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The Hut Group taps tech talent at leading UK universities in inaugural programming contest
Computer screen with someone typing

Winning Entry Already Improving Customer Experience and Revenue Growth

Twelve Contestants Offered Tech Jobs With The Group

The Hut Group Limited (the Group), one of the world’s fastest growing online Lifestyle and Health and Beauty groups, has tapped in to technology talent at the UK’s leading universities with its first ever programming contest and the results are already delivering new levels of customer engagement and revenue growth across its family of 15 websites.

The Hut Group Recommendation Challenge 2013 was the first ever national university-based programming competition designed to attract talented computer scientists and machine learning enthusiasts to the challenge of making personalised user recommendations from online data.

Recommendation systems, the algorithms that analyse consumer spending patterns to provide online shoppers with personalised purchase recommendations are critical drivers of customer engagement and revenue for online retailers such as The Hut.

The competition challenged contestants to build an algorithm that made predictions about what particular customers would buy in a two month time period based on their purchase history in the previous 18 months. The Hut provided contestants with a large anonymised dataset from, the UK’s leading sports nutrition website, and a target of beating The Hut Group’s current algorithms, which perform at 40% accuracy.

The results were striking with submissions from 19 teams outperforming the Hut Group’s existing algorithms and the top submission achieving an incredible accuracy level of more than 90%.
In all, 88 teams with 113 individual members entered the Challenge, with teams coming from 15 leading UK universities including Cambridge (21), Imperial College (15), St. Andrews (15), Oxford (6), Queen Mary (6), and Newcastle (6). Over 200 submissions were made, with the top teams each submitting over 30 different algorithms. The top 10 teams were invited to an open day to share their algorithms and the strategy they used during the Challenge and also to interview for tech jobs with the Group.

Commenting on the success of the Challenge, Matthew Moulding, CEO of The Hut Group, said: “Providing personalisation to our customers – making it easier for them to shop for more of what they want – is a key part of our plan to develop The Hut Group into the world’s leading online health and beauty destination.

“The response to the Recommendation Challenge from leading universities across the country has been incredible and the winning result, with an accuracy of over 90%, vividly demonstrates the world class quality of young technology talent in the UK.”

“The winning algorithms are being incorporated across our family of websites to enhance the customer experience and 12 contestants have already been offered a tech job within the Group. With more than 75 full time graduate posts created over the last twelve months, and plans for further robust growth, The Hut Group offers ambitious and bright technology graduates fantastic career opportunities at the cutting edge of business and computer science.”