Switching your print on demand supplier? Get in touch with us here

1. What is ecommerce demand forecasting?

Ecommerce demand forecasting: 5 best practices

Navigating the complexities of ecommerce can present substantial challenges for large-scale enterprise businesses, one of the foremost being the balancing act of supply and demand. Understocking can lead to missed sales opportunities and customer dissatisfaction, while overstocking may result in increased storage costs and unnecessarily tied-up capital. These problems often originate from an inaccurate or nonexistent demand forecasting strategy.

So, what is the key to addressing this issue? It lies in the adoption of best practices in ecommerce demand forecasting. You can effectively anticipate future sales trends, optimize your inventory, and ensure smooth business operations. And why are we confident about this approach? Research and countless success stories from the ecommerce sector have revealed that proper demand forecasting methods improve customer satisfaction, result in leaner operations, and, ultimately, increase profitability.

In this article, we'll explore the five key strategies for ecommerce demand forecasting, providing an extensive guide to overcoming one of the most prevalent challenges in the ecommerce landscape.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Ecommerce demand forecasting allows businesses to balance supply and demand by predicting future sales trends, optimizing inventory, and streamlining operations.

  • Accurate demand forecasting is directly linked to improved customer satisfaction, leaner operations, and increased profitability.

  • Ecommerce demand forecasting is crucial for several reasons, including inventory planning and management, streamlining production, enhancing customer satisfaction, driving marketing strategies, and maximizing profitability.

  • Ecommerce demand forecasting comes with challenges such as changing customer behavior, seasonal fluctuations, product lifecycle dynamics, supply chain disruptions, and data quality and availability.

  • Implementing best practices such as historical data analysis, collaborative forecasting, data-driven modeling, continuous monitoring and adjustment, and real-time market intelligence can significantly enhance demand forecasting accuracy.

  • Print on demand (POD) solutions like Gelato's can offer an efficient solution to ecommerce demand forecasting by enabling products to be custom-made and shipped directly to customers only when an order is placed.

What is ecommerce demand forecasting?

02_What is ecommerce demand forecasting

Ecommerce demand forecasting estimates future product demand based on historical data, market trends, and other relevant factors. By analyzing past sales, consumer behavior, and market conditions, businesses can predict future demand and make informed decisions about inventory management, production planning, and marketing strategies. Accurate demand forecasting helps ecommerce brands optimize their supply chain and ensure they have the right products in the right quantities at the right time.

Why is ecommerce demand forecasting important?

03_The challenges of ecommerce demand forecasting Version 3

A reliable and accurate demand forecast is crucial for ecommerce businesses. Here’s why:

Inventory management

Ecommerce companies often face the challenge of managing large product catalogs and diverse SKUs. Accurate demand forecasting enables businesses to stock the right amount of inventory, reducing the risk of overstocking or stockouts. This helps maintain a healthy cash flow and ensures that customers can find the products they need when they need them.

Streamlining production

By forecasting demand, ecommerce brands can align their production schedules with anticipated customer needs. This helps optimize production efficiency, minimize waste, and reduce costs. For example, suppose a particular product is expected to have high demand during a specific period. In that case, the ecommerce brand can adjust its production schedule to meet the demand and avoid unnecessary production during low-demand periods.

Enhancing customer satisfaction

Meeting customer demand promptly is vital in the highly competitive ecommerce landscape. Accurate demand forecasting allows businesses to maintain sufficient stock to fulfill orders promptly, ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. When customers receive their orders on time, it creates a positive impression and encourages them to make repeat purchases in the future.

Driving marketing strategies

Understanding demand patterns helps ecommerce brands develop effective marketing strategies. Businesses can tailor their promotions, advertising, and product launches by identifying peak demand periods or seasonal trends. For example, suppose the demand for a particular product category increases during the holiday season. In that case, an ecommerce brand can plan targeted marketing campaigns to capitalize on the increased demand and drive sales.

Maximizing profitability

Businesses can optimize their revenue and profitability by minimizing unnecessary inventory-carrying costs and maximizing sales opportunities. Demand forecasting allows ecommerce brands to make informed decisions about pricing, inventory management, and resource allocation, ensuring they are well-positioned to meet customer demand and achieve their financial goals.

The challenges of ecommerce demand forecasting

03_The challenges of ecommerce demand forecasting Version 1

While short-term demand forecasting has numerous benefits, ecommerce businesses face several challenges in accurately predicting consumer demand.

1. Changing customer behavior

Consumer preferences and buying habits can change rapidly, particularly in ecommerce. Trends can be influenced by social media, influencer marketing, and external events, making it challenging to anticipate demand accurately. For example, a highly popular product last month may suddenly lose appeal due to a new trend or viral social media campaign. Ecommerce businesses must constantly monitor and analyze customer behavior to stay ahead of these changes.

2. Seasonal fluctuations

Many ecommerce businesses experience variations in demand based on seasons, holidays, or other cyclical patterns. Predicting these fluctuations is crucial to avoid stockouts or excess inventory during off-peak periods. For instance, a clothing retailer may experience a surge in demand for winter jackets during the winter season, while demand for swimwear may decline. Ecommerce businesses must factor in these seasonal patterns and adjust their inventory levels accordingly.

3. Product lifecycle

New product launches, discontinuations, and changing customer preferences can all impact demand. Estimating the demand for new products or anticipating the decline in existing ones requires careful analysis. For example, a technology company launching a new smartphone needs to accurately predict the demand for the product to ensure sufficient supply and avoid excess inventory. On the other hand, a fashion retailer discontinuing a certain style of clothing needs to forecast the decline in demand to avoid stockouts.

4. Supply chain disruptions

External factors, such as natural disasters, political instability, or transportation issues, can disrupt supply chains and affect demand. For instance, a manufacturing plant affected by a hurricane may lead to delays in product availability, resulting in a temporary increase in demand for alternative products. Ecommerce businesses must closely monitor and assess potential supply chain disruptions to adjust their demand forecasts accordingly.

5. Data quality and availability

Accurate demand forecasting relies on the availability of relevant and reliable data. However, data quality issues or the absence of historical data can make forecasting challenging, especially for new ecommerce businesses. For example, a startup ecommerce business may not have access to extensive historical sales data, making it difficult to forecast demand accurately. Ecommerce businesses need to invest in data collection and analysis tools to ensure the availability of high-quality data for demand forecasting.

Key factors influencing ecommerce product demand

04_Key factors influencing ecommerce product demand

Successful demand forecasting in the ecommerce industry requires a deep understanding of product demand factors. While these factors may vary depending on the specific industry and product, some common factors include:

1. Market trends

Market trends play a vital role in shaping ecommerce product demand. By closely monitoring consumer behavior, retailers can identify emerging trends and adapt their offerings accordingly. For example, the rise of sustainable and eco-conscious products has increased demand for environmentally conscious options. By recognizing this trend, ecommerce brands can adjust their product selection and cross-selling strategies to cater to the growing demand for sustainable products.

2. Competitor analysis

By analyzing competitors' strategies and performance, ecommerce brands can gain insights into market share and anticipate shifts in demand. For instance, if a competitor launches a successful new product or marketing campaign, it may impact the demand for similar products in the market. Ecommerce brands can proactively adjust their strategies to stay competitive and meet consumer demand by staying informed about competitors' activities.

3. Seasonality

Different times of the year bring about changes in consumer behavior and preferences. For example, during the holiday season, there is typically a surge in demand for gift items and seasonal products. By recognizing these seasonal patterns, ecommerce brands can plan their inventory, marketing campaigns, and promotions to maximize sales and meet customer expectations.

4. Marketing campaigns and promotions

By assessing the effectiveness of past campaigns, ecommerce brands can refine their future strategies and optimize forecasting accuracy. For instance, if a particular marketing campaign leads to a significant increase in demand for a specific product, the brand can replicate or build upon that success in future campaigns. By understanding the relationship between marketing efforts and consumer demand, ecommerce brands can allocate resources effectively and generate better forecasts.

5. Economic factors

Changes in GDP, inflation rates, and consumer confidence can impact consumers' purchasing power and buying behavior. For example, during an economic downturn, consumers may be more cautious with their spending, resulting in a decrease in demand for non-essential products. By incorporating economic indicators into forecasting models, ecommerce brands can better predict and respond to shifts in consumer demand, ensuring optimal inventory management and resource allocation.

Five best practices in ecommerce demand forecasting

05_Five best practices in ecommerce demand forecasting

Accurate demand forecasting is the backbone of any successful ecommerce operation. By implementing these five best practices, ecommerce businesses can optimize their forecasting process and drive better business outcomes:

1. Historical data analysis

The first step in demand forecasting is analyzing historical data. Businesses can identify patterns, seasonal fluctuations, and historical demand variations by examining past sales trends. This analysis is a reliable foundation for predicting future demand and making informed business decisions.

2. Collaborative forecasting

Demand forecasting should not be a solitary endeavor. Involving key stakeholders from different departments, such as sales, marketing, and operations, can provide valuable insights and ensure a more accurate forecast. By incorporating cross-functional perspectives, businesses can avoid blind spots and make more informed decisions.

3. Data-driven modeling

Leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms can significantly enhance demand forecasting accuracy. By harnessing the power of data, businesses can create sophisticated models that consider multiple variables like seasonality, promotions, and customer behavior. These models can generate highly accurate predictions, enabling businesses to optimize inventory levels and minimize stockouts.

4. Continuous monitoring and adjustment

Demand forecasting is not a one-time activity; it requires constant monitoring and adjustment. Businesses can spot inaccuracies and refine their forecasting models by frequently reviewing and comparing the forecasted data with actual sales figures. This iterative process ensures that the forecasts remain accurate and relevant.

5. Real-time market intelligence

To stay ahead in the dynamic ecommerce landscape, businesses must stay updated with the latest market trends and customer preferences. Integrating real-time market intelligence into demand forecasting allows businesses to quickly adapt their strategies in response to changing market conditions. This agility enables businesses to capitalize on emerging opportunities and make proactive decisions.

By following these best practices and continuously monitoring performance metrics, ecommerce businesses can strengthen their demand forecasting capabilities and achieve greater operational efficiency.

How top ecommerce brands take control of their forecasting

01_Hero Image_Ecommerce demand forecasting Five best practices Version 1

Leading ecommerce brands understand the critical role that demand forecasting plays in their success. They have implemented robust strategies to take control of their forecasting, giving them a competitive edge in the market. Here are some key tactics employed by top ecommerce brands:

  • Deep customer segmentation: To accurately forecast demand, top ecommerce brands segment their customer base in detail. By understanding the unique preferences, behaviors, and buying patterns of different customer segments, these brands can tailor their forecasts to specific target audiences. This level of granularity allows them to allocate resources efficiently and maximize sales opportunities through exclusive discounts and package deals.

  • Integrated demand planning: Successful ecommerce brands align their demand forecasting with their overall demand planning processes. These brands can optimize the end-to-end value chain by integrating forecasting with inventory management, supply chain, and production planning. This holistic approach enables them to reduce lead times, prevent stockouts, and improve customer satisfaction.

  • Collaborative partnerships: Top ecommerce brands establish partnerships with suppliers, distributors, and other key stakeholders. By sharing data and insights, these brands gain a more comprehensive understanding of the market and can factor in external influences in their forecasts. This collaborative approach fosters mutual trust and enables businesses to respond quickly to market changes.

Print on demand (POD): An innovative solution to ecommerce demand forecasting

01_Hero Image_Ecommerce demand forecasting Five best practices Version 3

Print on Demand (POD) is revolutionizing the ecommerce industry by offering a more efficient solution to demand forecasting and inventory management challenges. With POD, ecommerce businesses can have products custom-made and shipped directly to customers only when an order is received. This on-demand production model eliminates the need for inventory storage and reduces the risk of overstocking or stockouts.

In addition to the cost and time-saving benefits, POD offers a more sustainable approach to ecommerce. By producing products only when there is demand, businesses can significantly reduce waste and minimize their carbon footprint. This is especially important in today's environmentally conscious society, where consumers actively seek brands that prioritize sustainability.

With Gelato's POD solution, ecommerce businesses can easily incorporate customization options into their product offerings. Customers can personalize items with their names, photos, or other unique designs, creating a more engaging and memorable shopping experience. This level of personalization enhances customer satisfaction and increases the likelihood of repeat purchases and customer loyalty.

Future-proof your business with accurate ecommerce demand forecasting and POD technology

Gelato offers a wide range of features that can aid large ecommerce enterprises in their forecasting efforts.

  1. Global Production Network: Gelato's extensive network of production partners worldwide ensures fast, cost-efficient order fulfillment.

  2. Real-Time Forecasting Dashboards: Gelato provides businesses with real-time dashboards that offer detailed insights into their sales performance and demand trends.

  3. API Integration: Gelato's API integration capabilities allow businesses to connect their ecommerce platforms with Gelato's production network seamlessly.

  4. On-Demand Scalability: One of the major advantages of Gelato's POD solution is its scalability. Gelato's platform adjusts production automatically to meet demand, ensuring optimal inventory levels and customer satisfaction.

Secure your enterprise ecommerce business's future with accurate demand forecasting and POD technology. With Gelato, the world's largest platform for local print on demand, you gain access to a global platform that helps you sell products locally in 34 countries, reaching up to 5 billion potential customers overnight.

Are you ready to transform your enterprise ecommerce business? Sign up for Gelato today, and let us be your trusted partner in this exciting journey. Together, we can turn your vision into reality.

Demand forecasting FAQs

How do you forecast demand in ecommerce?

Demand forecasting in ecommerce involves analyzing historical sales data, market trends, and customer behavior. We blend quantitative (statistical) and qualitative methods such as market research and expert opinion. We also consider factors like seasonality, promotional activities, and the introduction of new products. Advanced AI and machine learning techniques are crucial, enabling us to discern patterns and make accurate predictions.

How many types of demand forecasting are there in ecommerce?

Ecommerce demand forecasting generally falls into two main types: short-term and long-term forecasting. Short-term forecasts are typically for operational purposes like inventory management, while long-term forecasts are used for strategic planning. Techniques used can range from time-series methods, causal models, to AI and machine-learning methods, depending on the complexity and needs of the business.

What is the future of ecommerce in the US?

The future of ecommerce in the US looks robust with continued growth. Factors such as increased digital connectivity, evolving consumer behavior towards online shopping, and technological advancements like AI, VR, and AR will propel ecommerce. Additionally, a trend toward more personalized shopping experiences and omnichannel retail strategies will shape the sector.

What is the ecommerce forecast for 2025?

While it's challenging to predict exact figures, ecommerce is expected to continue its steep growth trajectory through 2025. Rapid technological advancements, increasingly seamless mobile shopping experiences, and the rise of more global platforms like Gelato will contribute to this growth. Ecommerce will also become more integrated into everyday life, offering more personalized, convenient, and local production and delivery options.


Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato