Cascade Ranking for Operational Ecommerce Search

author: Shichen Liu, Alibaba Group
published: Oct. 9, 2017,   recorded: August 2017,   views: 972

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In the 'Big Data' era, many real-world applications like search involve the ranking problem for a large number of items. It is important to obtain effective ranking results and at the same time obtain the results efficiently in a timely manner for providing good user experience and saving computational costs. Valuable prior research has been conducted for learning to efficiently rank like the cascade ranking (learning) model, which uses a sequence of ranking functions to progressively filter some items and rank the remaining items. However, most existing research of learning to efficiently rank in search is studied in a relatively small computing environments with simulated user queries. This paper presents novel research and thorough study of designing and deploying a Cascade model in a Large-scale Operational E-commerce Search application (CLOES), which deals with hundreds of millions of user queries per day with hundreds of servers. The challenge of the real-world application provides new insights for research: 1). Real-world search applications often involve multiple factors of preferences or constraints with respect to user experience and computational costs such as search accuracy, search latency, size of search results and total CPU cost, while most existing search solutions only address one or two factors; 2). Effectiveness of e-commerce search involves multiple types of user behaviors such as click and purchase, while most existing cascade ranking in search only models the click behavior. Based on these observations, a novel cascade ranking model is designed and deployed in an operational e-commerce search application. An extensive set of experiments demonstrate the advantage of the proposed work to address multiple factors of effectiveness, efficiency and user experience in the real-world application.

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