Shopping in the Multiverse: A Counterfactual Approach to In-Session Attribution

20 Jul 2020  ·  Jacopo Tagliabue, Bingqing Yu ·

We tackle the challenge of in-session attribution for on-site search engines in eCommerce. We phrase the problem as a causal counterfactual inference, and contrast the approach with rule-based systems from industry settings and prediction models from the multi-touch attribution literature. We approach counterfactuals in analogy with treatments in formal semantics, explicitly modeling possible outcomes through alternative shopper timelines; in particular, we propose to learn a generative browsing model over a target shop, leveraging the latent space induced by prod2vec embeddings; we show how natural language queries can be effectively represented in the same space and how "search intervention" can be performed to assess causal contribution. Finally, we validate the methodology on a synthetic dataset, mimicking important patterns emerged in customer interviews and qualitative analysis, and we present preliminary findings on an industry dataset from a partnering shop.

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