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Instacart Market Basket Analysis, 23rd Place Solution

This repository contains scripts to produce the 23rd place solution to Kaggle's Instacart Market Basket Analysis prediction competition.

The code was run using python 3.5 and requires numpy, pandas, scikit-learn, xgboost, lightgbm, and numba. To run the complete solution, download the data files from kaggle into the data folder and execute Running the scripts will require around 64GB RAM.

Data and objective

The raw data consists of several tables that, in combination, contain the complete order histories of ~200,000 shoppers. This includes:

  • The products in each order
  • The time of day and day of week of each order
  • The name and aisle/department of each product

The goal of the competition is to predict, for each individual, which products that they have purchased before they will purchase again in their final order. For the training set, we are given the participants' final order. For the training set, we are given the time and day of their final order, but not the products they ordered.

Predictions for the competition are submitted as an order ID and a list of product IDs predicted for that order. Predictions can include None, a special product ID indicating that no previously ordered products have been ordered. None can be combined with other product IDs in prediction, but will of course only occur on its own in the ground truth.

Predictions are evaluated using the average F1-score across orders.


The raw data is spread across 7 tables, and isn't amenable to standard classification algorithms. To create a tractable data set, I built a table with a row for each (individual, product) combination that occurs in the prior orders, and constructed a set of features based on the attributes and order history of the individual, the product, and the (individual, product) combination. Along with these features was included a target column indicating whether the individual in fact ordered the given product in their final order.

Details of the feature-engineering process can be found in, but here are some highlights:

Simple summary statistics

  • Number of orders for {individual, product, (individual, product)}, average reorder proportion for product among people who order it, individual's average time between orders and total number of distinct items ordered, etc.

Time of day/day of week features

  • Features coding what proportion of {individual, product, (individual, product)} orders were on the same {hour of day, day of week} as the final order.
  • Features coding the average order {hour of day, day of week} for the {individual, product, (individual, product)}. Since hour of day and day of week are inherently circular, I converted these values into angular space and took a circular average.

Recency-weighted past orders

  • An individual might be more likely to reorder a product that they've ordered a lot recently than one they ordered a lot a long time ago. To capture this time dependence, I created a set of recency-weighted predictors that summed the past (individual, product) orders with exponential decay on the order weights. I created these predictors with decay on both the day dimension (# of days since order) and order dimension (# of orders since order), and with a range of different decay rates. I also created weighted predictors with sinusoidal weights to capture bi-weekly (14 day) and monthly patterns.

Product description vectors

  • For each product, we are given the product's name and the name of it's aisle and department. To change this text into usable features, I concatenated the name, aisle and department together and used an off-the-shelf GloVe model to embed it into a semantically meaningful vector space. I then performed principal components analysis to reduce these vectors into a manageable 30-dimensional space, and included them as features.

User vectors

  • From the product vectors, I created vectors coding the average product purchased by each individual, and included these as well.

Following feature engineering, I divided the training data into 11 validation sets at the level of individuals.

Extra training data

To create a larger training set, I reran the feature engineering script, only this time discarding the actual final order and using the second-to-last order as the target. This makes it possible to roughly double the training set. This could in theory also be performed using the third-to-last order, etc, but likely produces diminishing returns, particularly because the number of prior orders used to engineer features shrinks with each discarded order.

"None" model using xgboost

During feature engineering, I included "None" as a product by stipulating that it had been purchased in any order where no previously-ordered products were purchased. At the end of feature engineering, I separated the "None" rows into a separate table, as the predictors of a None order are likely different than those of other products. I trained a set of 10 xgboost models on the data. Each model used all of the "extra" training data, and 9 validation folds of the original training data. One validation fold was used to determine the early-stopping point for the model, and the 11th fold was excluded from all 10 models. After training, the 10 models were averaged together to product predictions for the 11th validation fold and for the test set.

Xgboost and lightgbm models

The main data set was also modeled using gradient boosting machines. Because of the size of the data, I wasn't able to load the entire data set (including the "extra" training data) into memory at once. To get around this each model was trained on a subset of the data. As with the None data, I ran 10 models on the data. Each model was run on 50% of the "extra" training data, and 50% of data from 9 validation folds of the original training data. As with the None model, the 11th fold was excluded from all 10 models, and the remaining fold was used to determine early stopping. The predictions of the 10 models were averaged after fitting.

For most of the competition, I trained the main model using the xgboost package. Late in the competition, I trained a set of models using lightgbm as well. This packages uses a slightly different tree construction algorithm, and allows categorical predictors, meaning I could include "aisle" and "department" directly in the model. Lightgbm also ran must faster for this data set—if I had started using it sooned, I might have been able to do more experimentation!

Sh1ng solution features and model

In the final week of the competition, a competitor going by username sh1ng released his solution code. To maintain competitiveness, I used this model along with the models I trained on my own features. I forked the sh1ng model and made a few small modifications so that it would include the "extra" training data and run using the same 10-fold structure I used for my other models.

Model averaging

After producing average model predictions for each of the three model type (xgboost, lightgbm, and sh1ng), I combined them to form a single set of predictions. To do this I ran a simple logistic regression using the three models' predictions to predict the orders in the 11th validation fold, which had been held out of training for all three model types. This produced the optimal weights with which to combine the three models.

Converting probabilities into predicted market baskets

Having produced predicted probabilities for each product, and for None, the final step was to choose which items to actually include in the market basket prediction to maximize F1 score. To do this I implemented the algorithm outlined in the NIPS paper An Exact Algorithm for F-Measure Maximization. While there are some simpler approximate methods for maximizing F1 scores, they tend to assume that the labels (i.e., products) are independent. This is a reasonable (thought certainly not fully correct) assumption for the products except for None, but None is clearly non-independent from all of the other products. More details of the algorithm and its implementation can be found in


23rd place solution for Kaggle's Instacart Market Basket Analysis competition






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