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Data and Pastry

by iperceptions, on Nov 4, 2013


Walmart-centric discussions never fail to provide interesting tidbits of information. Some may assume that I refer to “”, a website that is dedicated to preserving, for posterity, the pictorial proclivities of Walmart’s patrons. Not so: The focus of today’s Walmart discussion involves an American breakfast staple - Pop Tarts.

For that to make any sense, we must step out of the retail space and into the world of Big Data Analytics. In short, “Big Data” is exactly what it sounds like; massive data sets. Healthcare provides a great example: Rather than recording a patient’s heart rate in 30 minute intervals, “Big Data” is the recording of a patient’s every heartbeat. If your resting heart rate is 50 beats per minute, you are generating 1,500 data points over the same 30 minute period that would otherwise yield a single data point if measured using the interval method. When you factor in the resources required to store all of this data, while trying to fathom the size of the database required to store every last bit of this information, even the moniker “Big Data” seems to be an understatement.

But how does this relate to breakfast pastry?

Walmart has access to a massive amount of information – both retail and personal. While this may get the privacy hawks up in arms, it does allow for some interesting analysis. One of these was an analysis of purchasing patterns and the weather. It was discovered, oddly enough, that the sale of Pop Tarts was highly correlated to the occurrence of hurricanes. Whenever a hurricane was forecast to hit a community, Pop Tarts would sell like, well, hot cakes.

Armed with this information, Walmart both increased stock shipments and directed store management to relocate the Pop Tarts closer to the entrance whenever a hurricane was on the horizon. Sure enough, Walmart realized increased profits by taking advantage of both consumer behaviours and optimized product placement.

The reasons behind the Hurricane-related spike in Pop Tart sales are clear: they can be eaten hot or cold, are individually packaged and are virtually indestructible. However, where Big Data is involved, causation won’t always be so clear.

In their book “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think”, authors Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier state that, “Society will need to shed some of its obsession for causality in exchange for simple correlations: not knowing why but only what. This overturns centuries of established practices and challenges our most basic understanding of how to make decisions and comprehend reality.”

At iperceptions, we are fully committed to the concept of Big Data, and to making Big Data better. Combining our enterprise Voice of the Customer solution with data from Web Analytics providers, Session Replay tools and Live Chat programs (to name a few), iperceptions is giving our clients access to valuable insights previously regarded as hopelessly inaccessible.

Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of a customer’s actions and motivations is the competitive advantage that industry leaders will leverage to formulate successful business strategies over the next 10 years. The question is not “Should I engage in Big Data analytics?”. The only question you should be asking yourself is: “Can I afford to stand by the wayside while my competitors do?”


iperceptions is a global leader in Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions, helping the world’s customer-centric brands measure and elevate experiences across the customer journey.

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