We recently spoke to Jonathan Berlin, retail technology and visual merchandising expert. Jonathan has been working for Universal Display for 31 years and he is the CEO and co-founder of Iconeme, a retail technology business. We wanted to learn more about the advice he could offer to independent business owners and his views on the future of the High Street.

Can you tell us about the work you do?

I am the Managing Director of Universal Display, a global mannequin, form and visual merchandising company. I am also CEO and co-founder of Iconeme, a retail technology business which has pioneered a ground-breaking shopping/customer experience app using our own VMBeacon technology.

On the Universal Display side, my team are constantly designing and producing new product to complement our clients and potential clients ever changing needs and reflecting upcoming and current trends. We embrace old and new in terms of how we achieve this. We still sculpt in clay and use traditional methods to get to moulding stages but use digital sculpting and 3D printing technology also to increase workflow and to create product that could not necessarily be produced using the traditional methods.

On the Iconeme side, we are constantly looking at new ways to engage consumers and make the shopping experience a more rewarding experience, which in turn drives sales to the retailer. Technology is constantly changing, and we are also moving at this high pace to deliver the best possible product.

What makes a great shop window?

When a consumer walks past a shop window they need to be drawn into it. It needs to reflect the retailers’ brand and whatever message they are trying to portray. It needs to tell a story or trigger a thought in the consumers mind. Whether that be something dramatic or something quite simple, it needs to set a tone for the consumer to understand. You have a limited snapshot to draw the client in and therefore it needs to be impactful. In my opinion, it needs to clean, uncluttered and considered. If using a mannequin, form or prop of any type, the retailer needs to consider these with some thought. Does the mannequin reflect the brand, is the pose going to show the product in to its best, is the prop in line with the offer?  Sometimes less is more. At the end of the day, the most important thing that you need to show to the consumer is your product, do not make too many distractions that the consumer looks at everything else going on and your product becomes a side show. However, it’s brand, brand, brand all the way and clever though out windows with items that compliment your product can be real show stoppers.

Are there any visual merchandising trends that small local businesses should be aware of?

Trends change all the time and unless you have large budgets, sometimes it a safer way is to look for a more timeless item that will see you through for a good period of time. Be smart with your choices and find something, for example a mannequin or bust form, that really embraces your brand and will show off your product in it’s best light.

How do you see technology enabling the high street in the future?

We know that online shopping is around 50% of many large retailers’ sales. However, their bricks and mortar stores are still incredibly important, and we see this by some online retailers opening bricks and mortar stores to compliment their brands. Consumers expect more now than ever in terms of how retailers deliver value to them. The shopping experience needs to be more and more engaging. Technology can deliver this; however, it needs to be intelligent and worthwhile.  Fads and gimmicks are not what the consumer is looking for. They are looking for an engaging, inclusive and personalised experience which delivers something worthwhile. For a consumer to be able to engage with shop windows, find out product information, receive recommendations and trends on their own mobile devices is a sure way of keeping them interested and informed. It doesn’t need to be too clever, it needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate, but it must deliver value. Thereafter bolting on click and collect, delivery and other services also adds value to the consumer. With all of this, the retailer will also gain more value from the ability to see the consumers behaviour in the stores and whilst shopping which will allow them more market intelligence and therefore the ability to service their customers in a more cohesive and personalised manner. It’s a win, win for both consumer and retailer and should be embraced by both.

Why do you care about the high street?

The High Street is important for social activity and for community.  I am a child of the 70’s and back then there was no other way to shop.  The local shopkeepers knew their customers by name and understood their needs and shopping habits.  We obviously have other means now and the type of retailer has changed from mostly independent to chain stores and large groups, however the simple act of shopping rather than sitting behind a computer, is an important way of socially interacting with others as well as stimulating your mind and you body.  Retailers, whether large or small, can still play a part in local community and can support each other to deliver that personal service that all consumers long for. The High Street delivers visually pleasing windows and experiences, food and coffee culture, engagement and many other social activities which are important to the pure development of our youth as well as stimulating people of all ages and getting them to interact socially.

Where can we find out more about you?

Universal Display


You can try our Iconeme technology at our pilot ‘Digital High Street’ on Ledbury Road & Westbourne Grove in London’s Notting Hill

Or come into our London showrooms, Units 130-132 Network Hub, 300 Kensal Road, London W10 5BE

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