Efficiently evaluating targeting policies: Improving on champion vs. Challenger experiments

Duncan Simester, Artem Timoshenko, Spyros I. Zoumpoulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Champion versus challenger field experiments are widely used to compare the performance of different targeting policies. These experiments randomly assign customers to receive marketing actions recommended by either the existing (champion) policy or the new (challenger) policy, and then compare the aggregate outcomes. We recommend an alternative experimental design and propose an alternative estimation approach to improve the evaluation of targeting policies. The recommended experimental design randomly assigns customers to marketing actions. This allows evaluation of any targeting policy without requiring an additional experiment, including policies designed after the experiment is implemented. The proposed estimation approach identifies customers for whom different policies recommend the same action and recognizes that for these customers there is no difference in performance. This allows for a more precise comparison of the policies. We illustrate the advantages of the experimental design and estimation approach using data from an actual field experiment. We also demonstrate that the grouping of customers, which is the foundation of our estimation approach, can help to improve the training of new targeting policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3412-3424
Number of pages13
JournalManagement Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Counterfactual policy logging
  • Field experiments
  • Machine learning
  • Policy evaluation
  • Targeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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