Machine learning methods have recently gained attention in business applications. We will explore the suitability of machine learning methods, particularly support vector regression (SVR) and radial basis function (RBF) approximation, in forecasting company sales. We compare the one-step-ahead forecast accuracy of these machine learning methods with traditional statistical forecasting techniques such as moving average (MA), exponential smoothing, and linear and quadratic trend regression on quarterly sales data of 43 Fortune 500 companies. Moreover, we implement an additive seasonal adjustment procedure on the quarterly sales data of 28 of the Fortune 500 companies whose time series exhibited seasonality, referred to as the seasonal group. Furthermore, we prove a mathematical property of this seasonal adjustment procedure that is useful in interpreting the resulting time series model. Our results show that the Gaussian form of a moving RBF model, with or without seasonal adjustment, is a promising method for forecasting company sales. In particular, the moving RBF-Gaussian model with seasonal adjustment yields generally better mean absolute percentage error (MAPE) values than the other methods on the sales data of 28 companies in the seasonal group. In addition, it is competitive with single exponential smoothing and better than the other methods on the sales data of the other 15 companies in the non-seasonal group.
Evangelista, V.M. and Regis, R.G. (2019), "Exploring the Suitability of Support Vector Regression and Radial Basis Function Approximation to Forecast Sales of Fortune 500 Companies", Advances in Business and Management Forecasting (Advances in Business and Management Forecasting, Vol. 13), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1477-407020190000013006
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