BCORLE($\lambda$): An Offline Reinforcement Learning and Evaluation Framework for Coupons Allocation in E-commerce Market

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

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Yang Zhang, Bo Tang, Qingyu Yang, Dou An, Hongyin Tang, Chenyang Xi, Xueying LI, Feiyu Xiong


Coupons allocation is an important tool for enterprises to increase the activity and loyalty of users on the e-commerce market. One fundamental problem related is how to allocate coupons within a fixed budget while maximizing users' retention on the e-commerce platform. The online e-commerce environment is complicated and ever changing, so it requires the coupons allocation policy learning can quickly adapt to the changes of the company's business strategy. Unfortunately, existing studies with a huge computation overhead can hardly satisfy the requirements of real-time and fast-response in the real world. Specifically, the problem of coupons allocation within a fixed budget is usually formulated as a Lagrangian problem. Existing solutions need to re-learn the policy once the value of Lagrangian multiplier variable $\lambda$ is updated, causing a great computation overhead. Besides, a mature e-commerce market often faces tens of millions of users and dozens of types of coupons which construct the huge policy space, further increasing the difficulty of solving the problem. To tackle with above problems, we propose a budget constrained offline reinforcement learning and evaluation with $\lambda$-generalization (BCORLE($\lambda$)) framework. The proposed method can help enterprises develop a coupons allocation policy which greatly improves users' retention rate on the platform while ensuring the cost does not exceed the budget. Specifically, $\lambda$-generalization method is proposed to lead the policy learning process can be executed according to different $\lambda$ values adaptively, avoiding re-learning new polices from scratch. Thus the computation overhead is greatly reduced. Further, a novel offline reinforcement learning method and an off-policy evaluation algorithm are proposed for policy learning and policy evaluation, respectively. Finally, experiments on the simulation platform and real-world e-commerce market validate the effectiveness of our approach.