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Archive for October, 2009

Modeling Customers Switching Between Brands – The General Case

October 23rd, 2009 5 comments

This is the last installment of a four-part series.  The first 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

Generalizing the Model

When I showed Steve Peterson (at Lexidyne) my brand switching model, he told me there is a more general version that separates the customer loss fraction from the fraction won by another competitor.  This has been presented in Pharmaceutical Product Strategy by Mark Paich, Corey Peck, and Jason Valant.

In my original formulation, the switching probability matrix was the product of these two variables.  However, in many practical cases, the data available comes from two different places and reflects these two separate components.  The revised model structure is shown below.

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Instead of one composite switching probability, this model uses a switching out probability that is distinct from the switching in probability.  The switching out probability is a one-dimensional array that, for each product, contains the fraction of customers lost to rivals every time unit (in our case, month).  A sample for the five brands A, B, C, D, and E appears below.

Brand Fraction Lost
A 0.091
B 0.170
C 0.046
D 0.026
E 0.071

switching out probability

We can see from this table that Brand B is losing 17% of its customers to rivals each and every month!  Whoever is managing that product had better do something quickly.

The other side of the story has to do with which brand the customers are switching to.  The switching in probability matrix contains, for each brand, the fraction of lost customers that migrate to a rival brand.  Thus, each row of this matrix must add up to one (100% of lost customers).  A sample appears below.

From\To A B C D E
A 0.00 0.11 0.33 0.55 0.01
B 0.18 0.00 0.29 0.41 0.12
C 0.22 0.02 0.00 0.44 0.32
D 0.04 0.00 0.77 0.00 0.19
E 0.02 0.07 0.28 0.63 0.00

switching in probability

Note the diagonal will always be zero.

We can determine a lot of things from this table.  For example, brand B offers no competition to brand D, brand D is the biggest rival of all the other brands, and brand C is brand D’s biggest rival.

Read more…

Running Mean and Standard Deviation

October 22nd, 2009 6 comments

This is an update to post published on August 31, 2009.  The attached model was updated to find negative means and an alternate method was included at the end.

I am frequently asked which built-in function gives either the running mean or running standard deviation of a model variable.  Unfortunately, there is no such built-in at this time (no, that is not what MEAN() does).

Luckily, however, we can replicate the behavior we desire from built-in functions by creating a reusable module.  I can create a module that calculates a running average and a running standard deviation from any model variable.

When building a reusable module component, it is important to carefully define what the input to the module will be (i.e., what are the parameters to the built-in function) and what the output of the module will be (i.e., what is the result or return value of the built-in function).  In this particular case, the input will be the variable whose running average or running standard deviation we wish to find.  There are two outputs:  the running average and the running standard deviation.  Note we do not have to use both outputs all the time.

Thus, our new module can be used as shown below:

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Note the name of the module was chosen to give a meaningful context to the running mean and standard deviation variables, which have fixed names defined inside the reusable module.  As in this example, it is always a good idea to give the module outputs general names that make sense when qualified by a context (the module name).

The reusable module itself was built and tested in iThink, and can also be used in STELLA.  The input parameter was given an equation to allow the model to be completely tested and debugged before being reused.  The model appears below and can be downloaded by clicking here.

image

Note the input to the module is named value.  After importing the module, this will need to be assigned to the variable in question, Cash in the above example.  This can be done from outside the module by right-clicking on Cash and choosing “Module->Assign to”, or right-clicking on value and choosing “Module->Assign Input to”.  The outputs can be assigned in a similar way, or the Ghost tool can be used.

This method, while relatively easy to understand, does accurately compute the standard deviation when the mean of the running sum of squares is close in magnitude to the running mean squared.  An alternate method that does not suffer this problem was developed by Welford in 1962 and is implemented in the model that can be downloaded by clicking here.

Finally, I am including a simple reusable module that finds the maximum value of a model variable across the entire run of a simulation.  It can be downloaded by clicking here.  It uses a stock to hold the maximum value seen so far, and takes advantage of the fact that uniflows cannot be negative.  It is used the same way as the running mean and standard deviation module, but only has one output called maximum.

For more information about modules, consult the iThink and STELLA help files.  These on-line resources are also available:

Using Modules Webinar

Module FAQs

C02 in the Atmosphere Behaves Like a Bathtub

October 16th, 2009 No comments

Last Friday we hosted the first of a four-part web seminar series titled Modeling for Environmental Sustainability.  This first session was about how you can use simple bathtub dynamics to understand climate change.

co2_bathtub In the session, Chris Soderquist demonstrates how you can use embeddable simulations to help raise awareness and understanding about climate change.  Using simple bathtub dynamics, the “C02 Dynamic Indicator” simulation lets anyone experiment with the current set of policy proposals for capping and reducing emissions.

The live session was recorded and is now posted on our website, along with two embedded simulations that you can run online.  All of the session materials are open source and we encourage you to link, embed and share them with others.