Archive for September, 2009

Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands

September 30th, 2009 1 comment

This is the third installment of a four-part series.  The other three parts can be accessed by clicking on the links below.
Methods for Using Arrays Effectively

Modeling a Watershed with Arrays
Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands – The General Case


In the second post of this series, I showed how to selectively pull information from an array in order to route water through a watershed.  In this post, I will use the exact same technique to move customers between different product brands.

Switching Customers between Different Products

Business models often need to model gaining customers from, and losing customers to, competing products in a relatively mature market (what Kim Warren, in his excellent book Strategy Management Dynamics, calls “Type 2 Rivalry”).  These are often driven with statistical models developed through market research.  For this application, we need a matrix describing the probability of switching from product A to product B each time unit.  A sample appears in the table below.

From\To A B C D E
A 0.000 0.010 0.030 0.050 0.001
B 0.030 0.000 0.050 0.070 0.020
C 0.010 0.001 0.000 0.020 0.015
D 0.001 0.000 0.020 0.000 0.005
E 0.001 0.005 0.020 0.045 0.000

switching probability (units: dimensionless)

To read this table, locate the product the customer is presently using in the left column (say, B).  Read across that row (the second row, in this case) until you find the product the customer is switching to (say, C).  The number in that cell (in this case, 0.05 or 5%) is the probability the customer will switch from the first product to the second (from B to C) in this time unit.  If the model is running in months, as ours is, this table indicates that 5% of customers using product B switch to product C every month.

Of course, the values in the table do not need to be constant.  Often each cell will contain a regression equation based on various product characteristics – including market share, marketing effort, product features, and product quality – that evolve over the course of the simulation.

Note the diagonal is zero.  This means customers do not switch from one product to the same product.

Note also that the sum in any row cannot exceed 1.0, which represents 100% of the customers using that product.  It is quite normal for it to be below 1.0 because we do not include people who are not switching.  Some modelers find it easier to always have each row add up to 1.0.  If you desire to do this, fill the diagonal with the difference between 1.0 and the sum of the other columns.  For example, to do this for product A, replace the top left cell with 1.0 – (0.01 + 0.03 + 0.05 + 0.001) = 0.909 [for you Beatles fans].


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Modeling a Watershed with Arrays

September 15th, 2009 4 comments

This is the second installment of a four-part series.  The other three parts can be accessed by clicking on the links below.
Methods for Using Arrays Effectively

Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands
Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands – The General Case


This is the second installment of a multipart series.  The first part can be found by clicking here. Part 3 is available here.

In the first post of this series, I showed how to conditionally pull information from an array.  In this post, I will extend this concept to show how to route information through an arrayed model.  This is especially useful in spatial modeling applications.

Routing Water Through a Watershed

A common ecology application is the modeling of a watershed.  Part of such a model will necessarily involve a network of stream or river segments – called reaches – which feed each other.  It is desirable to implement this in a way that makes it easy to modify the reach network.  Using an explicit stock-flow network makes this very difficult.  However, it is relatively straightforward to use arrays of stocks and flows to build an easily configurable network.

Imagine a small watershed broken down into reaches as shown below:


For our purposes, a new reach will need to be created at every junction point.  Therefore, in this example and from a topological point-of-view, it is not strictly necessary to treat reach 4 separately from reach 2 nor reach 5 separately from reach 3, but reaches 2 and 3 must be separate from reach 1.  There are, of course, other reasons to separate reach 4 from 2 and reach 5 from 3, for example, slope, channel width, length, etc.

Every reach flows into exactly one other reach at its head, but many reaches can flow into the head of the same reach.  This requires a many-to-one representation of the reach network.  This is accomplished quite easily with a routing map which, for each reach, contains the number of the reach that this reach flows into.  We also need someway to signify the outlet.  Since reach numbers start at one, we can use zero to signify the outlet.  Using these rules, the above network is completely represented in the following routing map:

Reach Flows into
1 0
2 1
3 1
4 2
5 3

The nice thing about this representation is that it fits nicely into a one-dimensional array where the array index is the reach number and the reach it flows into is the value stored in that array element.

The model itself uses one stock to represent each reach.   That stock has one inflow for water entering the reach and one outflow for water leaving the reach: (Download the zipped STELLA model here)


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Methods for Using Arrays Effectively, Part 1

September 7th, 2009 3 comments

This is the first installment of a four-part series. The remaining three parts can be accessed by clicking on the links below.
Modeling a Watershed with Arrays
Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands
Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands – The General Case


Using arrays can be quite intimidating for most people. Many times, it is difficult to discover the correct way to formulate a problem in terms of arrays, especially when trying to do so in terms of single equations that can be applied to all elements of the array.

Consider the case where you might wish to count the number of occurrences of a value in an array. This can arise in many applications that need to track attributes, but is prevalent in spatially-explicit business applications. In such an application, you may associate a product code with a location and then want a count of the products of a given type. The following examples demonstrate a common way to extract conditional information from an array.

Finding the Number of Stations with a Given Status

Imagine you have a two-dimensional grid of fire stations in a city, called Stations, that stores one of four statuses:

0: no station in this sector
1: ready
2: away on a call
3: refitting

You consider the number of fire stations ready at any given moment to be an important metric. To calculate this, connect Stations to another two-dimensional array of the same size called ready stations. This will have a one in an array element if the station for that quadrant is ready and a zero otherwise. Its equation is:

IF Stations[Y, X] = 1 THEN 1 ELSE 0 { station ready? }

Note this equations uses dimension names (i.e., Stations[Y, X]) rather than element names (e.g., Stations[1, 2]). This allows you to create just one equation for the entire array (with “Apply to All” turned on), rather than a separate equation for each individual array element (with “Apply to All” turned off). When “Apply to All” is turned on, the equation for each element of the array is automatically generated by substituting that element’s dimensions for the dimension name in the given equation. All of the examples in this post use dimension names.

The total number of ready stations is now just the sum of all of the elements in the array ready stations. This is easily calculated by connecting ready stations to a scalar converter named total ready stations that has the equation

ARRAYSUM(ready_stations[*, *])

The model is shown below and can be downloaded by clicking here.


This general method can be used anytime we need to count the number of elements in an array based on some condition. First, create an array that has its elements set to one if the array-based condition is met and zero otherwise (IF condition THEN 1 ELSE 0). Then create a converter to sum the elements of this new array (using ARRAYSUM). Remember to turn “Apply to All” on and use dimension names in the condition rather than element names.

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