On the Complexity of A/B Testing

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Emilie Kaufmann, Olivier Cappé, Aurélien Garivier ;
Proceedings of The 27th Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 35:461-481, 2014.

Abstract

A/B testing refers to the task of determining the best option among two alternatives that yield random outcomes. We provide distribution-dependent lower bounds for the performance of A/B testing that improve over the results currently available both in the fixed-confidence (or δ-PAC) and fixed-budget settings. When the distribution of the outcomes are Gaussian, we prove that the complexity of the fixed-confidence and fixed-budget settings are equivalent, and that uniform sampling of both alternatives is optimal only in the case of equal variances. In the common variance case, we also provide a stopping rule that terminates faster than existing fixed-confidence algorithms. In the case of Bernoulli distributions, we show that the complexity of fixed-budget setting is smaller than that of fixed-confidence setting and that uniform sampling of both alternatives—though not optimal—is advisable in practice when combined with an appropriate stopping criterion.

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