PROFILE

Ken Lonyai

Consultant, Strategist, Tech Innovator, UX Evangelist

Ken is a 15 year veteran of interactive project development including some of the industry’s most unique experiential systems. His skills span the on-line world and nearly every realm of human/computer interface used by brands and retailers – mobile, interactive kiosks, experiential displays, and more. Known as the man with the miniature R&D lab in his head, when he’s not working on a client project, Ken can be found designing, tinkering, and developing some cool new experiential device in SPIA Labs.

He is a consumer engagement expert using cutting-edge, unique, and enticing brand experiences that encourage “like”, “share”, and “buy now” behaviors, as well as a creator of true consumer excitement by baking-in fun, social, and gamification actions that generate results. Focused on producing “amazing user experiences” for brands and retailers, he helps companies transform into destinations that consumers seek out and want to interact with.

Ken is a subject matter expert in user experience, most things interactive, experiential marketing, mobile app strategy/development, and digital UX/UI.

Additionally, he is a co-founder of NUI Central™, an organization to promote using natural human traits (voice, gesture, eye movement, etc.) to bi-directionally interact with smart devices.

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Perspectives (blog)

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  • Posted on: 02/26/2020

    Will fulfilling third-party vendor orders give Walmart an edge over Amazon?

    Congratulations Jeff Bezos for again being the puppetmaster that all others dance to. Like so much that Walmart is doing digitally these days, this is yet another catch-up to Amazon that the brand is trying to do. While Walmart has originated some ideas on its own (the Jetblack failure notwithstanding), so much of its digital strategy and presence is a "me-too" of what Amazon has done first. I imagine many Amazon sellers will add WFS as a distribution channel, so any differentiation Walmart is trying to achieve will be nil. The one benefit may be that some disenfranchised Amazon Marketplace vendors will go exclusive with WFS, but none of it will add up to a significant market shift.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    Unilever will end marketing to young kids to fight childhood obesity

    Kudos for moving in this direction. It's impossible to stop kids from desiring certain products, but the removal of direct marketing puts the responsibility for kids' product choices largely in parents' control -- where it belongs.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Consumers hate paying for shipping more than just about anything

    Every merchant on/offline needs to look at the data and listen to consumers. If shoppers want these shipping perks, not providing them is a big mistake. We've discussed ad infinitum that in reality there is no free shipping and it has to be paid for somewhere, so burying shipping costs in the price of goods seems to work for consumers. Amazon is often not the lowest price provider, so there may be some room for competitors to hide delivery costs and remain price competitive. Nveretheless, there is no alternative for non-boutique sellers.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    I do not have any interest in self-checkout except for time savings. The experience varies with the store. For example, I hate the hand held scanners Home Depot now has—they are often quite unclean. Likely other customers feel like me and a percentage may seek interaction with human cashiers, so except for stores that are 100 percent scan and go, checkout will always be a mix of options. Job loss is going to increase with all forms of automation. At least retail has many opportunities and most cashiers can be migrated to new roles if they are willing.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Can Body Shop build a better workforce with an open hiring policy?

    This sounds like an amazing inclusive policy to give everyone an employment opportunity. It’s sure to fail. There is definitely much room for hiring practice improvement and more inclusion is part of it, but swinging the pendulum completely in the other direction is a weak response. There are too many areas where this can fail to last, obviously customer experience is a major one, but potentially, employee and shopper safety is another.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    How will Jetblack lessons inform Walmart’s conversational commerce efforts?

    For many reasons, this was such an odd approach to retail that its demise is no surprise. It also portends little insight about conversational commerce which this kinda-sorta was in an unusual way. If there's any lesson to learn it's this: solve customer needs or cautiously uncover their unexpressed desires but avoid technology for technology's sake and un-vetted concepts at all costs.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2020

    Will Staples’ new concept Connect with small business owners?

    Staples has some nice ideas that may add a few percentage points to revenue, but nothing to turn the tide of where it's headed. Everything we've looked at buying from Staples is far more costly than alternative sources online. Many non-mainstream items are kept in very low inventory, so buying locally can be hit or miss. So just like others (Macy's comes to mind) that are looking for every, dare I say, gimmick to salvage an otherwise broken business strategy, there's nothing of real business value here. Get the basics right with inventory, pricing, delivery, and customer service or nothing else matters. Nothing.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why isn’t voice commerce taking off?

    Smart speakers and voice commerce are two different entities. Voice commerce can exist in a mobile app say as part of a grocery shopping list. In many ways concluding that voice commerce is problematic is to miss that it hasn’t been deployed in the most favorable manner. Better UX design such as applying voice In multimodal scenarios like devices with screens and bidirectional audio will help, as will application design/policy that considers and values user privacy.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?

    This is merely a measure of C-suite attitude. Most often they are driving the business based on short-sighted bottom-line thinking rather than authentic User Centered Design Thinking. If they authentically focused on users and how the business can bring value to users, the bottom line would take care of itself and thrive. It's a decision that takes understanding what UCDT is and the courage to implement it. I explain the whole slippery slope as the CX/Profitability Continuum.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Crate and Barrel marries human expertise with tech advances in a new concept store

    This is a good direction to head, but concept validation needs more than immediate upticks. It needs proven value for the long term.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2020

    Move over plant-based meat, lab-grown meat is coming

    Food consumption habits are extremely ingrained in people and without self-driven impetus, difficult to change. Plant-based meat substitutes have been somewhat of a novelty and novelties always get attention initially. As time goes on some people will adjust and stick with them, most likely will revert. Synthetic meat has yet to experience that cycle, but when it gets to the stage that it does, I suspect that it will be similar, but because it's closer to true meat will have more permanent converts. If plant-based "meats" are going to have long-lasting impact, it's not going to come by way of fast food. It will be driven by health choices (lots of data in current plant-based media-hyped brands raises health flags) or by necessity in a world facing ever more extreme climate issues. My advice to retailers: tread cautiously and don't invest any time soon. Remember the hype around 3-D printers and how every home will have one?
  • Posted on: 01/23/2020

    Will store closures worsen in 2020?

    Without reviewing every weak chain’s financials, cash on hand, marketing strategy, and merchandising plan, no one can accurately predict store closings. That said, my guess is that 2020 will be similar to 2019. The factors for closings have been the same for at least the last decade, chiefly a Luddite industry mentality and sometimes arrogance that has allowed newcomers with better strategies incorporating m/e-commerce without the burden of too much legacy real estate and/or no real estate to change the rules and upend what retail was.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2020

    Does IKEA need parking lots?

    Presuming that there’s quality research behind this, it makes sense to me. Parking lots/decks are major expenses and lots are a real blight in cities. Consumers are being offered options, so it’s worth a real-world try.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2020

    What does it take to create a risk-taking, innovating retail culture?

    Culture only comes from top leadership. What they instill and what they permit sets the tone others follow. Overall retail has lacked innovation culture for decades. Certainly there have been exceptions, but most retailers create some hype around a small project and then continue the same old practices. Retailers that recognize the value of breaking that habit and want to leap forward have to first identify what's truly broken from a customer viewpoint and what fixed would look like. Then they need to encourage new ideas that have demonstrable consumer benefits in line with consumer needs or at least find them from vendors. Lastly, they must be prepared to fund full rollouts of successful ideas, even at the expense of profitability, else it's yet another dog and pony show for PR and investor pacification.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2019

    Will we see AI’s impact on 2019 holiday results?

    Few businesses in any vertical are anywhere near AI's potential. AI is still a nascent group of technologies. Even the term is about as specific as saying "I ate food last night." To reach its potential, two things have to happen:
    1. The technologies themselves have to continue to evolve and "get smarter";
    2. The application of AI needs to be use-case driven where it is the best set of technologies to create positive change.
    AI is still getting only modest attention and is still a big sell due to skepticism and some false starts. In time, as proper uses show the upside of AI and more specifically machine learning, adoption and benefits will show themselves. I imagine that 2019 will show some AI positivity in retail, but overall, nothing patently obvious.

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