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“Counting Your Customers” the Easy Way: An Alternative to the Pareto/NBD Model

By Peter S. Fader, Bruce G. S. Hardie and Ka Lok Lee

Abstract

Today’s managers are very interested in predicting the future purchasing patterns of their customers, which can then serve as an input into “lifetime value” calculations. Among the models that provide such capabilities, the Pareto/NBD “counting your customers” framework proposed by Schmittlein et al. (1987) is highly regarded. However, despite the respect it has earned, it has proven to be a difficult model to implement, particularly because of computational challenges associated with parameter estimation. We develop a new model, the beta-geometric/NBD (BG/NBD), which represents a slight variation in the behavioral “story” associated with the Pareto/NBD but is vastly easier to implement. We show, for instance, how its parameters can be obtained quite easily in Microsoft Excel. The two models yield very similar results in a wide variety of purchasing environments, leading us to suggest that the BG/NBD could be viewed as an attractive alternative to the Pareto/NBD in most applications.customer base analysis, repeat buying, Pareto/NBD, probability models, forecasting, lifetime value

DOI identifier: 10.1287/mksc.1040.0098
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