Improving Match Rates in Dating Markets through Assortment Optimization

Date: October 27, 2022
Time: 11:00 am
Room: Zoom
Speaker: Fanyin Zheng 
(Columbia Business School)

We study how online platforms can leverage the behavioral considerations of their users to improve their assortment decisions. Motivated by our collaboration with an online dating platform, we study how a platform should select the assortments to show to each user in each period to maximize the expected number of matches in a time horizon, considering that a match is formed if two users like each other, possibly on different periods. Increasing match rates is one of the most common objectives among many online platforms. We provide insights on how to leverage users’ behavior towards this end. We model the platform’s problem and use econometric tools to estimate the main inputs of our model, namely, the like and log in probabilities, using our partner’s data. We exploit a change in our partner’s algorithm to estimate the causal effect of previous matches on the like behavior of users. Based on this finding, we propose a family of heuristics to solve for the platform’s problem, and we use simulations and a field experiment to assess the benefits of our algorithm. First, we find that the number of matches obtained in the recent past has a negative effect on the like behavior of users. Leveraging this finding, we propose a family of heuristics that decide the assortment to show to each user on each day. Finally, using simulations and a field experiment we show that our algorithm can yield 40% more matches relative to our partner’s algorithm. Our results highlight the importance of correctly accounting for the behavior of users on both ends of a transaction to improve the operational efficiency of matching platforms. Our methodology can also be applied to online matching platforms in other settings.


I am an assistant professor at Columbia Business School.

My research interests are in the areas of empirical operations management, industrial organization, and applied econometrics. Using causal inference and structural estimation tools, I study how individuals and firms make decisions using data with a focus on service systems where there are complex interactions or dynamics. My work has centered around two application areas: design of platforms and marketplaces and healthcare operations management.

I currently serve as an associate editor for Management Science and Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.

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