http://www.ensighten.com - By Boaz Ronkin, Sr. Director of Product, EnsightenOn September 18, Ensighten and Forrester hosted a Big Data webcast (recording is available here). We briefed the marketing crowd in attendance about the innovative ways in which agile marketing organizations were extracting more value out of their Big Data investments. We ran two informal polls during the webcast. The first poll focused on the extent to which Big Data was utilized in driving marketing campaign optimization. The response was loud and clear: only 38% of the responders either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that their organization actively used Big Data to optimize its marketing campaigns.These results echo the message that I am receiving from both prospects and new Ensighten clients. Despite the market’s infatuation with Big Data, many marketers struggle to make the data work for them. Regardless of the initiative they pursue – be it expanding audience acquisition, personalizing site experience, retargeting abandoners, or implementing any other lofty project – marketers fail to let Big Data guide or at least inform their work. And it’s not for a lack of access; marketers have at their disposal vast amounts of data. Data is everywhere. It’s the acting-on-the-data part that is challenging. How do you go about improving campaigns – manually or automatically – using Big Data?In the second webcast poll, we asked the marketers to highlight the benefits that they currently realize from Big Data. We gave them a few options to choose from (we allowed multi-selections):Improve budget allocation and marketing mix decisionsCoordinate messages for each individual visitor across touch pointsSelect the right marketing vendor to acquire, convert or retain each individual visitorOptimize and personalize offers and creative for each individual visitorOtherThe most popular benefit (no surprise) was improving budget allocation and marketing mix decisions. This makes sense for two reasons: Believing that you are making smarter decisions has a lot to do with the amount of data you parse before you make a decision. Even if the data is of low quality, even if you lack good analysts who can surface the true story behind the numbers, the fact that you take time out of your busy schedule to stare at data will make you believe that your decisions are more informed by numbers and are, therefore, more effective. That’s just you, being human.The second reason that the other benefits are less popular is because they require automation. For example, to coordinate messages for each individual visitor across touch points, or, in other words, to sustain the conversation with visitors as they traverse channels and devices – instead of treating them as brand new to you every time (James McCormick from Forrester nicely describes this as “Groundhog Day” for customers) – you need systems to process Big Data and shape the next touch point based on the experience delivered in the previous one.So, how do you do that? Well, a good place to start is to create a website data layer. The data layer can help govern all your marketing technologies (like optimization, display, email, analytics), so that they stop performing like solo artists (the way they were originally implemented by your online vendors) and start acting like a good orchestra (think of your data layer as the conductor).The data layer is the first step you take on the path towards Big Data activation. You can learn more about the data layer by checking out the recording of yet another webinar we recently hosted with Softcrylic, specifically about data layers.You can also talk to Ensighten! We’d love to tell you about Big Data activation.