How to run a holdback?

Overview

When you want to evaluate Promoted's impact, you can run a holdback experiment. The control arm will get your original rankings. The treatment arm will get Promoted rankings. We have two common ways of running holdbacks:

  • You can run a holdback from your code using the Promoted server-side SDK.
    • Pros: This allows the control to have lower latency (no blocking call to Promoted) and it gives you easier to access to the experiment arms.
    • Cons: This is more coding work.
  • Promoted can run a holdback in our Delivery API where the control returns the original original rankings. This has the opposite pros/cons.

Holdback using Promoted server-side SDKs

Simple example

Here is an example in Typescript. Similar code exists in the other server-side SDKs.

// Create a small config indicating the experiment is a 50-50 experiment where 10% of the users are activated.
const experimentConfig = twoArmExperimentConfig5050("promoted-v1", 5, 5);

async function callPromoted(
    products: Product[],
    userInfo: UserInfo): Promise<Insertion[]> {

  // logUserId is the anonymous user id from the request.
  const experimentMembership = twoArmExperimentMembership(userInfo.logUserId, experimentConfig);

  const responsePromise = promotedClient.deliver({
    ...
    // If experimentActivated can be false (e.g. only 5% of users get put into an experiment) and
    // you want the non-activated behavior to not call Delivery API, then you need to specify onlyLog to false.
    // This is common during ramp up.  `onlyLog` can be dropped if it's always false.
    //
    // Example:
    // `onlyLog: experimentMembership == undefined`
    experiment: experimentMembership,
    ...
  });

  return ...
}

Here's an example using

// Or use your own custom experiment memberships (e.g. `getExperimentActivationAndArm`)
// and send Promoted:
// (1) if the user is activated into the experiment and
// (2) which arm to perform.
//
// [boolean, boolean]
const [experimentActivated, inTreatment] = getExperimentActivationAndArm(experimentName, logUserId);

// Only log if the user is activated into the experiment.
const experimentMembership = experimentActivated
  ? {
      cohortId: experimentName,
      arm: inTreatment ? 'TREATMENT' : 'CONTROL',
    }
  : null;

More advanced example

Here's a more complex example that supports:

  • Running an experiment.
  • Separate configuration for internal users.
  • Also supports skipping the experiment and only logging (or only calling Delivery API) through the same method.
/**
 * @param userInfo { userId, logUserId, isInternalUser }
 * @param overrideOnlyLog If set, skips the experiment and forces the onlyLog option.
 */
async function callPromoted(
    products: Product[],
    userInfo: UserInfo,
    overrideOnlyLog : boolean | undefined): Promise<Insertion[]> {

  let onlyLog: boolean | undefined = undefined;
  let experiment: CohortMembership | undefined = undefined;
  if (overrideOnlyLog != undefined) {
    onlyLog = overrideOnlyLog;
    // Do not specify experiment when overrideOnlyLog is specified.
  } else if (userInfo.isInternalUser) {
    // Call Promoted Delivery API for internal users.
    onlyLog = false;
    // Keep experiment undefined for internal users.
  } else {
    // Normal external user for a call that should run as an experiment.
    experiment = twoArmExperimentMembership(logUserId, experimentConfig);
  }

  const responsePromise = promotedClient.deliver({
    onlyLog,
    experiment,
    request: {
      userInfo,
      ...
    },
    insertionPageType: InsertionPageType.Unpaged,
  });

  // Construct the map while the RPC is happening.
  const productIdToProduct = products.reduce((map, product) => {
      map[product.id] = {...product};
      return map;
  }, {});
  const clientResponse = await responsePromise;
  // Do not block.  Log asynchronously.
  clientResponse.log().catch(handleError);
  return toContents<Product>(
      clientResponse.responseInsertions,
      productIdToProduct
  );
}

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