With summer here, it’s time to go playful, having some fun in the sun!

colin-gardiner-outdoorsyThere’s nothing like a good ole’ roadtrip to turn your dreams of adventure into a reality.

And what better way to be adventurous than to head out into the great outdoors in a recreational vehicle provided by Outdoorsy.

In today’s interview, I have the privilege of candidly speaking with Colin Gardiner, Chief Product Officer of fast growing Outdoorsy — the largest and safest community-driven RV marketplace for renting RVs directly from local RV owners.

Touting credible travel industry and startup experiences, Colin shares engaging thoughts about:

  • Facets of operating a recreational rental experience
  • Switching from .co to the matching .com
  • Impact of branding via emoji domains

Without further ado, let’s go on an adventure with Colin as shares why Outdoorsy goes adventurous using an emoji domain to reach a younger buyer demographic.

KSC: Tell our readers a bit about Outdoorsy.

CG: Outdoorsy launched 2 years ago and is similar to AirBnB, but for RVs, camper vans, and any kind of adventure vehicle you can think of. We’re a trusted peer-to-peer marketplace aiming to provide an end-to-end recreational rental experience as opposed to a lead generation website.

We concern ourselves with all facets of the rental experience, ranging from fraud checks, verification of vehicle inspection and insurances for involved parties. We ensure the highest regard for quality, security, safety, and affordability both renters and owners.

KSC: What is your role at Outdoorsy, and how did you get your start?

CG: Having had a background in economics, analytics, and product development, I joined Outdoorsy as the Chief Product Officer circa end of 2017.

I actually started my career doing stats and econometrics at the Federal Reserve. From there I got into tech by way of analytics, building bidding algorithms for SEM, landing page optimization, and then more and more into the product development cycle.

Having a background in economics has been super powerful in regards to building products while understanding human behaviors and tradeoffs. I especially found this experience to be most beneficial and effective in the travel space due to pricing, clearing, and demand being critical components of a travel experience.

I tend to gravitate to the travel space because it’s something I really love, and it’s a product you don’t have to convince people to buy. In fact, I’ve come to learn that most customers would spend their disposable income on travel if they could. However, the real limitation is money and time to travel, with time being a determining factor limiter based on how much time a person receives for personal and vacation days.

KSC: Speaking of customers, what does a customer experience when choosing Outdoorsy?

CG: Well, as a marketplace we have have two groups of customers: renters and owners.

Renters choose Outdoorsy in hopes of securing a short-term rental of a certain recreational vehicle for their next adventure around the world.

Owners choose Outdoorsy as an opportunity to make money off an asset that isn’t necessarily the greatest investment.

RV’s are often times considered to be a second home, seeing most carry a a 30-year mortgage. As opposed to a traditional home, what’s not great about this is it being a rapidly depreciable asset that can quickly become upside down on the value.

Most owners of RVs use them for a few years, and then it starts to fall by the wayside. Then it likely becomes an albatross for them. So Outdoorsy provides somewhat of a financial liberation and opportunity that likely wasn’t there before.

KSC: Although focused on renters and owners, does Outdoorsy partner with RV parks or similar sources for greater brand exposure?

CG: With our bread and butter focused on the rental of recreational vehicles, we do partner with KOA RV Parks. These types of partnerships have provided good relational synergy to grow our businesses.

In addition, we offer an affiliate program that both renters and owners participate in that helps to spread the word about their Outdoorsy experience with friends, family, coworkers and recreational enthusiasts.

KSC: Shifting gears to how I discovered Outdoorsy, when and how did Outdoorsy learn about emoji domain names?

CG: Well, emoji have always been omnipresent while emoji domains are considered somewhat a novelty as this current time.

Even for Outdoorsy, we consider emoji domains to communicate a more playful and adventurous attitude that resonates with a younger, up and coming demographic.

And although not the most memorable, phonetically speaking, 🚌✌.ws has lent itself well for social networks such as Twitter.

KSC: Has Outdoorsy used or currently using emoji domains in offline/online advertising?

CG: We’ve not actively used emoji domains in a campaign. Emoji domains are a bit of a novelty factor although they can does fit certain advertising situations well.

We use emoji domains, specifically 🚌✌.ws, for testing environments and as the occasional URL shortener for shared links.

But part of the reason we’ve not used 🚌✌.ws as much is a reflection of asking the question of whether or not emoji domains are good for building one’s brand.

KSC: You mention branding. Does not having complete exclusivity of a given emoji cause a bit of hesitancy or reservation towards developing 🚌✌.ws as the Outdoorsy brand?

CG: Yes and no. For example, there isn’t a great RV emoji to represent recreational activity in general. So, we’re limited by a centrally agreed upon selection of what single or combination of emoji that can possibly represent a given brand.

However, we’re more likely to turn our attention to an opportunity to brand a custom emoji for Outdoorsy should there be an opportunity for such a thing to exist. If so, that would be a great opportunity!

KSC: Did or would Outdoorsy consider purchasing 🚌.ws or 🚌.to to create somewhat exclusive branding?

CG: Yeah, we would consider 🚌.ws if we could figure and work out all the details. Then again, I don’t know if we would want the 🚌 due to its non uniformity across platforms such as iOS, Android, etc. But potentially I think we want something more like an actual RV emoji.

KSC: I noticed Outdoorsy using additional domains. Which domain came first: Outdoorsy.co or Outdoorsy.com?

CG: Outdoorsy.co was our first domain, and then we switched to Outdoorsy.com after being awarded it via a UDRP process. I’m not at liberty to discuss the UDRP process, but certainly feel free to search online to find out more about it.

KSC: What’s been the most interesting about owning and using 🚌✌.ws?

CG: What’s interesting about 🚌✌.ws is that we liked it because it truly fits our vibe.

However, we uncovered a few challenges when attempting to use 🚌✌.ws. There are many native applications and platforms that don’t support use of emoji domains, such as Slack. Yet social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, don’t have the strict usability issues as native platforms.

And while emoji and emoji domains look and are cool to use, another surprising challenge uncovered is the cultural differences in emoji usage.

For instance, internationally speaking, the peace or palm out sign or symbol (✌) can be seen as a derogatory gesture (i.e., “F*** You”). So you have to be culturally aware and sensitive to what a given emoji or combination could infer or communicate when used.

KSC: Does Outdoorsy track its emoji domain usage using Google Analytics?

CG: No, we haven’t invested a lot of time tracking emoji domain usage only due to the lack of platform acceptance and usability not being the best at this current moment in time.

But should acceptance and usability become mainstream, and the ability to create custom emoji be made available, then we would certainly consider investing more in tracking and measuring emoji domain usage.

KSC: Have you given thought to registering 🚌✌ in other extensions?

CG: No, we’ve not considered registering 🚌✌ in other extensions.

However, we have used various domain hacks to create social click-through links using .click and other new top level extensions. I don’t have actual data to back it up. At at glance, we’ve certainly seen better click-through rates using domain hacks than we have using ordinary links.

KSC: Last but not least, is there a vision for Outdoorsy to expand outside of the United States?

CG: Certainly! We currently serve the United States and Canada while most recently launching in Australia and Europe.

What I expect to see moving forward for Outdoorsy is a grow trajectory of greater recreational vehicle accessibility to more international markets.

As for nuts and bolts features pertaining to the product roadmap, I expect us to keep delivering heavy-rich features aimed at nurturing greater trust and safety — building a great product that customers want to use again and that they feel safe using from both owner and renter perspectives.

KSC: Anything else you would like to share about Outdoorsy, emoji domains or other final thoughts?

CG: No, nothing crazy or really groundbreaking. We’re always open to trying new things. I think book is certainly not closed on using emoji domains.

There’s a playfulness to emoji domains the lends itself to the Outdoorsy brand. It’s one of those areas we’re intrigued to see what we can do with emoji domains to bring life to the Outdoorsy brand while also strengthening it.

Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.