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Demand Planning & Forecasting
Demand Planning & Forecasting
7 min read

Navigating Tomorrow’s Market: Demand Forecasting Tips, Best Practices, and Formulas

Published on:
February 22, 2024
Imagine having a compass that points you to what your customers will want tomorrow, next month, or even next year. This is the power of effective demand forecasting — the ability to predict the items customers will want, when, and in what quantities.

Demand forecasting turns your historical inventory and sales data, plus a wealth of other information, into a clear map of future demand. Done right, this continuous process lets your business successfully plot a course that avoids the perils of over or understocking, either of which can put a hole in your bottom-line. With timely and accurate forecasts, you're not just reacting to market changes — you're anticipating them.

To make sure your business’s demand forecasting journey is smooth sailing, read on as we explore the most important insights, best practices, and formulas to keep in mind.

Why is demand forecasting vital?

No matter your industry or business size, demand forecasting is a scalable and adaptable process that can be customised to your specific needs. Effective demand forecasting enables you to right-size your inventory — ordering the right stock, at the right time, and in the right quantity to meet customer orders. You’ll also be better positioned to adapt to market changes, whether due to new trends, fresh customer needs, or unexpected economic upheaval.

Here are some ways accurate forecasting can help.

  • More informed decisions: Accurate forecasts provide valuable insights for strategic decision-making, guiding everything from capacity planning to new product launches.
  • Optimised inventory: Accurate forecasting ensures the right amount of stock is available to meet customer demand, reducing the risks of overstocking or stockouts.
  • Lower costs, higher profits: By predicting demand accurately, you can maximise sales while avoiding the unnecessary expenses associated with excess carrying costs or expedited restocking.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: Consistent product availability translates to happier and more loyal customers.
  • Better supplier relationships: Regular and predictable ordering helps in maintaining stable and positive relationships with your suppliers.

Three best practices for accurate demand forecasting 

Accurate demand forecasting is an ongoing process that relies not only on the right information, but also on a deep level of cooperation across your business.

  • Leverage correct data: Accurate demand forecasting models depend on reliable and complete data. Regularly audit and clean your data to eliminate errors, inconsistencies, and outliers. You should also integrate varied quantitative and qualitative data sources, including expert opinions and market intelligence, for a well-rounded perspective.
  • Foster collaboration: Effective forecasting demands teamwork. Encourage active collaboration between departments like sales, marketing, finance, and operations, as well as with suppliers and partners, for a more cohesive forecasting approach based on a broader understanding of market dynamics and customer needs.
  • Continuously improve: Constantly update your forecasting algorithms with new data and insights. For instance, compare actual demand with your forecasts to refine and validate models, conduct market research to identify patterns or trends, and perform scenario analysis to plan for different market possibilities.

Essential formulas for demand forecasting

In demand forecasting, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to select the right approach based on your business's specific needs and goals.

  • Weighted moving average: This method calculates a weighted average of historical data, giving more weight to recent data points. It's easy to use and responsive to recent demand changes, but struggles with sudden shifts and is vulnerable to outliers affecting predictions.
  • Exponential smoothing: Prioritising recent data and reducing the influence of older data exponentially, this technique adapts well to evolving demand. It's straightforward to implement, but sensitive to initial values making it useful for short or medium-term forecasts, rather than long-term predictions.
  • Time series analysis: This approach uses historical patterns, trends, and seasonality to predict future demand. It offers detailed insights into long-term trends, but requires extensive historical data and can be complex to implement. It also responds more slowly to sudden market fluctuations.

Enhance demand forecasting with new tools 

Given the competitive advantages of effective demand forecasting, it’s vital to harness new tools that can make the process more accurate and efficient. Here are our recommendations for how to take your forecasting capabilities to the next level.

  • Invest in advanced analytics: New tools harnessing machine learning and artificial intelligence can dramatically enhance your approach to forecasting. These technologies can process large datasets, uncover patterns, and swiftly adapt to market shifts, making your predictions more accurate.
  • Enable real-time data collection and analysis: By implementing advanced tools, you can deploy sophisticated models that outperform traditional forecasting methods in both precision and speed.
  • Automate forecasting processes: The automation of your forecasting process can enhance efficiency, save valuable time, and reduce the risk of human error.
  • Incorporate cloud-based solutions: Cloud-based forecasting solutions are easily accessible and highly scalable, delivering the flexibility to support your business as it grows.
  • Integrate forecasting tools across departments: Drive more comprehensive and accurate forecasts by ensuring that relevant data from every department is considered.

We can help!

With accurate forecasts informing your demand plans, you’ll reduce unnecessary carrying costs, avoid stockouts, and maximise sales. You’ll also have happier customers, improved brand perception, and better supplier relationships.

Fast to implement, easy-to-use and highly scalable, our cloud-based software has everything you need to drive accurate demand planning and forecasting. With cutting-edge tools rolled into one risk-free subscription, it’s the missing link in your business success. With five different forecasting models, we can find the most accurate fit for each item’s future demand and catch all possible trends, while our advanced data visualisation capabilities and reporting dashboard will help you make informed decisions quicker than ever before.

Learn more about how we can help or book a personalised demo.