5 Post-COVID Demand Planning Tips
As we navigate business and transactions post-COVID, both consumers and retailers are waiting for things to “return to normal.” But what qualifies as normal in a post-pandemic world? While we may not know exactly what the future holds, forecasting and demand planning evaluations are one way to help navigate what’s to come- and utilizing all of the data we’ve collected over the course of this unusual time is likely to prove helpful.
One thing is for certain, no matter how you go about it, replenishment and forecasting methods may need to be tweaked in response to changes in consumer habits, or swells in demand that may only be temporary.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss 5 tips to incorporate into demand planning in a post-COVID landscape.
Prioritize and critically analyze data
Data has always been the main driver of demand forecasting, and while many things may have been fluctuating during these unique circumstances, this fact remains constant. It’s critical to take into account the advanced analytical abilities available when you leverage AI and machine learning technologies and utilize all channels available to get the most accurate picture. While the past several months may not be indicative of what the markets will look like going forward, the data is still valuable and should be taken into consideration.
There is a lot of information that can be gleaned- from new external variables to accelerated changes in consumer habits, and even a permanent bias in preferred channels. It’s important to learn everything possible from the data currently available and to continue to collect and analyze data as each new phase of this unprecedented experience develops.
Focus on scalable and intelligent solutions
Retail has been undergoing dramatic changes for some time now, even prior to the advent of COVID-19. A new approach to true demand forecasting is vital, and this will require parting with some of the traditional ways demand has been anticipated. Relying on historical sales data isn’t a good fit for the way forward. Scalable, intelligent solutions that unify the end-to-end supply chain can close gaps that can cause devastating and expensive demand errors. Using the data that has been deeply analyzed, and gaining actionable insights is key. Adaptability and flexibility are more likely when critical data and intelligent solutions are incorporated into forecasting.
The markets are always changing- and the old systems can’t keep up. Keep in mind historical best picks information in addition to new data, and respond accordingly.
Increase reporting frequency
With the acceleration of the e-commerce explosion as one example, consumer behaviors have caused a rapid shift in the business and retail world. Change is imminent, and the market is always shifting, much more frequently today than ever before. To get the most accurate picture of what is happening in the markets, and to develop the most accurate demand predictions, you’ll need the most up-to-date data.
If your company hasn’t done so already, increase the frequency with which you collect information, and accelerate the pace at which you are getting those reports. With increased reporting frequency, you can seriously decrease the risks caused by latency in forecasting.
Make the most of predictive analytics
While forecasting with historical sales data has been the traditional backbone of demand prediction, the pandemic has made it more clear than ever that the key to success lies in utilizing predictive analytics to consider external variables. As mentioned previously, the way forward requires scalable, intelligent solutions- and predictive analytics makes that possible. The markets are unlikely to look similar to any of your historical data any time in the near future, so understanding why sales are looking the way they are- why some products are experiencing increased demand (coffee for home consumption, work-from-home essentials) while others are decreasing (cosmetics, and food/beverages for immediate use)- is vital to understanding and predicting what things may look like to come.
Utilizing predictive analytics for in-depth demand planning is the key to weathering this storm.
Expect new norms
COVID-19 has forced many immediate and temporary changes to the way business and social interactions are conducted, but some of those changes may become permanent. Consumers who have begun to utilize e-commerce channels for goods they previously bought in-store may continue to do so, out of habit or preference.
Forecasting models that were previously reliable may no longer be accurate or helpful. Suppliers may change the spread of products that they handle or may change the way they manage orders, inventory, or volume. The changes many companies are making now to cope with the challenges of the pandemic may prove to be a better way to do business for them overall, and we should be prepared to adjust and roll with the punches.
All companies are urgently trying to respond to the changing markets and consumer behaviors while working around health and government restrictions. The prediction business has never been easy, but today demand planning faces more obstacles than ever before. Being prepped for new norms while staying flexible and relying on a variety of data sources is the key to making it through this crisis.
To learn how to better plan for a rise in consumer demand in a post-COVID world, schedule a free consultation with our team of experts today.