Causal Calculus and Actionable Associations in Market-Basket Data

29 January 2016
Marco Brambilla

“Market-Basket (MB) and Household (HH) data provide a fertile substrate for the inference of association between marketing activity (e.g.: prices, promotions, advertisement, etc.) and customer behaviour (e.g.: customers driven to a store, specific product purchases, joint product purchases, etc.). The main aspect of MB and HH data which makes them suitable for this type of inference is the large number of variables of interest they contain at a granularity that is fit for purpose (e.g.: which items are bought together, at what frequency are items bought by a specific household, etc.).

A large number of methods are available to researchers and practitioners to infer meaningful networks of associations between variables of interest (e.g.: Bayesian networks, association rules, etc.). Inferred associations arise from applying statistical inference to the data. In order to use statistical association (correlation) to support an inference of causal association (“which is driving which”), an explicit theory of causality is needed.

Such a theory of causality can be used to design experiments and analyse the resultant data; in such a context certain statistical associations can be interpreted as evidence of causal associations.

On observational data (as opposed to experimental), the link between statistical and causal associations is less straightforward and it requires a theory of causality which is formal enough to support an appropriate calculus (e.g.: do-calculus) of counterfactuals and networks of causation.

My talk will be focused on providing retail analytic problems which may motivate an interest in exploring causal calculi’s potential benefits and challenges.”

  • Industrial and Interdisciplinary Workshops