A/B Testing for Recommender Systems in a Two-sided Marketplace

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Preetam Nandy, Divya Venugopalan, Chun Lo, Shaunak Chatterjee


Two-sided marketplaces are standard business models of many online platforms (e.g., Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn), wherein the platforms have consumers, buyers or content viewers on one side and producers, sellers or content-creators on the other. Consumer side measurement of the impact of a treatment variant can be done via simple online A/B testing. Producer side measurement is more challenging because the producer experience depends on the treatment assignment of the consumers. Existing approaches for producer side measurement are either based on graph cluster-based randomization or on certain treatment propagation assumptions. The former approach results in low-powered experiments as the producer-consumer network density increases and the latter approach lacks a strict notion of error control. In this paper, we propose (i) a quantification of the quality of a producer side experiment design, and (ii) a new experiment design mechanism that generates high-quality experiments based on this quantification. Our approach, called UniCoRn (Unifying Counterfactual Rankings), provides explicit control over the quality of the experiment and its computation cost. Further, we prove that our experiment design is optimal to the proposed design quality measure. Our approach is agnostic to the density of the producer-consumer network and does not rely on any treatment propagation assumption. Moreover, unlike the existing approaches, we do not need to know the underlying network in advance, making this widely applicable to the industrial setting where the underlying network is unknown and challenging to predict a priori due to its dynamic nature. We use simulations to validate our approach and compare it against existing methods. We also deployed UniCoRn in an edge recommendation application that serves tens of millions of members and billions of edge recommendations daily.