Showing posts with label patterns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patterns. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2013

Intro to Data Mining for Marketers - Part 2

Data Preprocessing

This stage is the most time-consuming stage of the data mining process. Data is never clean and in a form suitable for data mining. There are few typical data corruption problems in business databases such as duplication of the records, missing data fields, and presence of outliers. The preprocessing step involves integrating data from different sources and making choices about representing or coding certain data fields that serve as inputs to the data discovery stage. Such representation choices are needed because certain fields may contain data at level of details not considered suitable for the pattern discovery stage. For example, it may be counterproductive to represent the actual date birth of each customer to the data discovery stage. Instead, it may be better to group customers  into different age groups and  the chosen age groups should have some significations for the research goal. It is important to remember that the preprocessing stage is a crucial step. The representation choices made at this stage have a great bearing on the kinds of the patterns that will be discovered by the next stage of data discovery.

 Patterns & Market Segmentation

Since there are so many ways we, human beings, are different, it should not be surprising that we would differ in our needs for automobiles. While there are many factors/variables that contribute to these differences, we are considering the following factors for presenting our data mining framework for the aforementioned example: vehicle image (Table 1), customer anticipated feelings (Table 2),  and  demographics (such as age, sex, income, occupation, education etc). The demographic factor plays an important role in the proposed analysis. 

For example, consider how customer needs and preferences for an automobile change as one moves demographically from college student to management trainee; changes in income, occupation, and educational status each contribute to a changing set of customer needs for a variety of products such as an automobile. Many other variables can be incorporated as well.

There are mainly three different techniques to perform market segmentation:
•             Clustering: this approach implies data grouping or partitioning
•             Association: this approach seeks to establish associative relationships between different variables in the database
•             Visualization: this approach consists of providing the user with an immersive virtual reality environment so that the user can move through this environment discovering hidden relationships

Evaluation, Interpretation & Knowledge Discovery

To test how well the identified segments perform when predicting preferences for new customers, two approaches can be considered: train and test error estimation, and cross validation.

After the prediction accuracy is verified by one of the above methods, the segments will be evaluated by the business people in order to determine the usefulness of the segments. The evaluation of usefulness of the market segments should be made by the business team with respect to the following characteristics:

  • Substantiality(segment size): The market segments are large or profitable enough to serve.
  • Measurability: (segment profile): The market segments can be identified and measured in terms of data already available. The segment identification is very important: Segments that are based on meaningful differences in customer needs but lack clear segment identification will fail because the segment identity will not be known and an actionable marketing strategy cannot be developed.
  •  ActionabilityEffective programs can be designed for attracting and serving the segments. The market attractiveness depends on market opportunity, competitive environment and market access.
If a segment fits the company’s objectives, the company must decide whether it possesses the skills and resources needed to succeed in that segment. If the company lacks the strengths needed to compete successfully in a segment and cannot readily obtain them, it should not enter that segment. Even if the company possesses the required strengths, it needs to employ skills and resources superior to those of the competition in order to really win a market segment. Once the company has decided what segments to enter, it must decide on its market positioning strategy - on which positions to occupy in its chosen segments[D. Raicu, DePaul University).


A theoretical, qualitative data mining framework for automatic gathering of relevant and unbiased data was proposed. As a result, the initial investment of producing a new product vehicle without being certain that it will be satisfying people’s needs will be eliminated. Discovering a-priori segments of people being interested in a certain product will also help the managers focus their advertising, promotion, and sales efforts on those categories of people and thus, the time and costs will be significantly reduced.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Intro to Data Mining for Marketers - Part 1

Data mining can be defined as the process of "discovering patterns, meaning and insights in large datasets by using statistical and computational methods". Data mining works to analyze data stored in data warehouses that are used to store that data that is being analyzed. That particular data may come from all parts of business, from the production to the management. Managers also use data mining to decide upon marketing strategies for their product. They can use data to compare and contrast among competitors. Data mining interprets its data into real time analysis that can be used to increase sales, promote new product, or delete product that is not value-added to the company.


Data mining was born in the fields of Statistics and Computer Science (some might say Artificial Intelligence) and may also be referred as “Statistical Learning”. From a statistical perspective, most early and recent advances coming from Statistics have come from the Stanford Statistics department school of thoughts like  Bradley EfronJerome H. FriedmanTrevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani. By the way, don’t forget that Stanford University is only 7 miles away from Google.

Stanford University ©

Data Mining Framework

Using data mining techniques, we, marketers, need to master an approach that will provide the decision makers with  a-priory knowledge about customers’ preferences and needs. Since there are many different kinds of customers with different kinds of needs and preferences, a simple, solid approach is meant to be a tool for performing market segmentation: divide the total market, choose the best segments, and design strategies for profitability serving the chosen segments better than the company’s competitors do. The example developed below is described for product development in auto industry, but it can be successfully implemented for any other applications where it is necessary to  find the correlations between the customer feelings or perceptions and the physical characteristics of a product. Yes, correlations, even through our statistics lenses. 

Yes,arithmophobia is over, my friend!


Any data mining application should start by understanding the business goals of the application since the blind application of data mining techniques without  the requisite domain knowledge often leads to the discovery of irrelevant or meaningless patterns. In order to understand the target customers of an automotive company, it would be helpful to examine the relationships between the vehicle image/attributes and the customer emotional benefits that are tied to psychological needs, personality traits, and personal values. Thus, data mining can enable us to understand more completely how product specific characteristics relate to customer needs and the benefits a customer hopes to obtain from them. For instance, for many people, cars, homes, restaurants and vacations provide emotional benefits as well as rational benefits. However, for a wealthy person who has everything, the emotional benefits provided by status, prestige and superiority of an expensive automobile could outweigh rational benefits such as gas economy, lower maintenance and insurance costs, and resale value.  

A target audience perhaps? "Free to do anything, in control, confident, sporty but with family."
Therefore, it will be beneficial to have a tool that will help us to respond to questions such as: What and how many of the personality attributes used to describe the customer might be shaped by the vehicle’s image?  What kind of vehicle this customer or group of customers will buy?

Data selection

This step calls for targeting a database or selecting a subset of fields to be used for the data mining. The following issues should be considered in developing a plan for collecting data efficiently:

  • Evaluation of existing data sources 
  • Specification of research approaches 
  • Data gathering (contact methods, sampling plans and instruments)

The survey research is a simple, efficient method to collect data. One of the advantages of the survey research is flexibility because it can be used to obtain many different kinds of information in many different situations. Furthermore, depending on the survey design, it may also provide information quicker at a lower cost compared to manual processing. The survey may be in the form of a questionnaire that is very flexible as there are many ways to ask questions. In preparing the questionnaire, only the questions contributing to the research objectives will be asked. The questions may be closed-ended, as they include all possible answers. In designing the survey, we also make sure that the questions are simple, direct and arranged in a logical order.  The first question should create interest if possible, and difficult or personal questions should be asked last so that respondents do not become defensive.

Instead of a traditional mail questionnaire, a more modern approach is the computer interviewing process, in which respondents sit down at a computer, read questions from a screen, and type their own answers into the computer at their own leisure. The beauty of this approach consists of its multiple benefits. As a first benefit, the respondents’ answers are automatically stored in a database. Furthermore, the survey is posted on the web and it can be accessible by an unlimited number of people. Filling out the survey becomes a non-time consuming task even for a busy person: the survey is on the web and it is accessible for anybody at any time; the submission of the completed survey requires only a ‘click on’ action executed by respondent, action possible  through an interactive survey implementation. 

Third, the computers might be located at different locations such as auto shows, dealerships, or retail locations. The biggest benefit is the collection of more relevant data since people present at those locations are most likely willing to answer correctly to the questions because they are interested in automobiles. The approach can be implemented such that the data is gathered from numerous computers  at different locations and stored in a unique and global database. As a fourth benefit, same survey format will be accessible to different categories of people: expert people (such as car designers) or people less familiar with auto domain characteristics. The large number of respondents and their diversity give more reliability on the results than small samples.

                                                      ...To be continued...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Marketing & Social Psychology for a Better Future

Because Marketing is interested in persuasion, changing attitudes and provoking specific behaviours, it has always used psychological theories, and more specifically theories coming from Social Psychology. As early as 1928, the famous work of Edward Bernays on Propaganda, one of the many ancestors of marketing and Freud's nephew,explicitly refers to several social psychologist’s work in order to address and influence the masses to sell them products, for example by manipulating the nature of the source of information to for better influence in claims.

Apart from theories and experiments, Social Psychology also brought many a technique which is now used in Marketing, especially in the consumer research side: to name the most prominent, in-depth interviews, focus groups, attitude scales, laboratory experiments on choices.

Human behavior and the installation of the world

The determinants of human behavior are distributed: Some lay in the subject (motives, goals,preferences, habits), others lay in the context (artefacts, rules, other people). In an operational perspective, for practitioners who want to understand, predict or influence human behavior at a given moment, and a given place, the world can be considered as an installation.Installation must be understood here in the artistic sense of assembling patterns in space to modify the way we experience this situation. The installation of the world guides subjects into their activity track, at three levels: physical,psychological, social. It is possible to frame this installation in order to influence behavior. Let us detail these three levels.

The physical level refers to material reality and artefacts. It provides affordances for activity (which can be supported by the objects). For example, chairs afford sitting; buses afford transportation; on-line support affords help. One can only do what is afforded by the present environment. This layer of installation is distributed in the physical environment by construction of infrastructure, and various mechanisms of supply and procurement.

This first, physical, level of determination affords a tree of possibilities; but not everything that is possible will be realized. This is where psychology comes into play. To take action,subects must interpret situations. Objects evoke for humans specific connotations of activity, and operative images. At psychological level, motives,representations and practice provide possible interpretations of the situation by the subject.For example choosing between various artefacts (e.g. different brands of same product) which all provide some affordance for the desired activity. Representations include the “how to use” the objects; for example a web browser, a car, or a self-service restaurant. Representations also enable subjects to elaborate and plan behaviors  This layer of installation is distributed over individual humans, by the means of physiology, experience, education and exposures to discourse (media, advertising, etc).

But again, not everything that is even both possible and desired will be realized: a third level of determination, social, will cut off more branches from the tree of possibilities. For example, although we could drive on any side of the roads, only one is allowed in every country. Because individual actions produce externalities, they are limited by others. Institutions are a social solution to control potential abuse or misuse, and minimize social costs also called “negative externalities”. Institutions set common conventions which enable cooperation (e.g. people should all drive on the same side of the road; etc). Many of the rules are already contained in the normative aspects of representations, but institutions are special in their capacity to enforce behavior  by social pressure or more direct means.

So, at a given moment, individual behavior is determined by this distributed installation: Artefacts installed in the physical environment, interpretive systems installed in humans, and institutions installed in society. This enables us to understand better the role of Psychology in this framework. Because some determinants lay in the context, psychological theories alone cannot explain or predict behavior but because some determinants are psychological and social, a social psychological approach is necessary.

Installation theory is of course very schematic. Still, it enables a first orientation in the complex socio-technical systems which innovators must deal with; it provides a check-list for analysis and agenda for action. If we want to change the World, or more modestly one of its subdomains, it is clear that no action limited to a single layer of determination -for example a new product, or a campaign- will be enough to change the behaviors of people. We should make sure that appropriate installation in the three layers (physical environment, individuals concerned, relevant institutions) has been addressed. What is left to us is the strategy of how to create and distribute such installation.

Towards a more sustainable future

In this global change management, as said earlier, Marketing plays a key role. Marketing has been in charge of implementing change for most built environment and policies, in a market context. But now, precisely, we have become aware of the limitations of the market system.Now, we face a new challenge with global sustainability, of which the current financial crisis is only one of the first global symptoms, together with climate change and ecological destruction.Too often in the past, Marketing has been on the dark side of the force, mobilizing considerable resources only to move the frontiers between brand territories, in a zero-sum game. In doing so, though, a considerable amount of knowledge and agency has been accumulated. Now, marketers, the World needs your capacities to help degrowth. We have collectively failed in creating a sustainable civilization, and there is little time left to change it into a better system.

Social value is the resource. An observation of what does actually work in terms of sustainable consumption.In the end, what Humans look for is belong to a group where they are recognized, have status, and gain other’s people’s love. And for this they are ready to give, not only take. In fact, most consumption has this final use of building someone’s position in groups. When people buy fancy cars, display brands on their clothes, and in general work or spend their money and time, it is usually for that purpose of gaining or keeping position in a group.

This is probably the way into which Marketing should engage in this 21st century. After the markets of goods and services, it is the markets of sociability which will be the next frontier. Many of us have already recognized the social realm as a major source of value, and as said earlier there are numerous attempts to use it, but until now it has been mostly mobilized so serve the old regime of brands. It should now serve society itself, or there will be no 22nd century for the civilization we have built. But make no mistake: when I talk about a “market of sociability”, this means not that we should commoditize and sell sociability, as has unfortunately been often the temptation lately. I mean, on the contrary, that sociability is a kind of “money”, a psychological reward system for performing other activities. Building markets with this new currency is certainly a challenge for Marketing [Professor Saadi Lahlou,LSE,2009].

I strongly recommend the following lesson @Coursera for young marketers with no previous background on Social Psychology (, as well as The Social Animal,a must-read written by Elliot Aronson .