Clientbook Blog
October 23, 2023

Retail forecasting: What it is and how to do it

From small boutiques to global business empires, the ability to predict consumer demand, retail sales trends, and market fluctuations can make or break a retail business.

Today's retail landscape is marked by shifting consumer preferences, online shopping innovations, and constantly changing economic factors—which is why the value of retail forecasting cannot be overstated.

This article gets into the details of retail demand forecasting—what it is, key aspects of retail forecasting, and the importance of an accurate demand forecast. Discover tools that empower retailers to make informed business decisions, streamline operations, optimize inventory control, and ultimately thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Whether you're a retail professional seeking to fine-tune your forecasting accuracy, or just curious about the inner workings of the retail industry, read on to discover the keys to unlocking a more successful future in retail.

Want more insights into the future of retail? Watch our video for expert predictions

What is retail forecasting?

Retail forecasting is a crucial part of working in the retail industry that involves predicting future customer demands, future sales, and other external factors to make informed decisions about your business.

This includes tracking inventory levels, marketing strategies, staffing, and overall business planning. It helps retailers optimize their operations, improve customer experiences, and increase profitability. 

Key aspects of retail forecasting

A wide range of categories fall under the umbrella of retail forecasting. In order to create an accurate forecast, it's important to consider the following aspects:

Sales forecasting

Sales forecasting is the core of retail forecasting. Retailers analyze historical sales data and use various statistical techniques and analytical techniques to predict future sales. These forecasts can be made at various levels, such as by product category, SKU (stock-keeping unit), store location, or even individual items.

Demand forecasting

In addition to sales, retailers also forecast demand for products. This involves predicting how many units of a particular product customers are likely to buy over a specific period. Demand forecasting helps retailers by creating a product range to ensure they have the right amount of inventory on hand to meet customer needs without overstocking.

Inventory management

Accurate forecasting is essential for managing inventory effectively. Retailers need to strike a balance between having enough stock to meet customer demand and minimizing excess inventory, which can tie up capital and lead to losses. Having proper inventories is vital to retail success, and tracking your inventory control will make this a much easier process.

Staffing and scheduling

Retailers use demand forecasting methods to determine how many employees are needed during different times of the day, week, or year. This helps ensure that stores are adequately staffed to provide good customer service without incurring unnecessary labor costs.

Promotion and marketing planning

Forecasting can help retailers plan their marketing campaigns and promotions more effectively. By predicting when and where demand is likely to be highest, retailers can target their marketing efforts to drive sales during specific periods.

Seasonality and trends

Retailers take into account seasonal variations, seasonal factors, and long-term trends when forecasting. Seasonal factors like holidays or weather can significantly impact sales, and retailers need to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.

Advanced analytics and technology

Many retailers use advanced analytical techniques and technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to improve their forecast accuracy. These technologies can analyze vast amounts of data to identify growth patterns and make more precise predictions.

Collaboration with suppliers

Retailers often share forecasting information with their suppliers to ensure a smoother supply chain. Suppliers can use this information to plan production and deliveries more effectively.

Following these demand planning processes will help you to create a well-rounded, informative, and accurate demand forecast for your retail business.

What is the importance of retail forecasting?

Effective forecasting in retail can lead to better customer satisfaction, reduced costs, and improved overall business performance. However, it requires access to high-quality data, sophisticated analytical techniques and tools, and a deep understanding of the retail market and consumer behavior. 

Retail demand forecasting is an important tool used by retailers to determine the amount of inventory required for future demand and to understand customers’ buying motivations. Accurate and timely forecasts enable retailers to plan ahead and anticipate changes in customer preferences and shopping behaviors. It also helps them estimate the correct quantity of products needed at any given point in time, preventing overstocking or under-stocking issues that could lead to lost sales or excess costs.

All in all, accurate demand forecasting plays a pivotal role in helping retailers run their business successfully by allowing them to make sound decisions that reap greater rewards in the long run.

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What retail forecasting methods can I use?

There are several advanced demand forecasting methods that may require someone with experience and expertise in market dynamics and forecasting systems to execute. In other cases, sales reps or marketing teams are responsible for the forecasting process. Some of these traditional methods include trend analysis, regression analysis, time series analysis, and causal analysis.

These methods pull in data, analytical techniques, economic indicators, and industry knowledge to create statistical forecasts. While these are very useful, they may seem intimidating to the average business owner. 

Here's a quick step-by-step guide for generating an accurate sales forecast that anyone can follow using customer data and the traditional methods listed above:

1. Make a plan. 

Identify the problem you're trying to solve, how you'll execute your plan, and how it will serve you and your business. 

2. Gather data.

Accurate data is the most valuable thing you can wield when it comes to retail demand forecasting. Gather info from your CRM and any other relevant sales and marketing data.

3. Conduct a primary analysis.

Forecasting accuracy happens when you're able to compare your expectations with the result of your findings. What do you think you'll find from this analysis?

4. Use the method you've chosen. 

Choose your analytical technique to run your retail demand forecasting method and look for any errors that come up. Adjust based on your results to get the answers you're looking for. 

5. Assess

Ask yourself if the information you got from your forecast gave you what you wanted and needed for your business. How will this information affect your work going forward? What needs to be adjusted?

While this is a broad overview of how to get an accurate sales forecast, it doesn't have to be complicated and intimidating. Break it down into simple steps and see what you find.

How can Clientbook help with retail forecasting?

If you're ready to engage in retail forecasting but are intimidated by demand planning processes, Clientbook is a great tool to start your retail demand forecasting journey. 

Clientbook is also a great place to access data so that you can form your forecasting process based on accurate client information.

Clientbook is a retail customer relationship management system (CRM) made to help retailers connect with their customers and optimize their business processes through clienteling. Several key features make customer engagement, sales efforts, marketing automation, customer service, customer data management, and other services streamlined and optimized.

With Clientbook, retailers can get a better idea of what their customers will buy in the future based on past purchases. Our CRM keeps track of client purchase histories and allows sales associates to build customized wishlists for clients based on consumer behavior. 

See how to maintain business momentum using data and clienteling

Having access to this information keeps businesses apprised of current trends, allows them to create estimates of trends, and helps to produce sales projections. Clientbook not only makes the shopping experience a customized, personalized one for customers, but it also helps sales associates to increase their sales potential and anticipate the needs of their customers. 

Take a look at each of our advanced feature pages to learn more and see how Clientbook can help you create an accurate retail forecast:

Conclusion

The ability to anticipate customer preferences and market trends is not just a valuable skill but is strategically imperative in today's competitive retail environment.

As you explore the world of retail forecasting, remember that it's not just about numbers and algorithms—it's about understanding your customers, anticipating their needs, and delivering a shopping experience that keeps them coming back. By combining data-driven insights with a deep understanding of your market, success in retail is well within reach.

Begin collecting, organizing, and accessing your most valuable customer data today using Clientbook as your retail CRM. Book a demo today to start the forecasting process.

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