Data Mining

Data mining is the process of scouring and analysing large datasets, and extracting patterns from the data. Data mining techniques combine methods from statistics and machine learning, with database management, to predict behaviours and trends. Data mining allows marketers to take proactive, knowledge-driven decisions. Application areas include:

  • Promotions — Identify customers most likely to respond to a promotional offer.
  • Direct marketing — Identify prospects most likely to respond to direct marketing campaign.
  • Interactive marketing — Predict what web pages an individual accessing a website is most likely to be interested in viewing.
  • Market basket analysis — Determine what products or services are commonly purchased together.
  • Churn analysis — Identify customers who are likely to drop a product or service, and shift to a competitor.
  • Fraud detection — Identify which transactions are most likely to be fraudulent.

Tools used for data mining include neural networks, decision trees, association rule learning, rule induction, genetic algorithms, nearest neighbour, cluster analysis, classification, and regression. Some of these tools are described below.

Rule Induction

Rule induction is an area of machine learning in which formal rules are extracted from a set of observations. The rules extracted may represent a full scientific model of the data, or merely represent local patterns in the data.

The rules are usually stated as expressions of the form: 

For example:

Association Rule Learning

Association rule learning is a method for discovering interesting relationships (association rules based on the concept of strong rules) among variables in databases. It deploys a range of algorithms to identify strong rules in databases using different measures of “interestingness”. For example, shopping basket analysis of loyalty panel data is used to discover interesting relationships between products such as  
(i.e. shoppers who buy cheese and bread also tend to buy wine). Information of this nature may be used for merchandising (e.g. special displays) and promotional activities.

Association rule learning is also used in a variety of other applications including web usage mining, intrusion detection, continuous production, and bioinformatics.

Genetic Algorithms

Genetic algorithms optimization techniques are based on the concepts of genetic combination, mutation, and natural selection. Potential solutions are encoded as “chromosomes” that can combine and mutate.  Survival within a modelled “environment” depends on fitness or performance of each individual chromosome in the population. These “evolutionary” algorithms are well-suited for solving nonlinear problems. Examples of applications include speech recognition, robotics, planning and scheduling, optimizing portfolio investments and so on.

Classification Techniques

Classification techniques identify the categories where a new observation belongs, based on a set of variables and a training data set containing observations whose category membership is known. The classification rules are derived from the training data set, and the algorithm is referred to as a classifier. Applications include assigning an email into “spam” or “non-spam”, or predicting customer behaviour in terms of purchasing, consumption, churn and so on.

Because they use training sets, classification techniques are described as supervised learning. Cluster analysis on the other hand, is unsupervised learning.

Nearest Neighbour

Nearest neighbour is a technique that classifies records in a database based on their similarity.

Cluster Analysis

Cluster analysis is a statistical technique used to form groups of objects with similar characteristics into clusters (segments). In cluster analysis the variables used for clustering are known in advance. Refer to Chapter Segmentation for details on the application of cluster analysis for market segmentation.

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