Decision Making Problems with Funnel Structure: A Multi-Task Learning Approach with Application to Email Marketing Campaigns

Ziping Xu · Amirhossein Meisami · Ambuj Tewari

Keywords: [ Models and Methods ] [ Multi-task and transfer learning ]


This paper studies the decision making problem with Funnel Structure. Funnel structure, a well-known concept in the marketing field, occurs in those systems where the decision maker interacts with the environment in a layered manner receiving far fewer observations from deep layers than shallow ones. For example, in the email marketing campaign application, the layers correspond to Open, Click and Purchase events. Conversions from Click to Purchase happen very infrequently because a purchase cannot be made unless the link in an email is clicked on.

We formulate this challenging decision making problem as a contextual bandit with funnel structure and develop a multi-task learning algorithm that mitigates the lack of sufficient observations from deeper layers. We analyze both the prediction error and the regret of our algorithms. We verify our theory on prediction errors through a simple simulation. Experiments on both a simulated environment and an environment based on real-world data from a major email marketing company show that our algorithms offer significant improvement over previous methods.

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