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A story of basketball shoes, personalization, and next-level data-driven relevance.

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For the last year or so, Jamie Ippolito and I have been talking about, among other things, the future and implications of personalization. We’ve even teamed up, as many of you have heard, on a way to use Ryan Solutions data to personalize a website experience. Dirigo’s system takes guest data, runs it through a logic engine, and customizes parts of the site based on what it knows about that guest. So cool.

As such, anything that deals with (re)targeting or data or personalization certainly catches our eye. After Jamie told me of such a story he experienced, I asked him to tell his tale. Here’s what he said.

My almost 11 year old daughter is pretty good at basketball (and She’s been playing AAU for a little while and is now into a summer league, along with a bunch of other basketball camps. Her feet keep growing (damn tweens), so before the end of the Spring she needed new kicks. After suffering through a few games to finish out the Spring season with her brother’s hand-me-down shoes (note that he just turned 9), she needed her own new pair.

So, in May, I started to do some researching using the world wide web (Google would be proud of the 100s of micro-moments I created). Of course I started with just about the most expensive basketball shoes around (anything Steph Curry by Under Armour starts at $130+). I like to buy shoes like I buy wine or books — solely [pun intended] by the looks/cover/label.

I mean look at how pretty these are.


I visited the usual suspects: Amazon, Zappos,, and a few sporting goods stores. Huge $ and limited sizes abounded — it was out of season for hoops shoes. Making it more difficult, I needed a “youth” size 5 (and don’t get me started on what Youth, Big Kid, etc even means — it seems like each company has their own definition).

As discussed, the prices for anything Steph Curry related were/are ridiculous — search postponed. Then the end of school rolled around and my daughter is “graduating” 5th grade. A fitting time to get her a congratulations gift.

Like a white knight with a glass slipper, Under Armour slid into my DMs (ok, they actually just slid into my FB news feed with an ad). Showing me that the exact shoes I had been looking at were now on sale-ish, which presentation-wise looked like this:


Expanded out it lets you swipe, like this:


Facebook calls it Canvas (in-app shopping), although they have probably changed the name of it 10x already. Most likely, and depending on how much you pay, it can be expanded to look something like this:


Whether you like it or not, I use Adblock 100% of the time on desktop… and I will disable javascript if you try to get fancy and tell me that I am using Adblock (GFY). Sorta can’t do that on mobile quite yet without jumping through some hoops, so all the Facebook advertising crap shows up in my feed.

tl;dr: i bought a pair of shoes.


The above shoes arrived, my daughter was happy, and I won dad of the year (for like the 5th time in 2016 so far). Now… fast forward to a week later. Once again, I am swiping through my FB news feed on mobile and get this:


I scrolled to the right, no shoes…scrolled more, still no shoes. But everything SC30 (Steph Curry line) was there: backpacks, hats, pants, tops, etc. Brilliant I thought. The man behind the curtain got me to buy a pair of shoes a couple of weeks ago, and now is back, but not showing me any shoes at all. It’s like they know (hint: that is the whole point of this rambling).

And that is where this is going. The first scenario is pretty normal. I research a product on the WWW and I am tracked since I’ve been logged into Facebook since 2007. That kind of retargeting has been happening for years. What is better is that the second time they showed up in my FB feed (post-purchase), they knew (or at least made me believe they knew) that I had already bought shoes. Time to upsell me on everything else they have — i.e. don’t show me shoes.

Even if all of the above is just fantastical dreaming that someone behind the curtain orchestrated this entire thing, it was enough to get someone who has been on the internet long before “Facebook was for companies” to 1) make a purchase (also didn’t hurt that Under Armour has PayPal as checkout option – buying on mobile with credit cards is so 2008) and 2) actually be impressed that the subsequent advertising actually wasn’t a copy of the first; it learned and showed new/more products based on my past-purchase behavior.

The lesson? If you know something about a customer, don’t show them the same thing over and over again. If they booked a vacation already, show them activities and dining options that are available during their stay. If they have a season pass, stop telling them that the deadline is approaching.

Like Gregg said, this is on our brains because we (Dirigo) have been building that logic engine for content personalization into our resort website platform. Send your customer/prospects an email and when they click through to your website, you can programmatically show them relevant content that is pre-customized to match where they are in the buying cycle (e.g., looking at lodging, need a season pass, coming to your resort next week, etc.) The concept can be expanded to custom navigation sets, page content, promotion blocks, shopping carts — literally anywhere.

The better we get at defining and then micro-targeting cohorts or groups, the better the response.

If Under Armour had been lazy, and shown me an advertisement of shoes again, they would get zero response. As it stands, I am now considering a backpack – who knew.

Be kind and thoughtful to people that you’ve already spent a lot of time and money to just get to look at you. Don’t be lazy.

As for Under Armour? Brilliant. I hope they meant to sell to me that way. Love it. Hashtag winning (adulting).

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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