While the value of using social media information has been established in multiple business contexts, the field of operations and supply chain management have not yet explored the possibilities it offers in improving firms' operational decisions. This study attempts to do that by empirically studying whether using publicly available social media information can improve the accuracy of daily sales forecasts.We collaborated with an online apparel retailer to assemble a dataset that combines (1) detailed internal operational information, including data on sales, advertising, and promotions, as well as (2) publicly available social media information obtained from Facebook. We implement a variety of machine learning methods to forecast daily sales. We find that using social media information results in statistically significant improvements in the out-of-sample accuracy of the forecasts, with relative improvements ranging from 12.85% to 23.23% over different forecast horizons. We also demonstrate that nonlinear boosting models with feature selection, such as random forests, perform significantly better than traditional linear models. The best-performing method (random forest) yields an out-of-sample MAPE of 7.21% when not using social media information and 5.73% when using social media information is used. In both cases, this significantly improves the accuracy of the company's internal forecasts (a MAPE of 11.97%). Combining these empirical results, we provide recommendations for forecasting sales in general as well as with social media information.
- machine learning
- sales forecast
- social media
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Management Science and Operations Research
- Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
- Management of Technology and Innovation