show that our method outperforms standard latent class, empirical bayesian and demographic-based techniques.
Keywords: Segmentation, Estimation/statistical techniques, embedding, missing data
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