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Forecasting: theory and practice

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Forecasting has always been at the forefront of decision making and planning. The uncertainty that surrounds the future is both exciting and challenging, with individuals and organisations seeking to minimise risks and maximise utilities. The large number of forecasting applications calls for a diverse set of forecasting methods to tackle real-life challenges. This article provides a non-systematic review of the theory and the practice of forecasting. We provide an overview of a wide range of theoretical, state-of-the-art models, methods, principles, and approaches to prepare, produce, organise, and evaluate forecasts. We then demonstrate how such theoretical concepts are applied in a variety of real-life contexts. We do not claim that this review is an exhaustive list of methods and applications. However, we wish that our encyclopedic presentation will offer a point of reference for the rich work that has been undertaken over the last decades, with some key insights for the future of forecasting theory and practice. Given its encyclopedic nature, the intended mode of reading is non-linear. We offer cross-references to allow the readers to navigate through the various topics. We complement the theoretical concepts and applications covered by large lists of free or open-source software implementations and publicly-available databases.


Context-Based Dynamic Pricing with Online Clustering

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We consider a context-based dynamic pricing problem of online products which have low sales. Sales data from Alibaba, a major global online retailer, illustrate the prevalence of low-sale products. For these products, existing single-product dynamic pricing algorithms do not work well due to insufficient data samples. To address this challenge, we propose pricing policies that concurrently perform clustering over products and set individual pricing decisions on the fly. By clustering data and identifying products that have similar demand patterns, we utilize sales data from products within the same cluster to improve demand estimation and allow for better pricing decisions. We evaluate the algorithms using the regret, and the result shows that when product demand functions come from multiple clusters, our algorithms significantly outperform traditional single-product pricing policies. Numerical experiments using a real dataset from Alibaba demonstrate that the proposed policies, compared with several benchmark policies, increase the revenue. The results show that online clustering is an effective approach to tackling dynamic pricing problems associated with low-sale products. Our algorithms were further implemented in a field study at Alibaba with 40 products for 30 consecutive days, and compared to the products which use business-as-usual pricing policy of Alibaba. The results from the field experiment show that the overall revenue increased by 10.14%.