Which Feature Engineering Techniques Enhance Predictive Model Performance?


    Which Feature Engineering Techniques Enhance Predictive Model Performance?

    When we asked experts how feature engineering has enhanced their predictive models, a Data Scientist highlighted the importance of selecting and transforming features. Alongside expert insights, we've gathered additional answers that provide a spectrum of techniques used to refine machine learning algorithms. From the foundational steps of normalization to the nuanced preservation of data through imputation techniques, discover the transformative power of feature engineering.

    • Select and Transform Features
    • Normalize Variables for Equal Influence
    • Enhance Model with Categorical Encoding
    • Simplify with Dimensionality Reduction
    • Decompose Time Series for Forecasting
    • Account for Variable Interactions
    • Preserve Data with Imputation Techniques

    Select and Transform Features

    Predictive analysis requires a large volume of data to achieve accurate results, with the type, source, and management of data being crucial factors. Feature engineering is essential for enhancing the performance of predictive models.

    Some key techniques include feature selection, which involves choosing the most relevant features to reduce dimensionality and improve performance using methods such as correlation coefficients. Feature transformation modifies existing features to enhance their usefulness through processes like normalization and standardization.

    Feature creation also generates new features from raw data, adding valuable insights derived from the existing dataset. Handling missing values through imputation techniques, such as mean, median, or mode imputation, is also critical. Each of these techniques significantly contributes to improving the accuracy and effectiveness of predictive models.

    Manal AlduraibiData Scientist

    Normalize Variables for Equal Influence

    One particular feature-engineering technique that significantly improved the performance of my predictive model was the implementation of feature scaling. By normalizing the range of independent variables, feature scaling ensured that each feature contributed equally to the model, preventing any single variable from disproportionately influencing the results.

    This technique enhanced the convergence speed of gradient descent, leading to faster training times and more accurate predictions. In my project, which involved a gradient-boost model predicting cancer of unknown primary, feature scaling was particularly impactful. Using the tool I created, called Open_Nexus, I was able to efficiently implement these techniques. It helped mitigate the effects of outliers, resulting in a more robust and reliable model.

    Ultimately, this improvement in performance allowed me to derive more precise insights and make better data-driven decisions in identifying and managing this challenging medical condition.

    Dr. James Utley MSc, PhD
    Dr. James Utley MSc, PhDChief Scientific Officer, Auragens

    Feature Engineering Case Study

    Feature engineering is an important stage in predictive model development because it converts raw data into a format that better reflects the underlying patterns essential to the prediction job. I am sharing a real time case study of how a certain feature engineering method improves the performance of a predictive model.

    As a case study I consider to improve Retail Market Sales Forecasts using Feature Engineering.

    By using cutting-edge feature engineering approaches, a retail corporation may increase the accuracy of its sales estimates.


    The goal of a major retail chain was to forecast daily sales at every location. Precise forecasts of sales are essential for maximising personnel, inventory control, and advertising tactics. The first model was not working well. It was based on simple criteria like the day of the week, store size, and historical sales.

    Feature Engineering Techniques Applied

    Temporal Features:

    removed extra time-related elements like year, quarter, and month. Seasonality is a common feature of sales.

    Lag Features:

    Lag features were developed to include historical sales data. Future sales may be strongly predicted by looking at recent trends in sales.

    Rolling Window Features:

    Calculated the sales rolling averages and standard deviations. These features aid in capturing seasonality and longer-term patterns.

    Aggregate Features:

    It is employed to forecast sales at the store level. Store-specific trends, average daily sales per store, and total sales per store.

    Impact on Model Performance:

    • Store-Level Insights: Aggregate features provide a holistic view of each store’s performance.
    • Comparative Analysis: Helps in comparing performance across stores, identifying high and low performers.

    The sales prediction model performed much better once focused feature engineering approaches were applied. The retail organization was able to generate more accurate and dependable sales projections by comprehending the domain-specific aspects that impact sales and inventively designing features to capture these factors.

    Dr. Manash Sarkar
    Dr. Manash SarkarExpert Data Scientist, Limendo GmbH

    Enhance Model with Categorical Encoding

    Encoding categorical variables is a technique that transforms text data into a numerical format, making it readable by algorithms and thus enhancing interpretability. This is vital since many machine learning models require numerical input. Such encoding can be done through various methods like one-hot encoding or label encoding.

    When categorical variables are encoded properly, predictive models can better understand the relationships in the data. Moreover, encoding allows for the inclusion of non-numeric data types in the analysis. Start exploring encoding methods to better incorporate categorical data into your models.

    Simplify with Dimensionality Reduction

    Dimensionality reduction is the process of decreasing the number of random variables under consideration and can be achieved by obtaining a set of principal variables. It simplifies models by removing redundant or less significant features which, if left in, could lead to overfitting. Overfitting occurs when a model learns too much detail from the training data, including noise, which harms its performance on unseen data.

    Techniques like Principal Component Analysis (PCA) help retain the most valuable attributes of the original data. Employing dimensionality reduction can streamline your model, making it more efficient. Consider simplifying your data with dimensionality reduction to improve your model's generalization.

    Decompose Time Series for Forecasting

    Extracting time series components, such as trend, seasonality, and noise, is essential for forecasting future events. Time series decomposition allows for a better understanding of the underlying patterns and structures in the data. This enables the creation of more accurate predictive models by focusing on the intrinsic trends that drive changes over time.

    Seasonal adjustments, for example, can address fluctuations that occur at regular intervals, leading to a clearer view of the trend component. Employ this technique to enhance forecasting abilities in your time-dependent modeling tasks.

    Account for Variable Interactions

    By incorporating interaction terms into predictive models, one accounts for the combined effect of two or more variables. These terms can reveal synergies between features that are not apparent when considered independently. For instance, the interaction between education level and job experience might be more predictive of salary than either feature alone.

    Recognizing these combined effects can significantly improve the performance of a model. Identify potential interactions in your dataset and test their impact on your model's predictive power.

    Preserve Data with Imputation Techniques

    Imputation of missing data can preserve essential information that would otherwise be lost, allowing for a more accurate analysis. When data points are missing, it can bias results and reduce the statistical power of a model. Through techniques such as mean substitution, regression imputation, or even more advanced methods like multiple imputation, valuable insights can be retained.

    This enables a model to learn from the fullest possible representation of the available data. Handle missing values in your dataset carefully to ensure the integrity of your predictive model.