Mining of Business Data
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Applying statistical tools to help understand business processes and make informed business decisions has attracted enormous amount of research interests in recent years. In this dissertation, we develop and apply data mining techniques to two sources of data, online bidding data for eBay and offline sales transaction data from a grocery product distributor. We mine online auction data to develop forecasting models and bidding strategies and mine offline sales transaction data to investigate sales people's price formation process. We start with discussing bidders' bidding strategies in online auctions. Conventional bidding strategies do not help bidders select an auction to bid on. We propose an automated and data-driven strategy which consists of a dynamic forecasting model for auction closing price and a bidding framework built around this model to determine the best auction to bid on and the best bid amount. One important component of our bidding strategy is a good forecasting model. We investigate forecasting alternatives in three ways. Firstly, we develop model selection strategies for online auctions (Chapter 3). Secondly, we propose a novel functional K-nearest neighbor (KNN) forecaster for real time forecasting of online auctions (Chapter 4). The forecaster uses information from other auctions and weighs their contribution by their relevance in terms of auction features. It improves the predictive performance compared to several competing models across various levels of data heterogeneity. Thirdly, we develop a Beta model (Chapter 5) for capturing auction price paths and find this model has advantageous forecasting capability. Apart from online transactions, we also employ data mining techniques to understand offline transactions where sales representatives (salesreps) serve as media to interact with customers and quote prices. We investigate the mental models for salesreps' decision making, and find that price recommendation makes salesreps concentrate on cost related information. In summary, the dissertation develops various data mining techniques for business data. Our study is of great importance for understanding auction price formation processes, forecasting auction outcomes, optimizing bidding strategies, and identifying key factors in sales people's decision making. Those techniques not only advance our understanding of business processes, but also help design business infrastructure.