Retail Forecasting in COVID Times | Use case library

Retail forecasting in COVID times


James Smith - Demand Data

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Retail forecasting in COVID times

How to prepare your retail and online production, inventory and distribution for changing COVID-19 measures?

External factors can have a huge impact on your demand forecast for specific products in specific locations and channels. The constantly changing government guidance during the current COVID pandemic can also cause huge swings in demand, especially when wide reaching regulation – such as decisions to close restaurants or limit movement – can come and go within hours for entire towns, cities or countries. To help businesses dynamically allocate their scarce resources of staff and inventory, the use of TIM and real-time instant ML can create forecasts that are as dynamic as the events that influence them. This can enable fast business decisions to take advantage of opportunities and limit the costs of reacting to current events.

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TIM’s Value

The TIM Engine is perfectly suited for this application, because of the speed, resilience and ease of deployment. Other forecasting methods, such as statistical forecasting, are far too slow to react to the modern business climate. Single variate models will miss on the complex interaction between seasonal changes, externally driven changes to demand and externally driven changes to mobility. The speed of forecasting is also incredibly important in determining what factors are causing permanent changes to demand and customer behavior and which changes will be temporary.

Using the TIM Engine, an analyst can quickly iterate on models using dozens or even hundreds of features to get predicted impacts on demand in near real-time. This is a must-have tool for anyone in an organization who is responsible for planning of inventory and/or staffing levels.

As an example, using the TIM product we can immediately predict the impact a new restriction in a specific town would have on online ordering in specific postcodes. This can be used to ensure the correct allocation of capital equipment (trucks), staffing (drivers) and product (warehouses) even in advance of the restriction being implemented. With the TIM Engine, this forecast can be available in minutes to respond to significant events that may be happening within only a few days. We can see that a new announcement of a restriction to restaurants causes an immediate surge in online grocery demand that lasts for several days before subsiding to pre-restriction levels. This analysis can be extended to review the impact on specific products at a SKU level – including the ability to run independent demand forecasts for individual SKUs at individual stores in seconds.


The Data

Demand Data has real-time access to external data of significance, such as weather data (forecast and history) for any geographic point, as well as real-time COVID cases, mobility and restrictions for each postcode in most major countries. This data can instantly be prepared as inputs to be combined with sales data for specific products, channels or store locations. We have templates available which can plug into sales data at a store level and create the base models instantly (including COVID, weather and human mobility). From there, your analysts can iterate using other data or assumptions they have and get feedback in seconds on which assumptions or data are good predictors and which ones are not.


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