L'Optimisation Prédictive dans le secteur de la Mode



La mode est déterminée par la nouveauté. Une marque dans ce secteur doit concevoir et commercialiser le bon produit au bon moment, au bon prix et avec la juste quantité de stock pour convenir aux besoins du marché. Les promotions sont ensuite utilisées, d'abord pour amplifier la demande, puis pour liquider tout excédent éventuel de stock. Lokad fournit une solution logicielle statistique qui permet une optimisation prédictive à chaque étape du cycle de vie du produit, de sa création à sa liquidation. Notre technologie englobe exactement ce qui rend la mode si incroyablement difficile : cannibalisations et substitutions omniprésentes, tendances et saisonnalités erratiques, flux incessants de nouveaux produits, prix hautement dynamiques, etc.

Ed. Le contenu ci-dessous ne concerne pas le luxe car le secteur du luxe obéit à un ensemble de règles et contraintes très différent. Pour en savoir plus, consulter la page Predictive Optimization for Hard Luxury.

Drawing of fashion models


Vizions par Zalando : La première conférence européenne sur les plateformes
le 20 avril 2017 à Berlin

Commençons par une question innocente. A votre avis, pourquoi y a-t-il des soldes ? De nos jours, les soldes d'hiver, les soldes d'été et un certain nombre de petits événements intermédiaires sont une institution, surtout dans le domaine de la mode. (...) Mais pourquoi les soldes ont-elles été inventées ? Elles existent pour permettre aux détaillants de se débarrasser de leurs surstocks. Les soldes sont donc avant tout la manifestation d'une prévision qui a été mal réalisée. Aujourd'hui, on peut néanmoins dire qu'elles sont bien plus que cela, ce qui est vrai même sil'objectif initial demeure.

Joannes Vermorel, fondateur de Lokad

LOKAD TV

Regardez nos interviews sur Lokad TV et apprenez-en davantage sur la chaîne d'approvisionnement et la mode.

Une optimisation complète sur l'ensemble du cycle de vie du produit

Phase 1 - pre-collection

De nombreuses marques lancent des milliers de nouvelles références par collection, prenant en compte les tailles, les couleurs, les points de vente, etc.

photo of a store front with new collection

Au cours des dix dernières années, les marques les plus performantes ont démontré leur capacité à toujours mieux s'adapter aux dernières tendances, en augmentant le nombre de leurs collections par an et en réduisant leur délai d'approvisionnement.

La technologie d'optimisation prédictive de Lokad aborde chaque décision tout au long du cycle de vie pour chacun des produits de la marque. Notre technologie est un mélange d'apprentissage automatique - utilisé pour extraire des modèles ou des prédictions à partir des données - et d'optimisation numérique - utilisée pour générer des décisions optimisées.

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La préparation de la nouvelle collection commence par la livraison d'une optimisation de l'assortiment - également appelée plan de gamme. La technologie Lokad vous permet de composer la bonne gamme de tailles, de couleurs et de formes en plus des modèles initiaux. Ce plan de gamme est destiné à correspondre au mieux aux souhaits et attentes de votre clientèle. Nous pouvons également vous aider à mener l'analyse de rentabilité qui soutient le plan de gamme. Lokad offre aussi aux planificateurs la possibilité d'affiner le plan grâce à nos connaissances de haut niveau, plutôt que de micro-gérer chaque variante de produit.

Une fois le plan de gamme finalisé, nous fournissons une optimisation des achats, en vous conseillant exactement combien d'unités produire ou acheter pour chaque variante de produit, ainsi que le moment idéal pour commander. De toute évidence, la plupart des produits n'ont jamais été vendus auparavant. Cette tâche est généralement compliquée par de multiples contraintes de quantité minimale de commande (MOQ), des prix cassés, ainsi que des délais d'approvisionnement variables (le Nouvel An chinois qui ralentit par exemple la production en Asie). Lokad peut également optimiser la coordination de divers transports (comme le fret maritime ou aérien) et celle de sources (fournisseurs étrangers ou locaux par exemple).

A titre d'exemple, notre solution concernant la MOQ peut traiter plusieurs contraintes relatives à la MOQ qui se chevauchent : il peut y avoir une MOQ au niveau du produit (par exemple, un minimum de 100 unités par produit pour chaque commande), une autre MOQ au niveau du tissu (par exemple, un minimum de 3000 mètres de tissu par couleur), et une dernière MOQ au niveau du fournisseur (par exemple, un minimum de 50 000 dollars de marchandises par commande). Traiter toutes ces MOQ tout en gardant les niveaux de stock sous contrôle est un véritable casse-tête lorsque les MOQ sont traitées manuellement. Lokad rationalise entièrement le processus grâce à des outils numériques qui permettent d'identifier l'"enveloppe" de commande qui sera à la fois la plus rentable et saura répondre toutes les contraintes données.




Phase 2 - post collection launch

When the collection launch looms ahead, we deliver a stock allocation optimization, deciding exactly how many units to allocate to each distribution center and/or to each store. In store, the stock has two purposes: not only servicing the demand, but also attracting the clientele in the store. The allocation optimization properly takes into account this merchandizing angle, making the most of every store. The optimization takes into account storage capacity limits (e.g. shelf space), as well as the limited capacity of the ground teams to cope with large incoming batches of products. Bundles and lots - which are handy to lower manutention costs - are also taken care of.

In order to stick to the latest trends, we identify best-sellers and slow-movers. The identification of the best-sellers, intended to trigger early replenishments, can be done with limited stock quantities, only probing the market in a limited number of stores - possibly only probing the market through the e-commerce platform. Conversely, the early identification of slow-movers is also important in order to remove as soon as possible those products from the shelves that they occupy at the expense of better products.

For most fast fashion brands, discounts and other promotional mechanisms are part of the brand’s DNA. Lokad delivers pricing optimization capabilities, suggesting when to lower the price in order to ensure that there won’t be any left over at the end of the collection, while maximizing the overall amount of gross margin.

We also take into account discounts originating from loyalty programs - uniformly applied over many products - which may replace and sometimes supplement discounts at the product level.

shirts on a rack on sale

Assortment optimization, purchasing optimization, stock allocation optimization, identification of best-sellers and slow-movers, pricing optimization: Lokad can be used to optimize all these decisions - and more - with a consistent end-to-end perspective on the products’ full lifecycle. However it’s also possible to start small with a more narrow scope. For any inquiries, drop us an email at contact@lokad.com




Fashion requires non-classic demand forecasts

The optimization of decisions involving stocks and prices requires accurate insights about the future. However, the classic demand forecasting perspective is mostly dysfunctional as far as fashion is concerned. Lokad has therefore developed unique forecasting capabilities engineered at their core around the challenges faced by fashion companies.

We work with probabilistic forecasts: we consider all the possible futures, and we compute their respective probabilities. Indeed, the demand uncertainty is irreducible in fashion. There is no hope of producing a “perfect” forecast. Traditional methods expect decision to be taken against the “One” forecast, making those decisions fragile against forecast errors.

Instead of dismissing uncertainty, we embrace it. Through probabilistic forecasts, we balance risks and opportunities.

The forecasts operate at the assortment level in order to take into account the cannibalization and substitution effects. Forecasting the demand of a product in isolation is meaningless, as the demand for this product is strongly influenced by the presence - or absence - of similar products that all compete for the same customers. Traditional methods focusing on time-series forecasts entirely miss this point, and the situation usually gets worse when safety stocks or service levels are also used.

The demand is conditioned by the pricing, which is an integral part of our forecast. Not only is the future demand a matter of probabilities, but those probabilities are influenced by the price of the product - an actionable lever at the disposal of the company.

Once again, assortment matters, and the uplift of demand depends on the overall promotional intensity. It’s unwise to expect the same uplift if the product is the only one being promoted in the store, compared to a promotion applied to the whole store. Forecasts don’t just stop with the demand; returns and lead times must be forecasted as well.

Every source of uncertainty requires proper statistical forecasts, and while future demand is central, there are needs beyond demand forecasting and we have engineered our technology accordingly. Those forecasts are also usually probabilistic and tend to be combined with the demand forecasts themselves - e.g. forecasting the demand over the lead time. The latest generation of our forecasting technology relies on differentiable programming. This descendent of deep learning is particularly suitable to deal with sparse and intermittent demand as commonly observed in the fashion industry.

new fashion pieces related on social media

What about weather and social media?


Our experience indicates that most companies are dramatically underusing their own “basic” historical data. Most demand forecasts are not even leveraging the customer loyalty data, and most purchase orders are made without a formal lead time forecast. Thus, while we do not disregard taking clues from external data sources like social media or weather data, we firmly believe that companies should start by making the most of the data they already have.




Scaling up to the challenge

Fashion at scale involves hundreds of stores, and tens of thousands of variants. Therefore, the forecasting engine needs to be able to scale up to millions of SKU positions. Our forecasting engine was natively designed for cloud computing. Unlike traditional solutions, the cloud is not an afterthought for Lokad: Lokad can process terabytes of data daily.

inside a fashion store with data graphic

Additionally, unlike traditional approaches, our forecasting capability does not rely on manually linking older and newer products by telling the system which older product should be deemed as the most relevant for forecasting the new product.

Instead, our forecasting engine relies exclusively on advanced machine learning algorithms to automatically detect the similarities that may exist between products, and to identify, by itself, which specific products are relevant for forecasting a new product in the collection.

This automatic detection of similarities relies on the numerous product attributes that are typically present in fashion: product type, product family, size, color, fabric, style, price point, brand, etc. While one might be worried about the amount of data required, our experience at Lokad indicates that catalog data, as it exists for operating the facets of an e-commerce front-end for example, is usually enough for achieving good results.

Traditional forecasting solutions that are based on manual pairing between products are too time-consuming to be effective - there are too many pairs to consider - since it is precisely the pairing that happens to be the main ingredient of the forecasts.

Due to the ineffectiveness of this method, companies tend to revert back to their spreadsheets as the manual pairing forecasting solution fails to deliver the necessary value. Lokad tackles the challenge head-on, focusing on the core difficulty of the challenge, instead of passing the burden on to the users.

However, at Lokad, while we can refer to this forecasting process as product pairing, we do not assume that there is a 1-to-1 mapping between products from an old and a new collection. For example, one product may be split into multiple variants, which may generate cannibalizations. Then, another product might be truly “new”, with no close-matching past products. In such case, the forecasting engine falls back on broader considerations, such as the product category, family, brand or price point.




Economic drivers and whiteboxing

Decisions must be optimized against their expected returns expressed in dollars or euros, not percentages.

All the factors that shape the cost and reward of a decision are collectively referred to as economic drivers: they include the gross margin, inventory carrying cost, transportation cost, shelf space opportunity cost, customer goodwill, etc. Lokad modelizes explicitly all these economic drivers, taking into account the specifics of the fashion market.

For example, whenever a product is sold with a discount, it creates an expectation from the client to benefit from a similar discount in the future.

store front with a new sale

The first purpose of those economic drivers is to support the numerical optimization process that generates the decisions (e.g. purchase order quantities or product discounts). There is no optimization without measurement: the economic drivers are literally what makes the optimization process work.

Lokad is not a substitute for deep strategic insights (those come from your team’s expertise), our technology is merely designed to make it possible to deploy at scale those strategic insights - as reflected through the economic drivers - in every single decision taken by the company.

The second purpose of those drivers is the “whiteboxing” process. The purpose of the whiteboxing process is to deliver to your teams a high degree of transparency for every single decision generated by Lokad. Your team needs to understand why this decision is suggested by Lokad. In order to achieve that, every decision generated by Lokad comes with its own set of metrics - measured in euros or dollars - which explain the business intent of the decision. Those metrics are the different reflections of the economic drivers. Our experience indicates that this approach is superior to trying to shed light on the algorithmic fine-print of the calculation, that is not only incredibly tedious, but also largely nonsensical except to machine learning experts or numerical optimization experts.

From a management perspective, economic drivers are a powerful mechanism to steer the company in the right direction. These drivers are not seen as “immutable” but on the contrary are actually always susceptible to change, in order to reflect the evolution of the market. Lokad’s technology is designed to provide a high degree of agility: with limited efforts, it is possible to elaborate complex what-if scenarios portraying various alternative strategies.