NEW YORK, Jan. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Lokad today announced Salescast, a web application for sales forecasting hosted on Windows Azure, for the retail industry. The announcement was made at the NRF's 100th Annual Exposition and Conference.
Sales forecasting has long been a key to success in the retail industry because good forecasts are critical to ensure optimal inventory levels. Too much inventory, and costs explode; too little inventory and there is nothing to sell.
While software solutions for sales forecasting have existed for decades, however, most forecasting toolkits prove to be very labor intensive as the forecasting models need to be manually refined and usually do not address the complex sales forecasting challenges posed by promotions or cannibalizations. These in-house forecasting solutions also often are very costly. They require hiring at least one qualified statistician, designing a clever model for the business, and purchasing expensive software licenses and servers to run the computations. These costs are so high that only very large companies can usually afford them. And the results often remain unsatisfactory.
To meet the sales forecasting challenge in the retail industry, Lokad delivers forecasting as a cloud-based, on-demand service that requires little or no manpower on the retailer side. Because it is pay-per-use and delivered by the cloud, the Salescast service can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively to speed time to value and it delivers the most accurate forecasts in the retail industry in minutes rather than months.
"Classically, forecasting a large number of product sales requires manually building and tweaking a model for every single reference – a laborious process that would require larger retailers to hire a dozen statisticians to complete the job," said Joannes Vermorel, CEO, Lokad. "At Lokad, we leverage the unprecedented processing capabilities offered by Windows Azure in order to automate the whole forecasting process, assessing the best forecasting model for every product and establishing correlations between products. The results are more accurate forecasts, delivered within 60 minutes instead of months, and at a cost that simply doesn't compare to classical solutions."
"At NRF 2011, Microsoft and our partners such as Lokadare showcasing how, together, we are delivering exceptional business value in enabling retail customers to deploy and manage mission-critical solutions such as sales forecasting on the Windows cloud computing platform," said Brendan O'Meara, managing director, Retail and Hospitality, Microsoft. "Delivering world-class cloud computing solutions is an important part of Microsoft's commitment to ensuring that our retail enterprise customers realize the maximum business value from their IT investments. No other company brings together the breadth of consumer and enterprise cloud capabilities in conjunction with a familiar technology and productivity platform, and a broad developer ecosystem, to provide retail enterprises with the IT flexibility and choice they need to run their businesses and compete in today's global economy."
Lokad has built its own proprietary forecasting technology on the Windows Azure platform. The Salescast solution is implemented in C# / .NET 4.0. Web front ends rely on ASP.NET. Data storage relies on Blob, Table and Queue Storage as provided by Windows Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure is also used to store transactional data.
Without the cloud computing capabilities of Windows Azure, Lokad was not able to scale its forecasting service and could only serve small midmarket retailers. Windows Azure enables Lokad to deliver much more accurate forecasts at a much larger scale.
Online Retailer Optimizes Inventory in the Cloud
k9cuisine based in Paris, Illinois, provides an excellent example of the competitive advantage that Lokad's sales forecasting technology on Microsoft's cloud platform can provide to retailers. k9cuisine is a leading online retailer of premium dog food and organic dog food and treats.
In k9cuisine's business, inventory optimization is critical. Overstocking needs to be avoided in order to provide the freshest possible food (fresher than local stores). Shortages can threaten the 95% same-day shipping rate.
Every week, Lokad accesses k9cuisine's inventory data and transfers it to its Windows Azure powered forecasting systems, where forecasts are computed. Forecasts are then returned to k9cuisine so they can proceed with their replenishments and order the optimal quantity of every product. Lokad takes into account seasonality, trend effects, promotions and sales events, and uses them to provide even more accurate forecasts. k9cuisine benefits from fully automated advance forecasts that do not require ongoing maintenance from an expensive statistician paid to monitor the forecasting accuracy. Forecasts are delivered on a weekly basis, without any manual intervention in the process. With Lokad and Windows Azure, k9cuisine is leveraging the power of high-quality sales forecasts in order to reach a key business goal: keeping up with outstanding customer services, while keeping inventory costs under control.
"Fresh food is good food. In order to deliver the best food quality to our customers while avoiding shortages, we make sure that we don't overstock and also that we don't run out," said Anthony Holloway, CEO at k9cuisine. "The Lokad forecasting solution allows us to precisely forecast our sales and to optimize our inventory accordingly. The result is there: we are maintaining a 99% customer satisfaction level and deliver food that is often fresher than what can be found at local pet stores."
Based in Paris, Lokad was named Windows Azure Platform Partner of Year by Microsoft in 2010. This award recognizes Lokad for demonstrating innovation, competitive differentiation and customer value by using Windows Azure. The Microsoft Partner Awards recognize partners that have delivered exceptional Microsoft-based solutions over the last year.