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Modeling Time to Open of Emails with a Latent State for User Engagement Level

ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM)

Published February 5, 2018

Moumita Sinha, Vishwa Vinay, Harvineet Singh

Email messages have been an important mode of communication, not only for work, but also for social interactions and marketing. When messages have time sensitive information, it becomes relevant for the sender to know what is the expected time within which the email will be read by the recipient. In this paper we use a survival analysis framework to predict the time to open an email once it has been received. We use the Cox Proportional Hazards (CoxPH) model that offers a way to combine various features that might affect the event of opening an email. As an extension, we also apply a mixture model (MM) approach to CoxPH that distinguishes between recipients, based on a latent state of how prone to opening the messages each individual is. We compare our approach with standard classification and regression models. While the classification model provides predictions on the likelihood of an email being opened, the regression model provides prediction of the real-valued time to open. The use of survival analysis based methods allows us to jointly model both the open event as well as the time-to-open. We experimented on a large real-world dataset of marketing emails sent in a 3-month time duration. The mixture model achieves the best accuracy on our data where a high proportion of email messages go unopened.

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