RECAP — TechBrew:AM w/ John Bertrand

Thank you to our June featured guest, John Bertrand, for joining us at TechBrew:AM last week. John shared valuable insights about his role as CIO at 2nd Adventure Group, covering innovation in e-commerce, re-platforming, and industry trends.

John serves as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for 2nd Adventure Group, the Grinnell-based parent company of Brownells, Inc. and four other outdoor adventure brands. He shared the 2nd Adventure Group’s mission to inspire, educate, and outfit customers to enjoy the outdoors. As CIO, he leads a 50-person technology team to guide the organization’s technology and business strategy.


1.    E-Commerce Management

At 2nd Adventure Group, the technology team oversees the infrastructure and architecture for, an e-commerce platform that hosts over 60,000 products. Initially a catalog brand over 85 years ago, Brownells pivoted to prioritize e-commerce in 2000. Today, the team is investing in technology to support scale and growth, and re-platforming all legacy systems, including John emphasized the importance of a robust online retail architecture to ensure reliability for customers and consistency with other online retailers. Internally, the platform must support accurate inventory and warehouse management.

2.    Industry Technology Trends

When asked how he stays innovative in the industry, John highlighted the organization’s reliance on content marketing to connect with consumers and introduce new, innovative products. He shared insights into emerging technologies:

       –   E-commerce search powered by artificial intelligence
       –   Augmented Reality (AR) to experience products virtually
       –   Biometrics integrated into products for enhanced safety

3.  The Power of Online Communities

Five years ago, Brownells acquired ARFCOM, a proprietary social media platform and online community that attracts over five million monthly visits. This platform serves as a powerful revenue generator, brand builder, and marketing tool. By leveraging data from ARFCOM, Brownells can gauge brand sentiment, understand their customers better, and allow competitors and partner manufacturers to advertise on the site. This year, the strategic focus is on better analyzing the data from ARFCOM to enhance monetization efforts.

4. Mentorship & Vulnerability

John emphasized the importance of mentorship at this stage in his career. Eight years ago, a coach encouraged him to open up and be vulnerable, transforming his perspective on mentorship. The coach had him complete assessments to better understand his strengths and weaknesses, and then provided targeted feedback to help him become a better leader. This experience taught John the power of vulnerability, and he now seeks out various mentors and coaches for different aspects of his personal and professional growth.

John concluded the event with a message on continuous learning and curiosity, urging the audience to “be curious about everything. Dig into things and see how they work, and you’ll be amazed at how it will help you across your organization.”

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