On (Re-Scaled) Multi-Attempt Approximation of Customer Choice Model and its Application to Assortment Optimization
19 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2016 Last revised: 8 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 6, 2016
Motivated by the classic exogenous demand model and the recently developed Markov chain model, we propose a new approximation to the general customer choice model based on random utility called multi-attempt model, in which a customer may consider several substitutes before finally deciding to not purchase anything. We show that the approximation error of multi-attempt model decreases exponentially in the number of attempts. However, despite its strong theoretical performance, the empirical performance of multi-attempt model is not satisfactory. This motivates us to construct a modification of multi-attempt model called re-scaled multi-attempt model. We show that re-scaled 2-attempt model is exact when the underlying true choice model is Multinomial Logit (MNL); if, however, the underlying true choice model is not MNL, we show numerically that the approximation quality of re-scaled 2-attempt model is very close to that of Markov chain model. The key feature of our proposed approach is that the resulting approximate choice probability can be explicitly written. From a practical perspective, this allows the decision maker to use off-the-shelf solvers, or borrow existing algorithms from literature, to solve a general assortment optimization problem with a variety of real-world constraints.
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