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Should Only Popular Products Be Stocked? Warehouse Assortment Selection for E-Commerce Companies

Li, Xiaobo; Lin, Hongyuan; Liu, Fang

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Authors

Xiaobo Li

Hongyuan Lin



Abstract

Problem definition: This paper studies the single-warehouse assortment selection problem that aims to minimize the order fulfillment cost under the cardinality constraint. We propose two fulfillment-related cost functions corresponding to spillover fulfillment and order splitting. This problem includes the fill rate maximization problem as a special case. We show that although the objective function is submodular for a broad class of cost functions, the fill rate maximization problem with the largest order size being two is NP-hard. Methodology/results: To make the problem tractable to solve, we formulate the general warehouse assortment problem under the two types of cost functions as mixed integer linear programs (MILPs). We also provide a dynamic programming algorithm to solve the problem in polynomial time if orders are nonoverlapping. Furthermore, we propose a simple heuristic called the marginal choice indexing (MCI) policy that allows the warehouse to store the most popular products. This policy is easy to compute, and hence, it is scalable to large-size problems. Although the performance of MCI can be arbitrarily bad in some extreme scenarios, we find a general condition under which it is optimal. This condition is satisfied by many multi-purchase choice models. Managerial implications: Through extensive numerical experiments on a real-world data set from RiRiShun Logistics, we find that the MCI policy is surprisingly near optimal in all the settings we tested. Simply applying the MCI policy, the fill rate is estimated to improve by 9.18% on average compared with the current practice for the local transfer centers on the training data set. More surprisingly, the MCI policy outperforms the MILP optimal solution in 14 of 25 cases on the test data set, illustrating its robustness against demand fluctuations.

Citation

Li, X., Lin, H., & Liu, F. (2024). Should Only Popular Products Be Stocked? Warehouse Assortment Selection for E-Commerce Companies. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.2022.0428

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 17, 2024
Online Publication Date May 30, 2024
Publication Date May 30, 2024
Deposit Date Apr 18, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 12, 2024
Journal Manufacturing & Service Operations Management
Print ISSN 1523-4614
Publisher Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
DOI https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.2022.0428
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/2387768

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