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Modelling Grocery Retail Topic Distributions: Evaluation, Interpretability and Stability

by   Mariflor Vega-Carrasco, et al.

Understanding the shopping motivations behind market baskets has high commercial value in the grocery retail industry. Analyzing shopping transactions demands techniques that can cope with the volume and dimensionality of grocery transactional data while keeping interpretable outcomes. Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) provides a suitable framework to process grocery transactions and to discover a broad representation of customers' shopping motivations. However, summarizing the posterior distribution of an LDA model is challenging, while individual LDA draws may not be coherent and cannot capture topic uncertainty. Moreover, the evaluation of LDA models is dominated by model-fit measures which may not adequately capture the qualitative aspects such as interpretability and stability of topics. In this paper, we introduce clustering methodology that post-processes posterior LDA draws to summarise the entire posterior distribution and identify semantic modes represented as recurrent topics. Our approach is an alternative to standard label-switching techniques and provides a single posterior summary set of topics, as well as associated measures of uncertainty. Furthermore, we establish a more holistic definition for model evaluation, which assesses topic models based not only on their likelihood but also on their coherence, distinctiveness and stability. By means of a survey, we set thresholds for the interpretation of topic coherence and topic similarity in the domain of grocery retail data. We demonstrate that the selection of recurrent topics through our clustering methodology not only improves model likelihood but also outperforms the qualitative aspects of LDA such as interpretability and stability. We illustrate our methods on an example from a large UK supermarket chain.


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