Evergage Contextual Bandit: Advanced Machine Learning for Selecting the "Optimal Offer"


Marketers are busy people – they have content to produce, audiences to engage and campaigns to run. They also have to make sure their content and offers are relevant to their visitors and email recipients – ideally at an individual level. But how can this be accomplished at scale? We are excited to introduce "Contextual Bandit," a major enhancement to the machine learning capabilities of the Evergage platform. Contextual Bandit is a sophisticated algorithm that evaluates both the probability of someone engaging with a particular offer as well as the business value of the offer to the company.

A Note on Bounding Regret of the C$^2$UCB Contextual Combinatorial Bandit

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We revisit the proof by Qin et al. (2014) of bounded regret of the C$^2$UCB contextual combinatorial bandit. We demonstrate an error in the proof of volumetric expansion of the moment matrix, used in upper bounding a function of context vector norms. We prove a relaxed inequality that yields the originally-stated regret bound.

Semiparametric Contextual Bandits

arXiv.org Machine Learning

This paper studies semiparametric contextual bandits, a generalization of the linear stochastic bandit problem where the reward for an action is modeled as a linear function of known action features confounded by an non-linear action-independent term. We design new algorithms that achieve $\tilde{O}(d\sqrt{T})$ regret over $T$ rounds, when the linear function is $d$-dimensional, which matches the best known bounds for the simpler unconfounded case and improves on a recent result of Greenewald et al. (2017). Via an empirical evaluation, we show that our algorithms outperform prior approaches when there are non-linear confounding effects on the rewards. Technically, our algorithms use a new reward estimator inspired by doubly-robust approaches and our proofs require new concentration inequalities for self-normalized martingales.

Improved Regret Bounds for Oracle-Based Adversarial Contextual Bandits

Neural Information Processing Systems

We propose a new oracle-based algorithm, BISTRO+, for the adversarial contextual bandit problem, where either contexts are drawn i.i.d. or the sequence of contexts is known a priori, but where the losses are picked adversarially. Our algorithm is computationally efficient, assuming access to an offline optimization oracle, and enjoys a regret of order $O((KT)^{\frac{2}{3}}(\log N)^{\frac{1}{3}})$, where $K$ is the number of actions, $T$ is the number of iterations, and $N$ is the number of baseline policies. Our result is the first to break the $O(T^{\frac{3}{4}})$ barrier achieved by recent algorithms, which was left as a major open problem. Our analysis employs the recent relaxation framework of (Rakhlin and Sridharan, ICML'16).

Fairness in Learning: Classic and Contextual Bandits

Neural Information Processing Systems

We introduce the study of fairness in multi-armed bandit problems. Our fairness definition demands that, given a pool of applicants, a worse applicant is never favored over a better one, despite a learning algorithm's uncertainty over the true payoffs. In the classic stochastic bandits problem we provide a provably fair algorithm based on "chained" confidence intervals, and prove a cumulative regret bound with a cubic dependence on the number of arms. We further show that any fair algorithm must have such a dependence, providing a strong separation between fair and unfair learning that extends to the general contextual case. In the general contextual case, we prove a tight connection between fairness and the KWIK (Knows What It Knows) learning model: a KWIK algorithm for a class of functions can be transformed into a provably fair contextual bandit algorithm and vice versa. This tight connection allows us to provide a provably fair algorithm for the linear contextual bandit problem with a polynomial dependence on the dimension, and to show (for a different class of functions) a worst-case exponential gap in regret between fair and non-fair learning algorithms.