What is Forecaster?
As part of my role as an online marketer at Summit, I use Forecaster for my clients on their online marketing campaigns. But what is Forecaster? Well…built by Summit and using predictive analytics, Forecaster tells retailers and brands exactly how much, where and when to spend their online marketing budget across PPC, PLA and Display channels. Forecaster actually makes decisions by learning. It analyses these channels, learning from the market and studying how customers behave, then makes accurate decisions about where and when to invest a performance marketing budget to make the greatest profit.
We have already seen that Forecaster has delivered over half a billion pounds of sales to retailers and increased margins by an average of 35%. But how does it actually help us as online marketers? Forecaster not only delivers fantastic results, but it makes management of our campaigns quicker, more accurate and has allowed us to develop further expertise which we may have never considered previously.
As clear as crystal
The transparency of Forecaster makes it different from a number of other solutions and predictive analytics tools currently in the market. There is no hidden ‘black box’; every processing step is detailed every time the tool runs. With each Forecaster process, manual or scheduled, a number of diagnostic reports are produced showing what, when, and most importantly why:
What? – An output report detailing the overall forecast and predictions by keyword. It also includes the bid which has been assigned to each keyword.
When? – Within the diagnostic report you can see details of each time the Forecaster process has been completed (and whether there have been multiple completions per day) and what time each change was made.
Why? – A thorough diagnostic report showing what happened yesterday along with today’s prediction. It details all inputs which have been considered, such as seasonality, weather and which day of the week it is.
Diagnosis and opportunity
With Forecaster, campaign management and hygiene have been transformed – rule-based optimisation becoming a thing of the past. One of the first tasks of a Forecaster marketer is to review the daily diagnostic report produced, which is already sitting in our inboxes when we arrive each morning. This report allows us to make quick and meaningful decisions about account performance, driving opportunity at the earliest possible time. As campaign decisions have been made and changes have been executed before the start of the trading day, we are in a perfect position to make influential changes from the diagnostic reports. We can discover the predicted effect of each input within Forecaster, for example if it expects the weather to play a significant part or if the seasonality trend is on the up.
Within Forecaster we can see all of our desired metrics, by day, over a 3 month period. It displays the predicted value of each metric and the 95% confidence interval in which Forecaster expects the actual value to sit. It also provides actual values for the previous days, with the precision of the tool clearly highlighted. We are therefore not only able to understand where is best to spend the budget, but where the point of diminishing returns sits.
The information that Forecaster provides is simple but comprehensive, allowing marketers to assess overall performance at a glance. This allows us to spend more time making strategic decisions and investigating ways to drive further benefits for our retail clients.
The human touch
Forecaster can do many innovative and great things, however this would not be possible without human expertise. We, as online marketing experts, need to tell Forecaster which campaigns or ad groups we want it to manage. We also need to keep up-to-date with account hygiene and take into consideration any external factors which may influence performance.
Forecaster’s Budget Explorer decides daily budget and determines which KPI should be at the greatest point of return, therefore driving better efficiencies. Alternatively, we can manually choose budget and KPI measure to fit clients’ needs.
Client-specific focusses are also important. Forecaster understands historical data, seasonal patterns and weather effects; however has no way of knowing when new promotions go live or what insight has been gained from trading meetings. We need to input this information into Forecaster so it knows both what to expect and how to react.
An account with broken URLs, disapproved creatives and conflicting negatives is not going to work to the best of its ability. The best results are achieved when marketers give Forecaster the perfect platform from which to perform.
Key benefits of Forecaster
Forecaster’s benefits are plentiful; however there are three key points which really stand out.
– Strict budget and KPI control
– Support team of PhD and Masters level statisticians, further developing the tool every day
– Comprehensive diagnostic reporting
Forecaster has revolutionised retailers’ campaigns, helping drive both sales and margin. It is not a standalone tool and human involvement is imperative to drive success. Employing both statistical insight and human expertise is the key to reaping rewards in online retailing.
It is incredible as an online marketer to be part of something as truly innovative and change-making as Forecaster. Probably for the first time in the history of the marketing and advertising industry, we can actually tell our clients, with confidence, where and when to spend their marketing budget and how much it’s going to make them in profit. Now, that really is a good day at the office!