In real life, the need for explanatory variables arises when there are some external factors that have relation with the response variable and impact the final forecasts and their accuracy. Examples of such variables in the demand forecasting context include price changes, promotional activities, temperature etc. In some cases, the changes in these factors would not substantially influence the demand, but this does not apply universally to the problem. If we omit this information from the model, this will be damaging for both point forecasts and prediction intervals (see discussion in Chapter 15 of Svetunkov, 2022a).
While the inclusion of explanatory variables in the context of ARIMA models is a relatively well-studied topic (for example, this was discussed by Box and Jenkins, 1976), in the case of ETS, there is only a Chapter 9 in Hyndman et al. (2008) and a handful of papers. Koehler et al. (2012) discuss the mechanism of detection and approximation of outliers via an ETSX model (ETS with explanatory variables). The authors show that if an outlier appears at the end of the series, it will seriously impact the final forecast and needs to be modelled correctly. However, if it appears either in the middle or at the beginning of the series, the impact on the final forecast is typically negligible. Kourentzes and Petropoulos (2016) used ETSX successfully for promotional modelling, demonstrating that it outperforms the conventional ETS in terms of point forecasts accuracy in cases when promotions happen. So, the inclusion of explanatory variables in dynamic models is not just a nice feature, but in some situations is a necessity, which helps improving the forecasting accuracy.
In ADAM, the state-space model (7.1) can be easily extended by including additional components and explanatory variables. This chapter discusses the main aspects of ADAM with explanatory variables, how it is formulated, and how the more advanced models can be built upon it. Furthermore, the parameters for these additional components can either be fixed (static) or change over time (dynamic). We discuss both in the following sections. We also show that the stability and forecastability conditions, discussed in Section 5.4 for the pure additive ETS model, will be different in the case of the ETSX model and that the classical definitions should be updated to cater for the introduction of the explanatory variables. We also briefly discuss the inclusion of categorical variables in the ETSX model and show that the seasonal ETS models can be considered as special cases of ADAM ETSX with dummy variables.
Furthermore, we will use the term “deterministic” explanatory variable to denote the situations when the values of variables are known in advance or can be controlled by us. An example is the price of a product or a promotion that we decide to have. On contrary, we will use term “stochastic” explanatory variable for the cases, when its future value is not known and is beyond our control. An example of this variable is the temperature, which we cannot control and do not know for sure in advance. Usage of deterministic variables in dynamic models might differ from the usage of the stochastic ones.
As a final note, we will carry out the discussion of the topic in this Chapter on the example of ADAM ETSX, keeping in mind that the same principles will hold for ADAM ARIMAX because the two are formulated in the same framework. We will call the more general dynamic model (encompassing ETS and/or ARIMA) with explanatory variables “ADAMX” in this and further chapters.