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: 01/16/2018

    What’s the trick to handling online returns?

    Ben -- not sure why you "get it" for the separate systems? A fully functional unified architecture for online and in-store has been possible for at least a decade -- if only there were the will on the part of retailers.BTW -- you got off easy. I spent over 80 minutes at Home Depot due to their "separate systems" that the staff grumbled about and there were still issues.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2018

    What’s the trick to handling online returns?

    I don't put too much stock into the survey answers from shoppers and accommodating them as much of a solution. For example, many sellers offer pre-printed labels already and returns without a receipt are too fraught with the potential for fraud that it's untenable.The biggest problems I've encountered are centered around stores that are not fully systemized for returns. Home Depot corporate was required to resolve a return fiasco I had with them. My wife just had trouble in-store with Old Navy which was immediately resolved by calling customer service directly. Lord & Taylor is troublesome from shopping cart through return. The problems here are disparate systems, missing detail on receipts/transaction history (Home Depot and Old Navy both have a big issue here), and confused/untrained staff.The top solution is hardly costly: fix the data, make BORIS a standard procedure, train in-store staff better. More simply: stores need to take a user-centered view to BORIS instead of glomming it on to existing systems/procedures.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2018

    Kohl’s to share space with grocery store partner(s)

    This one is very hard to predict and very dependent upon location, location, location. For example: are there competitor grocers nearby? If so, a small-sized grocer in Kohl's will find it very hard to compete. Plus, there aren't too many occasions where someone will choose a store to buy clothes because getting milk and eggs will be convenient too. So, overall, I see this as a stretch, that probably won't be good for most tenants in the long-run and a further dilution of Kohl's brand identity, which has started already via the Amazon partnership.And as an aside: if Kohl's wants to be acquired by Amazon, as has been postulated, having unrelated grocers in their footprint might quash their appeal via the Whole Foods conflict.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2018

    Whole Foods asks vendors to pay to play

    There's Whole Foods' mainstream persona and then there's reality. More than ever, gone are the days of a disruptive grocery chain that adhered to quality products from varietal/unique sources. Presently, many of the brands in-store are subsidiaries of national brands that were acquired when those brands bought their way into alternative categories like organic. Coupled with the company's (pre-acquisition) decision to centralize buying, today's store is on a different trajectory than it was 10 years ago. Today the company is acting more like conventional grocers do, supporting fewer brands, thwarting small suppliers, and negating regional influences. Layer on their parent company's modus operandi (volume, volume, volume) and consumers looking for product discovery and alternative experiences to run-of-the-mill supermarkets will have to look elsewhere.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2018

    Will consumers wear Alexa-enabled AR glasses?

    AR glasses or headsets ask for a big commitment for incremental gain.My career is built on innovating new technologies, so I'm all for tech that enhances UX. That said, I don't believe Alexa is going to impact AR any more meaningfully than any other brand has. The glasses require a significant lifestyle change that most people are not prepared to make in anything other than an anecdotal way. It's the same as Microsoft's (public) vision for HoloLens where they have everyone walking down the street wearing a headset.Alexa exists to sell products on/from Amazon and nothing else. Alexa Skills (3 percent utilization rate) and all the assistive features are subterfuge to hide that fact. So without a truly killer app (unlikely), the glasses will have little real value ad for consumers. Google and Snap have found that out -- not to mention the previous incarnation of this, the Fire Phone.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2018

    Consumers want their digital promos and print circulars, too

    Art: That Sunday paper experience is very age-related and not reflective of the whole/changing population, which is why the papers continue to lose circulation year-over-year.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2018

    Consumers want their digital promos and print circulars, too

    There's a lot of missing information in the Neilsen report. What are the demographics/psychographics of the people surveyed? How were the questions asked?I see this still as a generational thing. As the generations shift so will the medium. It's most important for a store to know its customers and decide what medium(s) to use to reach them based on that and not on generic reports.Also, my observations of in-store kiosk usage for the last 15+ years does not jive with Neilsen's rosy aisle one 40 percent usage statistic. The fact that they did a survey and not contextual research and simply asked "Do you look at information about products and sales available at stores from the following sources?" tells me to take the report with a huge grain of salt, despite them being "Neilsen."
  • Posted on: 01/03/2018

    Kroger may have an Ace (Hardware) up its sleeve

    I don't see it. There's an argument that while grocery shopping a consumer can get that little repair item or some paint, but the cost of running a store for those incidentals cannot be profitable. Plus, these are limited inventory stores. What happens when a customer needs the next size screw and it's not in the mini shop?I think this is a stretch for both parties. When a brand has to get so far from its core that it is grasping at straws, the fundamentals aren't working. And when the fundamentals aren't good, no amount of chewing gum and duct tape is going to hold them together, especially if Amazon is their concern. Compete where your strengths are, up the level of customer delight, and execute on CX flawlessly.In the future when brand valuations tank, it will be these kinds of decisions that will be considered the beginning of the end.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2017

    Will other grocers beat Amazon Go to the punch?

    The technologies that make cashier-less checkout work properly require a lot of complicated integration -- I know, I've been designing applications with them for years. So as much as I support these initiatives, they (as Amazon has learned) are not infallible in a number of edge cases. I imagine that for stores going this route, the resulting shrinkage will be offset by labor savings.More interesting will be the reaction consumers have as self-serve stores roll-out. Most people talk the talk against job loss but ultimately choose what suits their needs over principles. So it will be intriguing to see over time (if the systems truly add convenience) how they will be embraced. My bet is that if they are time-savers and don't create additional hurdles for shoppers, cashier-less checkout will become standard in many verticals including grocery and convenience despite the objections of employees, unions, and pundits.And ... note to Shaun Rein: there are ways to minimize miserable or untrained human beings.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2017

    What retail apocalypse?

    "Retail apocalypse" has been a really great headline phrase for those publications and pundits grasping for attention. The reality is, capitalism always prunes weak competitors from the market, sometimes in bunches like we've seen in retail for the past few years. The headline drama is overblown and part of the evolution of the same retail vertical that lost many household names pre-internet.Still, a decent economy may be behind all the spending right now. If economic factors including employment turn for the worse, it's likely that physical retailers will bear the brunt far more than digital counterparts and the pundits will rev up the apocalypse predictions all over again.Importantly though, the seasonal growth numbers reported do portend a message/warning: m-/e-commerce growth is still far outpacing brick-and-mortar growth. If that sustains at rates outpacing GDP growth (as it has), a reckoning has to come.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2017

    U.S. retailers in dire need of growth look to the China market

    Clearly, this option is only for large chains with viable global logistics capabilities. Regional chains and certain industries like grocery, have no real opportunities to use Asia as a meaningful growth mechanism.The biggest concern for foreign entities is the Chinese government's "China first" mentality and actions. Any foreign entity that gains too much traction is likely to face Chinese competitors that are propped up by government funding or government-backed market restrictions, despite the popularity (for now) of some American brands there. I believe Apple can tell some tales backing me up on this.A brand can chase a dwindling number of underdeveloped foreign markets, but that won't ultimately help them if they do not meet customer needs where they make the bulk of their profits -- like the US.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    Will last-minute pickup payoff for Walmart?

    In-store pickup will be a driver for the shrinking last-minute shopper segment and then it will become an everyday expectation. However, if those items sell out before last-minute shoppers get theirs, Walmart or any retailer can kiss those customers goodbye forever.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Would CVS + Aetna = lower healthcare costs?

    Smokescreen. That's the word that comes to mind as I shake my head over these claims. There might be some truth to CVS' arguments if they had established an open platform "health hub" prior to this acquisition, available to competitors in both the insurance and pharmacy industries. This merger simply closes the loop in driving prescriptions to CVS' doorstep.For consumers, a long-term concern is that this will create pressure for more one-sided alignments between pharmacies and healthcare insurers/facilitators, encumbering/removing choice and creating inconvenience or worse.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Will shoppers pay services to do returns for them?

    Return services address a consumer pain-point but few shoppers will be willing to pay any substantive fee. Free shipping is largely the norm because consumers do not want to pay delivery costs. A return service is in effect a reverse delivery service. Although time is money, the majority of shoppers are not going to pay $9.99 to have an item returned. Sure, for a bunch of engagement/wedding gifts from a registry in one store, it makes much more sense.The best scenario for stores is to drastically streamline the return process and even reward/compensate shoppers in a small way for their time investment.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    Dollar General is betting on the continuing decline of the middle class

    A lot of high drama headlines exaggerating the situation. Yeah, the middle is shrinking, slowly. If it were as bad as reported, the economy would tank for everyone. Dollar General is by nature aimed at lower-income and frugal shoppers so of course, they want to make the most out of relatively benign (near-term) changes. For most merchants, making major adjustments to product assortment and brand positioning based on these headlines is suicide.And the "experts" have to make up their minds too: one day retail is here to stay with 90 percent of sales and the next there's no middle class to sell to. It can't be both ways because a retail sector of dollar-type stores will not stand and even Amazon would be degraded substantially.

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