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What is data mining, types of data mining techniques

By Academy Xi

what is data mining, data mining benefits

Discover the power of big data and how it can benefit every industry from better decision making to improved customer outcomes.

What is data mining?

The process of discovering patterns and relationships in large datasets using a range of computational and statistical techniques is known as data mining. It involves analysing data from multiple sources including databases, websites and social media platforms to identify insights that can be used to make better decisions, predict future trends and discover correlations. It’s increasingly used across a range of industries, most commonly in marketing, finance, healthcare and customer relationship management.

History of data mining

Data mining was sparked back in 1763 by Bayes’ Theorem, with many discoveries from this point onward that laid the foundation for our current definition and understanding of what data mining is in 2023, including a term coined in the 1980’s by data scientist Greogory Piatetsky-Shapiro, ‘Knowledge Discovery in Databases’, which described the process of extracting meaningful information from large datasets.

 With the rapid increase of computer technology throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, data sets have grown exponentially in quantity and size, while data mining has also become more popular, with companies collecting and analysing large quantities of information to harness the power of big data.

How data mining works

Data mining involves collecting and preprocessing, exploring and modelling the data, evaluating the model, and deploying it in a real-world application. Let’s explore the basic steps involved:

Data collection

The first step in data mining is to collect and gather data from various sources. The data can be in a structured or unstructured format, with sources including databases, web pages, social media platforms, or sensors. 

Data pre-processing

Once the data is collected, it needs to be cleaned, transformed, and prepared for analysis. This involves removing missing values, handling outliers, and normalising or standardising the data.

Data exploration

Visualising and exploring the data helps to gain a better understanding of its characteristics and patterns. Techniques such as scatter plots, histograms, and heat maps can be used to identify patterns and relationships.

Data modelling

After exploring the data, the next step is to build a model that can identify patterns and make predictions. There are several machine learning algorithms that can be used for this step, such as decision trees, neural networks, and support vector machines.

Model evaluation

Once the model is built, it needs to be evaluated to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness. This can be done by testing the model on a separate dataset and comparing the predicted results to the actual outcomes.


The final step is to deploy the model in a real-world application or system. This can involve integrating the model with existing software or creating a new system that can use the insights generated from the data.

Differences between data mining and machine learning

While data mining and machine learning are certainly related fields, they also have some fundamental differences.

 Data mining is sometimes used as a broader term to include various techniques such as clustering, regression and association rule mining, whereas machine learning is a specific subset of data mining that focuses on building predictive models using algorithms.

 Ultimately, data mining is about discovering new insights from information, whereas machine learning is a process of building predictive models based on data.  

Benefits of data mining

Data mining offers several benefits to organisations and businesses, including:

Improved decision making

One of the most discussed and popular benefits of data mining is how the patterns and trends identified can inform better business outcomes, including increased sales.

Increased efficiency

Identifying areas of inefficiency or waste enables companies to optimise their operations. This can result in cost savings and improved productivity.

Enhanced customer insights

By analysing customer data, businesses can gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences. This can help them develop more targeted marketing strategies, improve customer service, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

Fraud detection

Data mining can be used to identify fraudulent activities and prevent financial losses. For example, credit card companies use data mining to detect fraudulent transactions and prevent credit card fraud.

 Competitive advantage

By leveraging data mining techniques, businesses can gain a competitive advantage by identifying opportunities that their competitors may have missed.

Personalised recommendations

Based on customer preferences and behaviour, businesses can provide personalised recommendations, potentially leading to increased engagement and loyalty.

Types of data mining techniques

There are several approaches that can be taken, with the choice depending on the specific task, the type of data and the desired outcomes. Here is some further detail on common techniques:

Predictive analysis

Using historical data, predictions are made about future events or trends. It can be used for various purposes, such as forecasting sales, predicting customer behaviour, or identifying potential risks.

Decision trees

A type of data mining algorithm that can be used for classification and prediction. They use a tree-like structure to represent decisions and their possible consequences.


Categorising data into predefined classes or categories is known as classification. It is often used for tasks such as spam filtering, fraud detection, or image recognition.


Grouping similar data points together based on their characteristics or features is another approach known as clustering. It is often used for segmentation, customer profiling, or anomaly detection.

Association rules

This technique involves discovering relationships or patterns between variables in a dataset. It is often used for tasks such as market basket analysis, where the goal is to identify which products are frequently purchased together.

Limitations of data mining

Potential downsides of data mining include the fact that training is required to effectively use the software and tools, which can be a complex process. If the data is false or biassed, the insights won’t accurately reflect reality and could potentially negatively impact any subsequent decision making.

On the security front, there is the potential for mined data to be misused or stolen, leading to bad consequences for businesses and consumers.

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