Lokad Announces Innovative Cloud-based Sales Forecasting Service for the Retail Industry at NRF 2011

By Lokad, PRNE
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lokad uses Windows Azure Platform from Microsoft to boost time-to-value and expand retail market opportunity for new highly scalable and cost-effective sales forecasting offering in the cloud

NEW YORK, January 10, 2011 - Lokad today announced Salescast, a web application for sales forecasting
hosted on Windows Azure (www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/windowsazure/),
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."

About Lokad

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.

Joannes Vermorel CEO of Lokad, +1-716-989-6531, +33-1-75-57-47-63, sales at lokad.com

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