Data mining is an invaluable research method that helps businesses and organizations better understand their customers and improve their operations. It involves strategically gathering and analyzing large amounts of information to identify patterns, trends, and insights.
A similar set of steps is typically used in data mining, regardless of the algorithm or type of tool. The process is like digital treasure hunting, taking a large expanse of information and searching for valuable clues and insights. There are five basic stages, from initial data gathering to analyzing and utilizing results.
1. Identify the Question or Goal
The first step is identifying the question, issue, or goal the project will address. This is vital to a successful data mining effort. Data scientists need to know what they’re looking for to get a good sampling of information and select the right analysis algorithm.
Identifying the question, application, or goal at hand is often the responsibility of business personnel. For instance, a marketing manager might need information about what kind of online marketing most appeals to her business’s customers. A data mining project could reveal patterns like the social media websites favored by customers, the types of ads they are most likely to click on, or the types of products that tend to be most popular among a target audience.
2. Collect Data Samples
With a clear goal in mind, data scientists can move forward to the next step in the process: gathering sample information. They comb through stockpiles of data from various sources to find samples that look good for their project.
Whether this data comes from surveys, sales, market research, or any other reliable source, the important thing is that it is relevant to the project’s goal. For instance, an automaker may use data mining to research a new electric vehicle they are designing. In this case, they would want information like surveys on consumer opinions of EVs, auto sales information, and EV-specific sales stats.
3. Prepare and Refine Data
The third step is data cleaning and preparation. There are three stages to preparation: extraction, transformation, and loading.
Extraction is the previous step, where information is gathered. The transformation stage takes the initial data set and organizes it into a polished dataset that the analysis algorithm can handle easily. This stage is where data scientists remove errors, catch any biases, cut duplicate information, improve consistency and resolve any quality issues.
The loading stage of preparation involves moving the cleaned data into a database. This includes the collected and polished sample information the analysis algorithm will use to mine for patterns and insights.
4. Activate Data Mining Algorithm
Now it’s time for the data mining algorithm to analyze all the information. This step is largely automated — all the data scientist has to do is input the database they’ve compiled and monitor the algorithm as it examines the information.
Several types of data mining algorithms are used today. The right one for a given project will depend on the goal identified in step one. For example, a business might want to estimate profits from a new product based on factors like production expenses, distribution costs, and customer demand. A regression algorithm would be ideal for this type of data mining project.
Similarly, a business might want to identify trends and patterns among its customer base, such as demographic similarities or common interests. An association rules, classification or clustering algorithm would be ideal.
5. Analyze the Algorithm’s Results
The final step in the data mining process is analyzing the results delivered by the algorithm. They will be slightly different depending on the type used. For example, an association rules algorithm would return a set of identified patterns and connections within the information. On the other hand, a regression algorithm would return a prediction, such as an estimated profit or cost.
At this stage, data scientists analyze the results and pass them along to company personnel who can use them. Data mining insights can be used for many purposes, such as informing business decisions or making processes more efficient.
Data Mining Tools, Techniques, and Steps
Data mining involves combing through large amounts of information to draw insights that can inform a wide range of business decisions. Various data mining techniques and algorithms are used today, but data scientists usually follow these five basic steps. The result is often invaluable patterns, trends, and predictions that help companies provide better products and improved customer experience.