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: 04/25/2018

    Why brands need to use Amazon to acquire customers

    Nikki - well said. It's an obvious platform to launch and create general brand awareness, but Amazon is a profit-driven business (or for the non-believers, a growth driven business) that serves itself. As you explain, too much dependency upon the siren song of 100 million Prime households is a shipwreck waiting in a brand's future. Only a dual strategy makes any sense.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2018

    Will Prime members give Amazon the key to their cars?

    Surely I'm the only one here to see that the emperor has no clothes. From Amazon's standpoint, of course, this is a great idea. More access, more data, and certainly more trust wrapped up in a convenience or perception thereof. For some consumers, I can see the practicality. Overall, it baffles my mind that so many roll over for just about anything a corporation throws at them in the name of convenience and kinda sorta instant gratification. For those of us that live in or frequent places like NYC, it's foolishness to place something in a trunk of a car on the street and then walk away. For some Prime customers, the added convenience of in-car delivery will be tempered with the added inconvenience of higher insurance premiums post-theft. The saving grace for all of this is the voluntary aspect of these programs--for that matter the voluntary aspect of shopping Amazon.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2018

    Brands take recycling and their businesses to the next level

    Any real "green" initiative is a great one, however, the net effect of the programs above amounts to almost nothing given the scale of the problem. Every minute, a garbage truck's worth of plastic ends up in the ocean and about 1 million(!) plastic bottles are produced. 91 percent of plastic is not recycled globally. The 2018 Earth Day theme is “End Plastic Pollution.” The time is now to drastically reduce one-time-use plastics, (essentially packaging) and do something real for the planet. Supermarkets, convenience stores, general merchandisers, and anyone involved in the plastic bottle ecosystem can do so, so, so much more than they are now doing, which is effectively supporting the problem. The elimination of plastic shopping and produce bags is viable today and for those brands that really care to do something positive, the solution is only a purchase order away. And in fact, if we're going to tout Amazon for electronics recycling, let's join together and demand that they show a real commitment to fighting pollution by immediately replacing the plastic produce bags they use at Whole Foods with the existing biodegradable alternatives. For comparison, Trader Joe's has done it.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2018

    CVS gets real without retouching in new beauty campaign

    Women don't get to retouch themselves in real life so the closer that CVS (or any brand) comes to showing products in real settings, the more relatable their brand becomes. The CVS Beauty Mark is brilliant because even when "real" women are portrayed in ads and they look fabulous, there's a lingering question mark as to whether the consumer is viewing an authentic image. Establishing the mark as a trusted brand icon establishes authenticity that is sure to be appreciated. Sales impact isn't always linear and may need to take a long view to determine measurable impact. If it's only a three-month campaign, it may never be directly attributable to a sales lift.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2018

    How will Amazon replace Whole Foods’ rewards program?

    I don't think anyone is surprised by this. Amazon is going to keep folding Whole Foods into their core operations and mindset and streamline every aspect possible. With 100 million Prime members globally, Amazon runs a centralized scaled system whereby logistically it makes sense to offer a united front -- even for loyalty. It's both their strength and weakness. Whole Foods was already transitioning to centralized buying before being acquired and it has been problematic. A new loyalty program may be unique to Whole Foods or it may (likely) be Prime or a flavor thereof because Prime works. But as the local vibe goes away and mainstreaming continues, Amazon will box itself into a corner built on price and delivery, loyalty program or not. While they are two strong pillars, opportunities widen for competitors that approach customer value differently.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    Kudos to Warren for tackling this topic in such a forthright manner. Retail has traditionally had a massive female presence -- possibly outnumbering males and everyone was okay with it. That was when it was acceptable for women to be clerks and sales girls (girls!) and occupy other low-end positions while "the men" led the companies. It's difficult to place blame on the industry for that because society worked that way everywhere. Now women are in a much better position, but I'm regularly reminded, not an equal one. I don't understand why. I'm married to an equally (OK more!) intelligent and talented woman that has insights into areas I don't. I have no reason to believe women as a group are any different. So WTF is wrong with men that need to keep women down? It's their own weaknesses and insecurities. I don't believe anyone wants women promoted solely on the basis of their sex. That would be disrespectful to deserving and undeserving applicants alike. But as men, we need to quash any biases and prejudices that are kept hidden under the surface and seize the opportunity to make the industry a better one. And unequal pay, especially when race is an added factor, again, WTF is that?
  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Who will fill the retailing void left by Toys ‘R’ Us?

    There will be no Lone Ranger riding in to fill the vacuum left by Toys "R" Us. It took many years (decades) for the brand to establish itself as an industry leader. No one can pick up the mantle and quickly do that without buying the assets of the company and making a massive effort/investment and that won't necessarily work anyway. The industry has changed now. It's a lesson for any vertical that is very dependent upon one brand/merchant to reach consumers. If that's lost, the industry is shaken and it takes time for a reshuffling to take place, take effect, and create a new landscape that consumers are familiar with. Although the newly launching KB envisions itself as the best-positioned entity to fill the void, I believe the TRU market will be carved into many chunks with Amazon and Walmart investing in and taking sizeable pieces. The higher end and unique toy niches will likely go to independents, better positioning them against the giants. I believe any grocery store that follows Tim Hall's advice and puts energy into being a toy purveyor will set themselves up for pain, given grocery's already rapidly changing and increasingly treacherous environment. Imagine the potential double benefit to both Walmart and Amazon: not only will they gain a bigger toy share but grocery too, thanks to misguided and preoccupied supermarkets.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Meijer works to keep up with Kroger and Walmart with ‘Shop & Scan’ tech

    Isn't this essentially what Stop & Shop pioneered about a decade ago? Where's the props for them? This is the direction grocery is going. Just as online grocery has been slow to gain momentum, but a light is visible at the end of that tunnel, the same is true for new forms of in-store grocery checkout. It's easy to put this down in comparison to the lore of Amazon Go, but no one really knows what goes on there (missed scans, etc.) and the scale of a grocery store vs. a convenience store is markedly different. The real solution which is at least 15-20 years old is RFID. It would make everything fast and convenient, but it just cannot gain a foothold at an item level. One day maybe.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2018

    Has Google found a formula for undercutting Amazon’s product search advantage?

    This sounds like a home run, but it's not. I've written about this before. It's a second rate attempt at catch-up. When one steps back from the PR and really examines the details of how such a system would work end-to-end, particularly from a user's perspective, it's quite flawed. Amazon controls their entire ecosystem. Merchants that sell on Amazon defer to Amazon's rules and rulings over selling procedures and customer issues. Amazon controls the delivery terms and free shipping thresholds as well. All the data is Amazon's with limited sharing with merchants. Google, in trying to replicate such an environment, will never have that level of influence or control over the vendors it's assembling. Target, Home Depot or Walmart and other large retailers each have their own mechanisms of business and will not compromise them for Google. The shine comes off when there are returns, especially when multiple vendors are involved in one order and they have different policies. The ugliness also appears when free shipping thresholds differ amongst vendors, the carriers and shipping origination points differ, etc. And large merchants are used to owning their data. Being the recipient of second-hand data that may be less granular will be a point of contention. Then there's the softening of their brand identity in what is essentially, Google brand building. Small merchants will surely be lost in the shuffle and will be rendered less competitive for a multitude of reasons. I have no sides in this except for a commitment to true customer experience and not corporate spin. Yet rather than going on further, I suggest that those considering Google's offering carefully dig deep into what user experience in digital/retail really means.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    While the idea of local vendors, food truck operators, and celebrity chefs creating unique experiences sounds great, I'm skeptical about this. Functionally, this is a food court in a mall. Rather than the mall model, the emphasis being on retail with food added as a secondary attraction (rent source), the model is flipped. Especially in a food-oriented city like New York, without additional data, I don't see proof of long-term viability and am cautious about the property owner's claims. And celebrity chefs and most restauranteurs seek to build chains, so with success, the individuality/uniqueness will evaporate.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Early days of a very nascent concept. It's no surprise that for both operational and educational reasons the store is heavily staffed. In time, if the concept continues, streamlining is inevitable. It's not unlike comparing Amazon Go in 2018 to an Apple 2 in 1981 and then considering what Apple offers today. Surely near term profit is not a motivation. Testing consumer reaction, technology, and PR manipulation are more of what they're interested in.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2018

    Former Walmart U.S. CEO raises prospect of breaking up Amazon

    I've been researching this topic in-depth for a long-form article I'm writing but keeping personalities out of it. I don't know Mr. Simon, but my long-distance impression is that he's expressing sour grapes for being part of the team that was asleep at the wheel and bested by a nerd with a vision. George points out the irony of his comments nicely. Walmart, Macy's, Sears, Toys "R" Us or anyone has had decades to create a cloud computing service or embrace e-commerce properly and they did nothing. If they had, there would be no Amazon. That's not Amazon's fault, it's theirs. It's easy to make off-the-cuff comments about breaking Amazon up, but the devil is in the details. Amazon will not roll over if antitrust action is taken against them. They have the means and will fight relentlessly. And some of the arguments that would be used against them by the government, if leveraged successfully, would if applied universally, impinge upon the business practices of Walmart, Google, and others. Additionally, my argument is that the remaining Amazon (post break-up) would be even more devastating to retail than the one they're dealing with now (it requires a long explanation). So my admonition to retail and whimpering retail execs: be very, very careful what you wish for.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2018

    KB Toys plans a Christmas comeback

    Maybe I'm missing something here, but nostalgia retail brands seem like a concept looking for a market. KB has been gone for nine years. While Millenials of childbearing age may have some fond memories of the chain (maybe not), as Toys "R" Us learned, that era of toy shopping is a distant memory and a name or a memory isn't going to revive it. KB will have the same challenges everyone else is facing, namely Walmart and Amazon's domination of the mainstream toy market. More specialized toys are the domain of independents and I doubt there's too much room to squeeze into that niche either.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2018

    Where is the shopping opportunity with voice commerce?

    First, I have said to the scorn of others, that Alexa as an "assistant" and all her skills are a subterfuge to a frictionless purchasing tool. Amazon couldn't care less that anyone hears a joke or has their lights controlled by voice. All of that is a pacifier and smokescreen to a more effortless way for consumers to make purchases that Amazon can often steer to products it chooses. People seek convenience and as Gene noted, speaking is easier than typing. It eliminates or mostly eliminates searching and speeds the purchase cycle by skipping steps, like reading product details and/or reviews. For contemporary humans, although a learned trait, speaking is almost, almost a natural trait and a more efficient communication channel than typing or touching. So it's an inevitability that until chips are embedded in human skulls, it will be a dominant interface. And that's the last point: voice is just an interface. A very cheap sensor called a microphone is all that's needed to enable it on the front-end, but it takes computing power to make it do something effective. So as AI and machine learning develop, voice interface experiences will improve. Until then, any criticism offered needs to be directed at the still-nascent empowering technologies and poor UX design, such as converting menu tree structures to voice as Chris Petersen mentioned. How do I know? I've been designing intelligent voice-based systems before anyone heard the word "Alexa."
  • Posted on: 03/26/2018

    Should retailers emulate or differentiate from Amazon?

    It's impossible to be completely the same or completely different. Some aspects of being a merchant are universal. However, copying Amazon, Walmart, or the corner store is absolutely a weak strategy which will ultimately lead to mediocrity or failure. Being a follower is being a follower, never gaining an advantage, just trying to keep up. That means every time the leader zigs, the follower has to zig, Same for zags. And a leader with resources that catches on to that can make life hellish if they choose to. Look back to Walmart in the '90s and ask Marc Lore about the ultimatum Quidsy received from Amazon. Imagine a high school commencement speech where the honored speaker implores the students to go out into the world and be followers. It wouldn't be acceptable. There is always room to lead if you look for the opportunity.

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