Sequential Search with Off-Policy Reinforcement Learning

Recent years have seen a significant amount of interests in Sequential Recommendation (SR), which aims to understand and model the sequential user behaviors and the interactions between users and items over time. Surprisingly, despite the huge success Sequential Recommendation has achieved, there is little study on Sequential Search (SS), a twin learning task that takes into account a user's current and past search queries, in addition to behavior on historical query sessions. The SS learning task is even more important than the counterpart SR task for most of E-commence companies due to its much larger online serving demands as well as traffic volume. To this end, we propose a highly scalable hybrid learning model that consists of an RNN learning framework leveraging all features in short-term user-item interactions, and an attention model utilizing selected item-only features from long-term interactions. As a novel optimization step, we fit multiple short user sequences in a single RNN pass within a training batch, by solving a greedy knapsack problem on the fly. Moreover, we explore the use of off-policy reinforcement learning in multi-session personalized search ranking. Specifically, we design a pairwise Deep Deterministic Policy Gradient model that efficiently captures users' long term reward in terms of pairwise classification error. Extensive ablation experiments demonstrate significant improvement each component brings to its state-of-the-art baseline, on a variety of offline and online metrics.

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