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Beyond Basic Data Sampling for Model Development

Your model is only as good as your data, right? Actually, there are many considerations in developing a sound model, one of which is data. Yet if your data is bad or dirty or doesn’t represent the full population, can it be used? This is where sampling can help. When done right, sampling can lower your cost to obtain data needed for model development. When done well, sampling can turn a tainted and underrepresented data set into a sound and viable model development sample.

First, define the population to which the model will be applied once it’s finalized and implemented. Determine what data is available and what population segments must be represented within the sampled data. The more variability in internal factors — such as changes in marketing campaigns, risk strategies and product launches — and external factors — such as economic conditions or competitor presence in the marketplace — the larger the sample size needed. A model developer often will need to sample over time to incorporate seasonal fluctuations in the development sample.

The most robust samples are pulled from data that best represents the full population to which the model will be applied. It’s important to ensure your data sample includes customers or prospects declined by the prior model and strategy, as well as approved but nonactivated accounts. This ensures full representation of the population to which your model will be applied. Also, consider the number of predictors or independent variables that will be evaluated during model development, and increase your sample size accordingly.

When it comes to spotting dirty or unacceptable data, the golden rule is know your data and know your target population. Spend time evaluating your intended population and group profiles across several important business metrics. Don’t underestimate the time needed to complete a thorough evaluation.

Next, select the data from the population to aptly represent the population within the sampled data. Determine the best sampling methodology that will support the model development and business objectives. Sampling generates a smaller data set for use in model development, allowing the developer to build models more quickly. Reducing the data set’s size decreases the time needed for model computation and saves storage space without losing predictive performance.

Once the data is selected, weights are applied so that each record appropriately represents the full population to which the model will be applied. Several traditional techniques can be used to sample data:

  • Simple random sampling — Each record is chosen by chance, and each record in the population has an equal chance of being selected.
  • Random sampling with replacement — Each record chosen by chance is included in the subsequent selection.
  • Random sampling without replacement — Each record chosen by chance is removed from subsequent selections.
  • Cluster sampling — Records from the population are sampled in groups, such as region, over different time periods.
  • Stratified random sampling — This technique allows you to sample different segments of the population at different proportions. In some situations, stratified random sampling is helpful in selecting segments of the population that aren’t as prevalent as other segments but are equally vital within the model development sample.

Learn more about how Experian Decision Analytics can help you with your custom model development needs.