PROFILE

Ken Lonyai

Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

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: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    Tony: you and Ian are on point about the social change, nevertheless the mall/retail vacancy rate is going to expand. My research says that these are still early days of the transition and in a few decades retail shopping will be unrecognizable to those still around that remember the golden days of malls. Like it or not it's social evolution and a smart society will find new ways to create community and social experiences if that's important to them.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    This is a great litmus test to prove that with e-commerce's maturation, we are over-retailed.Flipping to online-only is a trend that I expect to see continue probably for the next decade or more as weaker chains make a last gasp at survival. When there was no digital commerce, they could exist in their niches. Now the light of day is shining upon them and those that don't have the strength to stay profitable operating stores will try to leverage their buying/warehousing infrastructure for one last go of it without the cost of operating (often mall) stores. For many though, it will just slow the inevitable.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Can Nordstrom.com compete on experience over price?

    I'm not seeing the breakthrough here. This is what all retailers must do. The fact that they've waited so long to "get it" underscores why Amazon has gotten as big as they are.The technology has existed to make this type of "omnichannel" experience possible for a long time. It has simply taken (as we've said many times before) retailers this long to finally begin to feel the impetus to invest in it. Nordstrom might have some benefit from getting there ahead of some competitors, but anyone that wants to survive needs to move in this direction quickly. So Nordstrom would be smart to get more innovative or before they know it, others will be on equal ground.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    What happens now that Alexa is on the iPhone?

    Alexa just gained the potential for greater ubiquity while Siri stagnates.Rather than having to sell more devices, this opens the door for Amazon to get into people's pockets (literally) without asking for money. Plus, it allows Alexa to function anywhere, something she cannot do comfortably when she's tied to a tabletop device. In a way, it's Bezos' dream of a Fire Phone without the mess.I disagree with Brian Barrett and believe the uphill struggle is Google's and not Amazon's and that he and others miss the data gathering uptake this mobility will deliver to Amazon.Lastly, just two night's ago I co-hosted an Alexa Evangelist at our monthly HUI Central (Humanized User Interface) meetup and can state from some of the casually mentioned new capabilities that Amazon is working on fully enabling Alexa to be an "assistant" even though they don't like her called that.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Has Walmart found a digital answer for empty store shelves?

    I'll be the flack magnet today on the endless aisle kiosks topic ...Endless aisle kiosks are great in theory and have their place, but they fall somewhere between a Band-Aid and a Hail Mary pass. Some people will use them and find benefit, but most shoppers don't. Making them justify their expense is difficult and the net gains are typically modest or negative.I have been designing advanced kiosk software since 1999. Users do not go shopping in-store to replicate what they can do at home. Endless aisle is a fallback for out-of-stocks (which need better solutions) and the opportunity to offer expanded product choices and some selection guidance, for the minority of shoppers that have the patience to browse that way. It's cumbersome to really shop standing at a kiosk, exacerbated by having to wrangle children while doing so or with other shoppers breathing over your shoulder waiting for a turn. Then there's the argument that they serve shoppers without Internet access which fails to recognize that more than 76 percent of U.S. adults have smartphones and those who don't have a smartphone or PC probably can't/won't purchase through a touch screen in-store.Macy's (Intel-backed) endless aisle kiosks have been super-effective dust collectors and at Sears I may have seen a customer use them once or twice.So for the pundits that disagree, please share your experience mapping out the customer journey, user research and UX for endless aisle kiosks. Also, I'd like to see studies that show conclusively that they offer true ROI taking the full spectrum of deployment costs into consideration.As for Walmart, I don't have insider information, but this very well may be another stab in the dark to combat their nemesis named for a river.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    You're implying that I support a "head in the sand” mentality. Although I work with very advanced technologies, AI, etc., there is a reality as to who the majority of mom and pops are, their resources, and willingness to embrace new thinking, regardless of what you want them to believe. When I consult, my role is to serve clients best interests -- technology or not, given who they are and their comfort level, not to force technology for technology's sake on them. Not sure what the new wave of agencies is supposed to mean, but pushing an agenda that suits their agenda only, "WILL fail."
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    "innovative technologies like Cloud, PaaS, IaaS and IoT ... " That's Latin to 98 percent (or more) of mom-and-pops. As noted above, most have yet to offer a true value added website. As useful as those technologies are, only very savvy and often young entrepreneurs have the ability, resources and bandwidth to look in those directions.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    Mark: I totally disagree with "shoppers don’t expect them to necessarily have ... a really slick e-commerce site." I'm not sure what "slick" means to you, but discovery is of massive importance to small businesses (everyone really), so when a potential customer visits a website, they rightfully expect it to be responsive, functional, current and with adequate content to answer the majority of their needs. To me that's not being slick, it's an expected level of UX/CX. The majority of small businesses (unsurprisingly) are lacking such a site and causing their own demise by not understanding the importance of it in a digital/mobile world, far removed from the glory days of mom-and-pop retail in the 20th century.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2017

    Is the sole proprietor toast?

    Small retail has always been tough, but unique experiences/merchandise and customer-centricity are not enough. Now it takes seeking your market, not waiting for it to find you.When we discuss these issues the conversation always includes selling unique (non-commodity) goods, providing customer service that big retailers/digital-only merchants can't and creating "experiences" (a term with many interpretations). That is all true, but it's no longer enough. Amazon commands 55 percent of initial product searches -- search engines only 28 percent. So small merchants not only battle the Internet, but they are battling stacked odds. Then there are all of the big stores and other mom-and-pops scrambling for the same dollar. So having a couple ads in the local free paper and having a web presence no longer cuts it.Merchants that expect to survive must go to their market and create an active, meaningful presence in every channel that they can support. It will likely include social media like Facebook, a website that truly adds value and stays current, a mailing list, local events, sponsorships and more. Otherwise, as good as products and selection may be and as service-oriented as they may be, small merchants will get lost in the ever-increasing noise.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will the AWS outage make retailers think twice about cloud?

    Nah... we don't disagree. We've chatted about fault testing for software, but the reality is that in the wild, most software is not 100 percent hardened, nor is hardware. Hardware can fail at a moment's notice despite testing. So, given the "reality" of most software/hardware deployments and the fact that there's no evidence that retailers with in-house IT are any more hardened/fault-tolerant/secure than vendors, which is what I was commenting on, our positions are pretty much the same.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will the AWS outage make retailers think twice about cloud?

    By its nature, technology is prone to these events. No one will be 100 percent safe from them even in-house, so it comes down to evaluating the particular vendor providing IT services vs. the cost of doing the same in-house.What's more important is having a hardened and tested contingency plan for when the inevitable does happen, including taking ownership of the situation to customers.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2017

    Will Walmart’s price push pull customers away from Aldi?

    I don't shop Walmart so I don't know, but I can assume what kind of grocery offerings they have. We did try Aldi once due to the hype and found nothing of a quality we would buy. Most of the off-name packaged products seemed like house brands, so I wonder how baskets are compared to Walmart. Additionally, there was a limited selection meaning that it was unlikely to be the sole grocery destination for shoppers.The takeaway is that Aldi seems as if it can only serve limited markets and are going to top out market penetration/growth as a result. Walmart or anyone else that can do better (doesn't seem too hard) and can beat them on price, is my bet for putting a hurting on them.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2017

    Will smart shelves ever be smart enough for Kroger and other retailers?

    Stupid shelves offer nothing to consumers or retailers. How often is a pricing label incorrect, missing or misplaced? Technology can solve basic shopping issues and create a world of enhancements, but it comes down to the same two issues time and again: ROI and management's willingness to lead. ROI is dependent on tons of factors and management's willingness is often lacking, so the Apples of the world and (if it's really a roll-out) the Amazon Gos of the world will use innovation to be category leaders while others continue to give lip service and/or whine.Hats off to Kroger for making a real trial of it.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    The dot-com bubble was heavily fueled by customer acquisition at all costs. Since then, Amazon and others have been acquiring customers at a lesser cost and that investment/cash flow has sustained, enabling them to slowly and steadily habitualize customers to e-commerce shopping. Bolstered by convenience as well, the tactic has worked and slowly web-only players are growing their profits. Help from carriers in the form of discounts also makes the strategy possible.One day however, when physical retail is damaged enough, the market conditions allow it and the desire for bigger profits is vocal enough, "free shipping" is certain to be reflected in pricing that exhibits the true costs of e-commerce. A good measure of this can be gleaned today: Amazon is quite often not the lowest-priced vendor for many goods, even with shipping factored in, but with their dominant market position they make it work. It's a telling sign for the future, especially the future of "free shipping."
  • Posted on: 02/24/2017

    Is Amazon’s Alexa a threat to rival retailers?

    Brandon -- your enthusiasm for voice/AI is impressive, but you have oversimplified many of the factors affecting using voice as a purchase mechanism. Of course, voice/NLU interfaces are not new, it's just that in the last few years they have consistently reached better than 95 percent accuracy and with improved AI, they've become more feasible. Additionally, Alexa's success has as much to do with the mechanisms of commerce Amazon created for itself before the advent of Alexa as with the technology making Echo/Alexa work. So I have to disagree in many ways with what you have laid out as solutions to pain points and somewhat dispute the pain points because the solutions are really quite complex and create new issues in and of themselves.

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