Mediation Analysis in Online Experiments at Disentangling Direct and Indirect Effects

Bahattin Tolga Öztan, Zoé van Havre, Caio Gomes, Lukas Vermeer

Online experimentation is at the core of's customer-centric product development. While randomised controlled trials are a powerful tool for estimating the overall effects of product changes on business metrics, they often fall short in explaining the mechanism of change. This becomes problematic when decision-making depends on being able to distinguish between the direct effect of a treatment on some outcome variable and its indirect effect via a mediator variable. In this paper, we demonstrate the need for mediation analyses in online experimentation, and use simulated data to show how these methods help identify and estimate direct causal effect. Failing to take into account all confounders can lead to biased estimates, so we include sensitivity analyses to help gauge the robustness of estimates to missing causal factors.

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