Style in the Long Tail: Discovering Unique Interests with Latent Variable Models in Large Scale Social E-commerce

author: Diane J. Hu, Etsy, Inc.
published: Oct. 7, 2014,   recorded: August 2014,   views: 2987


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Purchasing decisions in many product categories are heavily influenced by the shopper's aesthetic preferences. It's insufficient to simply match a shopper with popular items from the category in question; a successful shopping experience also identifies products that match those aesthetics. The challenge of capturing shoppers' styles becomes more difficult as the size and diversity of the marketplace increases. At Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods with over 30 million diverse listings, the problem of capturing taste is particularly important -- users come to the site specifically to find items that match their eclectic styles.

In this paper, we describe our methods and experiments for deploying two new style-based recommender systems on the Etsy site. We use Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) to discover trending categories and styles on Etsy, which are then used to describe a user's "interest" profile. We also explore hashing methods to perform fast nearest neighbor search on a map-reduce framework, in order to efficiently obtain recommendations. These techniques have been implemented successfully at very large scale, substantially improving many key business metrics.

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