By Mario Toneguzzi
A Toronto-based rocket scientist, now a businessman, has created a cinematic video-based shopping mall with a goal of expanding the concept eventually to other markets - even globally.
Zeze Peters, founder and CEO of beam.city, has built a platform that makes it easy for stores to adapt to customers, attention shifting online rapidly, using video, artificial intelligence and same-day delivery.
The concept began in September 2017.
“It’s the world’s first cinematic shopping mall,” he said. “We digitize stores with video and show their promotions directly to ideal local customers online, so that they can save time and earn more, while focusing on their store,” said Peters.
“We make it effortless for stores. Today, some retailers use postcards, posters and classifieds for marketing. Those things don’t really work for many of them and they cost a lot and take weeks to setup. They get no ROI (return on investment). Some others build websites that cost thousands of dollars and when the website’s done there’s still no traffic and then they’ve got to spend months doing SEO, running ads and all sorts of time-consuming tactics to gain visibility to drive sales.”
But beam.city guarantees store visibility to thousands of the right customers weekly by reaching shoppers when they’re online.
“They don’t want another website. What they want is visibility. That’s what drives sales,” said Peters of smaller retailers.
Currently the initiative targets independent retailers. But Peters said his plans include eventually bringing on board larger retailers to the online marketplace.
“Eventually we’ll have major stores just like any mall. You have the regular stores and then you have anchor stores. So on beam.city our strategy is to go after the regular stores first and onboard the anchor stores on the platform next,” said Peters.
“For now, we know that the pain is most acute with the independent stores. Many of them don’t have the time, skills or means to build, maintain and manage the content, marketing, and logistics of an online retail space. So we make it turnkey so they don’t have to do as much work.”
Currently, beam.city is “hyper-focused and hyper-narrow” serving stores in Toronto in an area south of Highway 401 and East of Highway 427.
“We want to serve the city and eventually every city but for now we’ll keep our focus narrow before we engage stores elsewhere,” he said.
“We use videos because it delivers an in-store experience so shoppers can basically shop like they’re in the store but without being there. Combined with A.I. and automation, video gives us large advantages. On our platform . . . we’re able to essentially cut the cost of managing their online presence for a retailer by 75 per cent or more, versus building their own website or any other way of marketing. Not only does it give them the guaranteed visibility they need but it also saves them a pile of money and makes it effortless.”
As a child, Peters helped out his mother who ran a series of general merchandise stores.
“Even as early as six years old, I’d wake up at 6a.m before the sun came up, to help her open and run her stores. And really early I realized that I had to respect retail. It’s a full-time job. You spend all day keeping customers happy and all night on administration. It’s a lot of work but it also means that you don’t have a lot of time for technology and that’s why retailers are innovation laggers. They don’t have the time,” said Peters.
“The analogy I give is that you don’t make your own car just to travel around, but that’s what stores do to get seen online - On beam.city, they rent or lease a car and get going faster.”
Peters was born in Nigeria and came to Canada as a teenager. He has a Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Systems and Computing, from the University of Guelph and a Master of Engineering in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Cornell University.
After building space robotics, games and products that earn millions of dollars each year, he moved back to Canada, and quit his 6 figure job to work on this problem.
“I came back because I love Toronto and I feel that this is the right city to build a great new company that will take the world of retail forward. I’m building my team here, and what we achieve will be applied from city to city and worldwide as we continue to grow.” said Peters.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org