Data Needed to Interpret Anomalous Levels of Sales

The National Retail Data Monitor project has identified additional data about OTC sales that can help biosurveillance organizations interpret anomalies in OTC sales data. Because an increase in OTC sales might be due to a promotion (such as a discount or a special display at the front of the store), it is helpful when attempting to differentiate between an outbreak and a promotion to know the count of promoted sales and the count of unpromoted sales of a product or product category.

Users of the NRDM have also found that the number of customer transactions that produced the count of sales of a particular product on a given day can help with the interpretation of sales anomalies. For example, if a store sold 15 bottles of Robitussin® DM cough syrup today, whereas it typically sells one bottle per day, the fact that one customer bought the 15 bottles is less suggestive of an outbreak than had 15 different customers purchased one bottle each.

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