Product classification in Commerce search (e.g., Google Product Search, Bing Shopping) involves associating categories to offers of products from a large number of merchants. The categorized offers are used in many tasks including product taxonomy browsing and matching merchant offers to products in the catalog. Hence, learning a product classifier with high precision and recall is of fundamental importance in order to provide high quality shopping experience.
A product offer typically consists of a short textual description and an image depicting the product. Traditional approaches to this classification task is to learn a classifier using only the textual descriptions of the products. In this paper, we show that the use of images, a weaker signal in our setting, in conjunction with the textual descriptions, a more discriminative signal, can considerably improve the precision of the classification task, irrespective of the type of classifier being used. We present a novel classification approach, Confusion Driven Probabilistic Fusion++ (CDPF++), that is cognizant of the disparity in the discriminative power of different types of signals and hence makes use of the confusion matrix of dominant signal (text in our setting) to prudently leverage the weaker signal (image), for an improved performance. Our evaluation performed on data from a major Commerce search engine’s catalog shows a 12% (absolute) improvement in precision at 100% coverage, and a 16% (absolute) improvement in recall at 90% precision compared to classifiers that only use textual description of products. In addition, CDPF++ also provides a more accurate classifier based only on the dominant signal (text) that can be used in situations in which only the dominant signal is available during application time.