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: 02/14/2019

    Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?

    Bob - if there are no circumstances where it adds a delay, that's a good thing. I still see little worry from someone utilizing Alexa, Google Assistant, or as you expressed in your video, hearing the tone at a terminal in-store, that they're not experiencing an authentic Mastercard transaction. Maybe within some apps, but the branding/loyalty gain there for Mastercard will be essentially nil. And I still can't imagine a world where every brand thinks this is a good idea and every product search or brand related voice reply is accompanied by an annoying set of tones. The bottom line on this initiative: Mastercard is a big corporation drinking its own Kool-Aid and looking for growth in the shadows.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?

    I'm not buying it. Few if any people care if they have a Mastercard or Visa credit card. If a bank offers a card that they can get and it's one or the other, it makes no real difference. Because it will be drummed into their brains, people will know what the tone symbolizes, but they will not care. Instead, they will ultimately get annoyed having to wait for the long tone to play, slowing their transaction. And that's counter to the reason why voice interfaces will be popular: speaking is second nature and it's quick. Adding an unneeded tone a.k.a. unneeded delay goes against that. Hopefully, other brands don't go down this path.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Can Whole Foods’ business afford higher prices?

    We're regular Whole Foods shoppers and started shopping our local store the day it opened. We've dealt with the slide in the quality of that shopping experience that began about a year after the store opened, doing nothing but accelerating downward under Amazon's "leadership." Higher prices are going to tank the brand even more. There's a huge myth about Amazon lowering prices at Whole Foods that the media sucks up without investigating. Sure, they did lower some prices, but in a token sense only, not in a way that would positively impact many shoppers, if any. Going the opposite way is a failure. Neither the Whole Foods brand nor the association with Amazon is strong enough to attract new customers with prices going up---maybe not even with them holding the line. There are so many issues with their stores now, such as high employee turnover/disgruntlement, empty shelves, seemingly a reduction in organic products(?), poor quality produce, and absolutely higher prices than area competitors on a SKU for SKU basis. So what's the end game here: totally destroy the brand and usurp the locations for use as Amazon fulfillment centers/commodity food stores?
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Will a new rewards program expand Target’s circle of guests?

    Hey Target, try getting the basics of retail management right before going down the path of another loyalty program. In the past month, my wife has endured TWO BOPIS failures and just yesterday spent an hour on the phone with Target's off-shored support to get a small missing credit. Loyalty programs or technology or anything, are not sufficient cover for poorly executed core shopping experiences. So unless my wife suffered two anomalies and unless Stephen Needel is wrong about reduced assortments, empty shelves, and prices higher than Walmart, they have plenty of work to do ahead of new marketing schemes.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    A jaded article indeed. Absolutely -- the focus on delivering experiential retail often comes at the expense of product and the broader shopping experience. That, however, is not an indictment of delightful or amazing experiential retail, rather, it's a commentary on poor management. Any store has to get the basics right every time, all the time, or certainly, experiential retail is doomed to fail -- that's obvious to me. Even as simple an element as insufficient parking will bring down any experience if shoppers struggle before they even enter the store. If leadership thinks they can ignore that basic premise and try cover with an over-the-top experience, sooner or later reality will teach them otherwise. Doug seems to favor well-managed/stocked utilitarian retail experiences. They have their place, but no brand is going to thrive with that approach, maybe just survive. Maybe.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2019

    How much inventory visibility do retailers need to give consumers?

    And... I learned today that on that store visit, my wife also tried using a customer price scanner and it was non-functional. Pointless to offer "technology" or "service" to customers if it's not maintained. Yes Jeff, Retail 101.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2019

    How much inventory visibility do retailers need to give consumers?

    Confusion. Disappointment. Frustration. Anger. That's the unhappy path consumers take when things go awry. Out-of-stocks are an absolute trigger. By providing transparency into inventory, retailers can stop the downward slide at the disappointment stage (where there are mechanisms to recover) by coming clean on lacking inventory. A great example is the BOPIS situation my wife experienced at Target, which I recounted on yesterday's BrainTrust Live! Target had the items she ordered available for pickup, but half were damaged. The customer service rep said that she couldn't leave her post so my wife had to walk the store to check the shelves for replacement inventory that it turned out they didn't have. Aside from other aspects to the BOPIS failure itself, the customer service desk should have been able to check inventory and save my wife from walking back and forth across the store and compounding the inconvenience Target already created. To paraphrase what I said to Will Hogben in the BTL conversation, the solutions to most UX failures are getting the basics right. Real-time inventory transparency is basic.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2019

    Lowe’s kicks off NFL deal in the biggest game of all

    This is a great tactic to build brand awareness and signal that Lowe's has not succumbed to Home Depot. However, brand awareness and sales are very different entities. An NFL affiliation may get more consumers to give them a look, but if they don't execute superbly, delivering on consumer wants and needs, it will result in nothing more than a very expensive shot in the dark. I've tried to research/buy items on lowes.com and each time I've hit a dead end. Bad search and unsatisfactory product selection have given me no reason not to shop their biggest competitor. If I had Marvin Ellison's job, I'd take the sponsorship money, add to it, and focus that budget on improving customer experience until it clearly exceeds the competition, then I'd think about brand affiliations.
  • Posted on: 01/22/2019

    Can grocers sell produce without plastic bags and boxes?

    I shop often and don't see "best before" dates in produce, but I don't buy shrink-wrapped produce. There are a couple of easy solutions to ending the use of plastic produce bags; recycled paper and reusable shopping bags. Both are easy solutions and don't have to generate an added cost to stores or consumers. It's widely known that we are being choked by plastic, but the deep connections to supermarket generated plastic aren't always seen. I highlighted another British grocer here: Plastic waste might just be grocery’s new call to action. Domestically, despite its popularity, an industry expert pointed out to me that Trader Joe's is "the worst" at uncontrolled produce plastic use and I have personally seen that they do indeed shrink wrap a lot of produce. Hopefully, they will learn something from this.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did Gillette’s rant against toxic masculinity go too far?

    Ryan - if you're going to scrutinize every brand's messaging in light of their actual corporate culture and conduct with an eye for contradiction/hypocrisy, I think you will be deeply, deeply disappointed.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2019

    Did Gillette’s rant against toxic masculinity go too far?

    I'm not getting the gripe with the ad. Gillette took a stand and the stand is positive and based on realities that I'm aware of. Nowhere does it say that all men behave badly, so for those that don't, there should be no issue and for those that do, maybe recognition is painful. The ad is bold in that it's a message and not a commercial. Whether a message on manhood will translate into sales or brand love will be interesting to see.
  • Posted on: 01/18/2019

    NRF: Technologies promise to reshape fitting rooms

    First: nothing says more about the state of retail than the fact that this topic is being touted as new. Prada was the first store to introduce the early versions of these concepts--that was in 2001 and vendors were developing systems before that. So decision makers at these brands that think they are offering a "new experience" are deluding themselves. However, technologies have advanced and there is more that can be done for shoppers in the dressing room than the early days, but it's only as valuable as getting past technology for technology's sake or technology that the brand thinks is viable because it's cool and (wink) new. If the experience and supporting technologies add real value for the consumer while respecting their intelligence and privacy, it's worth exploring. That said, so many fitting room negative experiences have simple solutions, like keeping them clean, maintaining inventory, maintaining safety, and having knowledgeable sales staff on-hand.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2019

    Some question if digital assistants will ever live up to the hype

    There is an enormous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding around AI, machine learning, and artificial assistants. I'm especially referring to Hollywood portrayals and journalists who have only done limited investigation to write a story (for or against), versus those of us with years of experience developing the technologies in some fashion. As I've stated before, the web and e-commerce were doubted in their early years too. In 1995-1996, business people literally told me regularly that the Internet "is a fad." There is a long curve to develop a virtual assistant that is truly assistive. That does include predictive learning capabilities and few if any of the assistants now in existence claim to do that as a feature. They certainly do some prediction below the surface for data gathering. So there are three major problems with the hype that affect perception and adoption:
    1. Hardware vendors that incorporate assistants are doing so to capitalize on buzz, not to benefit consumers or raise the bar on AI capabilities. Remember all the hype on 3D TV at CES, what 5-6 years ago? Who's offering 3D TVs now? Assistants can/should live on phones, so the concept of pitting assistants against mobile as an "either or" prospect is asinine.
    2. AI is hard stuff to develop. I know, I work with it every day. The human brain is taken for granted. A mouse's brain is taken for granted. There's a long way to go to get to useful assistants which are more than voice enabled lookup engines (don't get me started...). It will come, it takes time, it takes good use cases, and it takes realistic user expectations.
    3. Data privacy. Yes, slowly more people are waking up to the downside of an omnipresent microphone and sometimes camera in their lives. If there is trust in the platform and protection of and respect for privacy/data, users will have enough comfort to engage more deeply with the technology.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2019

    Will smart shelves work for Hannaford and its customers?

    A similar system that I designed called LiftOff debuted in 2001. Although today's technology is different, the principle experience holds. LiftOff was very effective at engaging consumers digitally with physical products, so I know that current systems can do the same if (big IF), they are not overdone. If every product lift triggers a content response, information overload will kick in and consumers will ignore what they see on screen. These types of deployments are best suited for featured displays so that they maintain a state of curiosity and wonder that shoppers control.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2018

    Camp brings a playground to retail

    Excellent! There's sooooo much talk about what retail experience is --this is truly it, not something like in-store location-based couponing. Given that kids are the target market and that the Base Camp is essentially a play and entertainment zone, it elevates retail to a place that is an experience and a memory, distant from other stores. With so many people retaining happy memories of visiting Toys "R" Us as a child (a bare-bones store) and others thinking fondly of FAO Schwarz, the potential for Camp is enormous. The rotating theme concept enhances the discovery aspect and is sure to maintain the freshness of the store. Nothing wrong with sponsorship either, this is a commercial venture not unlike endless others that have sponsors in subtle and obvious ways.

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