A recommender system for e-retail

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The e-retail sector in South Africa has a significant opportunity to capture a large portion of the country's retail industry. Central to seizing this opportunity is leveraging the advantages that the online setting affords. In particular, the e-retailer can offer an extremely large catalogue of products; far beyond what a traditional retailer is capable of supporting. However, as the catalogue grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for a customer to efficiently discover desirable products. As a consequence, it is important for the e-retailer to develop tools that automatically explore the catalogue for the customer. In this dissertation, we develop a recommender system (RS), whose purpose is to provide suggestions for products that are most likely of interest to a particular customer. There are two primary contributions of this dissertation. First, we describe a set of six characteristics that all effective RS's should possess, namely; accuracy, responsiveness, durability, scalability, model management, and extensibility. Second, we develop an RS that is capable of serving recommendations in an actual e-retail environment. The design of the RS is an attempt to embody the characteristics mentioned above. In addition, to show how the RS supports model selection, we present a proof-of-concept experiment comparing two popular methods for generating recommendations that we implement for this dissertation, namely, implicit matrix factorisation (IMF) and Bayesian personalised ranking (BPR).