Blog > MyFBAPrep Interviews > Events As a Strategic Growth Tool: A chat With Brexton Bennett of aiCommerce

Events As a Strategic Growth Tool: A chat With Brexton Bennett of aiCommerce

In this video, Rachel Go chats with Brexton Bennett, Head of Business Development at aiCommerce. Brexton shares how he went from teaching to running events in eCommerce, leveraging events as a marketing channel for aiCommerce, channel strategy and the evolving social media scene, and more.

Transcript below.

Brexton’s background

Rachel Andrea Go: Thank you, Brexton, for chatting with me today. To get started, can you share a little bit about your background and how it led you to where you are today?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, for sure. Thanks for having me, Rachel, it’s great to be here. So, my background [is] kind of unique, I guess. But that’s one of the things I really like about this Amazon space is you kind of have entrepreneurs from all sorts of different niches and different walks of life who found themselves here. I was a high school teacher out of college. I studied entrepreneurial management and then really, really, really loved teaching. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. After a couple years, I had the chance with a business partner to invest in an eCommerce summit. And there was a lot of unknowns, we didn’t really know much about it, but it seemed like an opportunity to take the things I was learning—the teaching principles that I was learning in the classroom to a professional scene.

And so I jumped on it, and it ended up being a big challenge. We had to make a lot of pivots and a lot of changes as we went, but we ended up founding eCom Summit and had our first event in August of last year in Chicago. We had a ton of really amazing experts from the industry all get together and had a two-day workshop with about a hundred and twenty FBA sellers and it was awesome. We had an amazing time, there was a ton of value and just started to really catch the vision for how valuable community is, especially within the space. So, that’s sort of how it began and it’s evolved into the opportunity to work with aiCommerce and help them build up their events and community side and create more awareness about the services that they offer.

Rachel Andrea Go: Great! So, what drew you to the event side of eCommerce versus, like, SaaS or maybe agency or something like that?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, so, for me, I mean, I didn’t even really know about any of those other sides. The opportunity came to develop an event and, as we learned later, it really is not a great business model to start by creating events. It actually makes a lot more sense to create a product for people and then build an event around it. So, we kind of went backwards. But for me, like I said, I really love interacting with people. I love being a part of the exchange of ideas and the psychology of learning. That’s really exciting to me. eCommerce is interesting, it’s cool. It’s not really—I mean, for me, it could be learning about anything. There’s so many really sharp entrepreneurs who are savvy and scrappy and ready to learn in this space, so that’s been really cool.

Another thing I’ve really loved about this space is people seem to embrace so readily the idea that a rising tide raises all boats. So, when you win, I win, and there’s more than enough abundance to go around for us all to win, which is really cool. So that—I think that accelerates learning. So, anyway, that’s why we got into—I originally got into events.

Rachel Andrea Go: So, you have a really interesting path into eCommerce. Was there any specific moment or brand or event that kind of helped you cinch the decision to jump from teaching in schools to teaching in the eCommerce industry?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah. I attended ASGTG in Brooklyn, New York last year, 2023. That was the first Amazon event that I went to, and it was a totally unique and brand-new experience for me. It was like drinking from a fire hose: There was people using acronyms like “FBA” and “ROAS and “ACOS” and “TACoS” and things that I had never heard of before, and people presenting from stage about influencers and product sourcing and just—it was like stepping into a completely different—like a foreign country, really, in a lot of ways. I met some really amazing people at that event in the industry — I could name a lot of them — but it was, yeah, definitely a big…that was a big, eye-opening experience that really opened up the world of eCommerce for me in a lot of ways.

How a business event sparked an event business

Rachel Andrea Go: And what drew you to aiCommerce?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, so, that’s actually a really cool story and, interestingly, it’s—the connection happened at a live event — not the one that we were planning but a separate one at the Amazon Accelerate event in Seattle last year. I was there promoting our community and talking to different vendors and sellers about what we were offering. And I met Jamie Arvig, who has been involved in growing and acquiring and selling eCommerce brands for the past two decades; he’s been on the board of advisory for Thrasio and then since left but has just been—had his hands very much in the eCommerce world for a long, long time.

And he was also in the process of building out a community, and they were looking to—he has—believes really strongly in the power of getting great minds together in collaborating and learning together, and so he was in the same process that I was, building out a community and learning how to create more value through live events. And so we connected. I think Liz Downing from Teikametrics — or was working with Teikametrics — connected the two of us and we just started talking. And I think for the three days that we were at the event, we would reconvene every couple hours and talk more, and slowly, ideas began to evolve and pretty soon, we were business partners trying to build this community together, which became Brands 10x.

And we had an event together in Orlando and then another event in New York, and then another event in New York — all within, like, two months, and that all happened really, really fast. And then pretty soon, we started seeing some opportunities to take—use what we were building with the events to help create more awareness around aiCommerce. And we can talk about—there’s some really exciting things that were happening at aiCommerce and some shifting in what our strategy was. And so, yeah, I got to become a part of the team and I’ve really, really enjoyed it so far.

Rachel Andrea Go: Well, since you’ve teased it already, I’d love to hear more about how that strategy came into play in aiCommerce.

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, I’d love to tell you. So, we have looked carefully at the landscape, and there are no shortage of agencies that offer managed ad services. It’s sort of become a commoditized service to the point where it’s very much a red ocean. So, as we looked at that, we do that service very well, but we didn’t want to compete in a red ocean. So we were looking for, where’s the white space and where’s the opportunity? And by nature of—aiCommerce also has a sister company, AIC Brands, which is a holding company for several large, 5- to 50-million-dollar brands.

And so, we spend a lot of time in interfacing with their team and looking at those brands. We spend a lot of time thinking big picture and looking at it from a bigger perspective at the brands. And so, we decided to just lean into our strengths, which we’ve already been doing, but do it more intentionally and position ourselves as fractional CMOs. So, rather than be a managed ads agency where we like to work with our partners—work with our clients as a strategic partner. So, there are a lot of benefits to hiring a specialized agency. But unfortunately, there are times when those solutions become very cookie-cutter, and we want to avoid that. We want to make sure that we are offering a solution that is custom, tailor-fit to the brand and its unique needs. So that’s in a nutshell what we’re doing at aiCommerce.

aiCommerce’s role as fractional CMO

Rachel Andrea Go: Can you speak more about the fractional CMO concept? So, what are the most important things that this role should do or put into play or create?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, I’d be happy to. So, last year and even more so this year, we’re seeing a big theme which is profitability. Brands are optimizing in every possible way for maximum profits. And so the challenges—everybody can optimize their ads more and everybody can optimize their listings and be more strategic with their spending. But there comes a point where that no longer is enough to maximize profitability. So, it requires a bigger-picture look and sometimes it requires looking at things that an ad agency doesn’t normally look at. You need to step back and look at things like supply chain and look at things like your management team and your fulfillment process. And those things are normally looked at by an ad agency; normally, an ad agency would just get really, really good at optimizing ads.

But if your ad strategy is not very much in line with your big-picture focus, and then you’re also making changes from an executive level to align with that ad strategy, then overall, you’re going to be optimizing for metrics that aren’t ultimately going to move the needle for you. So, it just requires intimately knowing the brand, intimately knowing the wide array of solutions that are out there and available to you, and then being able to come up with custom, tailor-fit solutions for each one. So, that’s how we look at it.

Rachel Andrea Go: So, as you kind of—or, as aiCommerce takes the role of fractional CMO and all of that, can you share the different areas and functions that aiCommerce utilizes AI for?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah. So, [for] this one, I don’t really have a super-specific answer for you because the answer is “all of the above.” We—the number of AI tools, there’s no shortage of them. And this is part of the problem that we want to help solve for brands. I threw out the term “fractional CMO,” but we’re not just a CMO but we’re also the fulfillment team, the actual marketing division of a company.

So, we work as the CMO, if you will, to develop a strategic plan and then we use our resources to go and actually execute that plan. And so, the number of AI tools—the number of tools in general and services that are available for a brand is so wide-ranging that a any CEO could never hope to be aware of all of them, understand which one’s best fit their needs, vet each one, the pricing, and understand the economics behind each one. It’s just—it becomes an overload of information. And AI has only accelerated that problem. It’s a solution and a problem at the same time. There’s so many tools out there that it becomes overwhelming to know which ones to implement.

So, that’s part of the job that we take on is understanding all the different tools out there, which ones truly do—which ones are truly data driven, which ones are truly AI driven in a way that, again, optimizes for profitability, and then being able to offer sound recommendations to a brand so that they know which ones are going to meet their needs.

Keeping an eye on TikTok Shop and other social selling platforms

Rachel Andrea Go: Speaking of tools and different choices and options, what marketplace or channel are you most excited about or interested in?

Brexton Bennett: Oh, I mean, from—excited about, I would say…I hope this isn’t a cop-out, but it depends on the brand, really. Like, we really want to be able to look at each brand and say, “This is what makes sense for you.” And Amazon, of course, is not going away. A really new [and] exciting one which is hard to say what’s gonna happen with is TikTok Shop. Of course, a lot of people are talking about TikTok Shop. I would say more than TikTok Shop, a huge opportunity is user-generated content and influencer marketing. It seems—it’s growing, and whether it’s on TikTok Shop or on Meta or even on Amazon, learning how to leverage relationships and—leverage and build relationships with influencers and create a—build your brand around people with an organic audience is, it’s huge. So, that’s a really big opportunity that we’re working on solving right now.

Rachel Andrea Go: I know that aiCommerce offers TikTok Shop services. Can you tell me how selling on TikTok is different from selling on other social platforms like Facebook or Instagram?

Brexton Bennett: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of answers to this question. I think probably one of the biggest things is TikTok Shop has a really unique ability to take generated content and then push it with ad spend in a way that appears organic. It’s pretty unique, actually, it’s just—it’s the Spark Ads platform that TikTok Shop has. But the ability to take an organic post with organic interactions on it and then put ad spend behind it to accelerate its reach without it being a sponsored—appearing as a sponsored ad — it’s pretty powerful. So, it allows you to both find really effective organic ads that work and that are naturally—people are naturally drawn to, and then basically accelerate them like crazy using ad spend. So, there’s a lot of things that are unique about TikTok Shop, but that is one that stands out.

I mean, I would say others are just things that everyone else is already pretty aware of.

What makes it unique? I mean, it’s the fact that it’s its own platform, it offers its own fulfillment, you can—everything is contained within the platform — [that] makes it really unique. It also…it’s—there’s a lot more of a human element to TikTok Shop, unlike other platforms where you may create a listing, you look for reviews, and then you buy keywords. On TikTok Shop, it requires negotiation and one—face-to-face interaction with influencers, and they have their own influencer management system. So, there’s an infinite amount of complexity that’s introduced through that particular challenge, but also a lot of opportunity if you can do it really, really well and develop deep and effective relationships with other influencers. So, I would say that’s another big, unique point.

Rachel Andrea Go: So, is it better to sell on many social platforms or a select few?

Brexton Bennett: Yeah, again, I hope this isn’t a cop-out but just—the answer is, “It depends.” If you’re just starting out, then you should really master one platform and get it to where you’re really dialed in on that one. And of course you should be strategic about which one you choose to start depending on your product and where it’s likely to do best.

If you are—I think one big question that—we have a call later today with a really large brand, [an] enterprise brand who has kind of been fighting for a long time the need to get on Amazon. I think if you’re selling on D to C and doing well on D to C and not owning your Amazon space, I think that is something that you need to address because it’s a monster that’s going to continue to grow until you take ownership of it.

So, I don’t mean to—really, that’s why we think our model, our approach is so important is because the really truest answer is that it depends on your brand and you need somebody who can come in and has experience on all those different marketplaces to look at where you’re at and help you decide—make it a strategic plan. Not only decide if you should be on different platforms, but then decide how to go about tackling each one of those. It would be such a mistake to stand—to come on here and say, “Everybody needs to be on X platform,” or, “Everybody needs to be on this.” And you see so much of that, and it motivates brands to make decisions that aren’t—that don’t really benefit them.

Think long term, think omnichannel

Rachel Andrea Go: Speaking of being on different platforms, what are the most important facets of an omnichannel sales strategy today?

Brexton Bennett: Well, I would say, again, there’s a lot of answers to that question. Probably number one [is] that you have a long-term vision and plan. So, with all of our clients, we start by creating a three-year and a 12-month plan. So, we say, “These are the marketplaces and the channels that we want to be on,” or, “These are the marketplace and channels we’re currently on, and these are the ones we want to be on eventually, and here’s why. Here’s the white space in the opportunity that we see. And then, let’s create a plan so that we have the resources in place and the systems that we’re going to need to be able to get each one of those running.” And so, I would say, first of all, a plan, a very clear and thought-free plan with teams and processes and systems in place to be able to fulfill on those so that you don’t become spread too thin.

In addition to that, I would say, again, probably if your goal is to be omnichannel, then you need—for sure need to be leveraging user-generated content and creative. Your creative is going to be a huge element, it’s going to be across platforms. The creative needs to be tailored to each different platform, it needs to be engaging and authentic and genuine. Yeah, if your approach is omnichannel, then that’s going to be a really big piece that’s going to help you win for sure.

Rachel Andrea Go: And what is your advice to merchants coming into 2024?

Brexton Bennett: Find a strategic partner. Yeah, find somebody that has done what you’re trying to do and create a plan and don’t rely on luck, you know? Make sure that you have a clear path forward, and if they’re—whatever your problem or your constraint is, there’s something extremely effective about bringing in a third party to look at your business and help you see your blind spots and your constraints, because likely there are things that are limiting your growth and keeping you from reaching—getting—having breakthroughs that have become like water to you, like a fish in water that are just—have become invisible to you, but would be extremely obvious to anybody else with experience in that arena. So find an experienced eye who can come in and give you advice and then create a plan for getting to where you want to go.