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: 09/02/2021

    Can 14 and 15-year-olds solve the labor shortage?

    Great solution (with parental permission). Lots of family-owned bodegas and other businesses start kids working in some capacity sometimes as young as age five. Given that these jobs are mostly transient, it gives younger teens a chance to get some working chops and income and fulfills a need at McDonald’s. Win, win!
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    Should retail robots go humanoid?

    Any machine form that completes its tasks properly is acceptable. The idea of a humanoid form in retail is unnecessary functionally and has more to do with perception and marketing. I will spare the (long) explanation of what the uncanny valley is and leave it at even hesitant people will accept the presence of humanoid robots after a desensitization process. The real issues are twofold: Elon Musk is brilliant in many ways and a hype machine in many others. Many of his comments about AI are ridiculous and likely mask a hidden agenda. Maybe he'll come out with a robot as he describes, maybe not. If so, or if say Boston Dynamics offered something for retail, the price would be exorbitant. There is already pushback from people about job loss due to automation, which often results from robot utilization. Humanoid robots will enhance the pushback greatly. A floor mopping robot that looks like a mechanical assemblage is fodder enough. A humanoid robot doing the same job will overall generate very bad PR for any retailer that deploys it.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely

    I call this a "call center." Yeah, it's a little different, but strip away the hype and that's what it is. In fact, it's not unlike the assisted shopping demo the keynote gave at Internet World circa 2000. That it's in a distribution center is irrelevant to customers. All they want is great service.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2021

    Amazon finally catches the ‘buy now, pay later’ wave

    Capitulation. There's a huge trend in the direction of BNPL that Amazon has resisted for some reason, but that resistance hasn't slowed the trend. So the obvious choice for Amazon is to embrace it or lose a teensy portion of sales, but more importantly, some grip on shoppers, especially non-Prime shoppers.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2021

    Should retail prepare for a vaccine resistant virus?

    This is not a debate over vaccines, variants, masks, messaging, or group alienation. This is simply risk mitigation that retailers that want to survive or thrive have to account for from supply, staffing, and sales perspectives and need disaster/contingency plans in the same manner as they do for other potentialities like severe weather.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2021

    Is workleisure a new or rehashed opportunity?

    Fashion is based on change. Any "trend" that brands can invent or grab hold of in some way to convince shoppers to buy new clothes will quickly gain broad support, no matter if it's really new or not. Look at the return of high-waisted jeans, not popular (I believe) since the 1980s.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2021

    Prime members will have to pay for grocery deliveries from Whole Foods

    The statement that Whole Foods will be able to “offer the same competitive everyday prices in-store and online.” says it all. Amazon spin works for so many of their Kool-Aid drinkers -- I mean Prime members -- that Amazon knows it can keep getting away with incremental price increases and fees. In many of my RetailWire posts, I have stated how I have compared products SKU for SKU many times and the best Whole Foods has done is be in parity with competitors, but so often they are higher priced by 20 percent - 50 percent across categories. In other words, they've redefined what "competitive prices" mean for their believers. They have so masterfully crafted addictive behaviors on amazon.com and at Whole Foods that exploit human laziness, convenience, and need to belong, that many of their shoppers accept whatever is forced upon them. It was the plan all along. Start free or cheap and then creep up prices and fees all the while cranking up the PR engine. If that wasn't so, the new fee paradigm would not be a pilot, it would be an immediate national rollout because delivery essentially costs the same everywhere. But with a pilot, it's more subtle and if a backlash does emerge, they can backtrack and put spin to it.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2021

    Amazon still playing COVID catch-up on fulfillment centers and staff

    In what episode of The Twilight Zone would "only" a 27 percent sales increase be a shocking revelation? This says more about the myth of Amazon and its PR spin than the reality. Xerox, Sears, GE, GM and buckets more had indomitable market positions, yet they all floundered eventually. Technology, data, and lobbyists will not insulate Amazon from the same because, in the end, it's the management that crashes these businesses. In the near term, labor and/or real estate shortages are something Amazon management has to deal with, like every other business. The company certainly has deep enough pockets to buy its way out via premiums, but doesn't want to pay (invest really) to do so, despite the lessons of years of investment (losses) to build the base that paid off with today's market position. So there's no tiny violin playing sad music for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2021

    Dollar General tests combo DG Market/pOpshelf format

    I don't know enough about pOpshelf and its success with the described demographic to make a definitive comment, but creating a store that caters to two very different demographics is likely to deter the more affluent demographic. Part of selling to higher-end shoppers is establishing a level of mystique and exclusivity that creates a feeling of uniqueness. When that's plopped in the middle of a dollar store it will turn off a segment of shoppers. I get it from a real-estate cost savings perspective and the chance to grow higher dollar product sales among the lower-earning demographic, but in the end it may just be a financial wash that stymies the growth of the more affluent segment.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2021

    What’s holding consumers back from adopting AR/VR shopping tech?

    First, in order for a brand to deploy AR or VR, they need to understand the difference and not lump the terms together. AR, implemented with realistic expectations that are user-focused, not brand-focused can add value today. For example, empowering customers walking a furniture store to point their phone's camera at items (with an app) and see basic product data like dimensions and price overlayed on the live image (which is what augmented reality is). It's easy and adds convenience to shopping. VR, which creates simulations (worlds) is still laden with issues and requires typically wearing uncomfortable goggles and usually has a small learning curve that differs with each application. Shoppers have not been acclimated to that experience and most probably aren't incentivized enough to put the acclimation time in. A related example would be laying out a room with furniture and "walking" it in simulation. There are benefits, but it's more effort. I'm a technology guy, but technology for technology's sake is always a failure and not making user-centered design decisions that add value for the customer is equally bad. Until brands authentically consider all of this, AR and VR will not flourish.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2021

    Should retailers continue the chatbot deception?

    As a developer of enterprise-level chatbot/artificial assistant platforms, I like the idea of not disclosing that a bot is a bot to test the system's capabilities to perform "like a human" and gauge user responses. However, my interests are secondary to user-centered design thinking, appropriate customer communications policy, and transparency, so of course, a bot should be disclosed to the user in the welcome message/disclaimer. In fact, it has been California law for a number of years now. No one wants to be duped or feel duped. Not disclosing upfront creates that risk and the risk of alienating the customer. And ... any organization implementing a bot that is expected to deliver real customer and corporate value has the bot platform backed by live agents to escalate to when a bot cannot resolve all issues. So it borders on outright disrespect to have a bot fake or heavily imply being a human that has to transfer a conversation to a "better trained" human.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2021

    Will chatbots take over as personal shopping assistants?

    As ubiquitous as search is and as dominant as Google is, user search is an antiquated technology. With search -- even powerful search like Google offers -- the user has the burden of sorting through results to narrow what they're looking for. Filters help, but after price range, user rating, and a couple of other basic filters, most are poorly designed. An intelligent assistant powered by machine learning algorithms that constantly train and improve and when given permission by the user, can learn the user's personal preferences and access that personalized data, is the new paradigm that is on the near horizon. The experience will be magnitudes better than what e-commerce has been and yes while there will be a role for humans, it will in many ways exceed human capabilities. As pie in the sky as that sounds, the groundwork has been laid. Retailers that don't again want to play catch-up, need to be planning/building out in that direction right now.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    How will companies manage a staff of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers?

    My final post on this: Dick - start here: Pierre Kory, M.D., M.P.A. the doctor that created the current US national protocol for in-hospital COVID treatment. If your real interest is educating yourself, you will find other reputable medical/scientific sources. A safe workplace is a wonderful idea. How is that fully defined? How many things should be mandated against a citizen's right to privacy and choice for the right to a safe workplace? What about mandated mental health screening with a tracking app [passport] to validate that every worker's screening is up-to-date to minimize the chances of bullying, harassment, sexism, and especially gun violence? All of those problems exist today and are dealt with--after the fact. It's a unicorn employer that has pre-emptive mandates for "employee protection" as the concept of mandating vaccines and vaccine passports purports to be. As I've said repeatedly, this is not about anti-vax, this is about logical thinking and logical choices that maintain an individual's rights over emotional, fear-based, illogical, poorly formulated policies that have no end and don't necessarily protect anyone any more than other options. And George - I personally know six people to get COVID without and were not hospitalized, one of which has multiple comorbidities. He is unvaccinated. By all accounts, he should have been dead. He represents millions of infected people that didn't necessarily have severe COVID without a vaccine. There's hype, corporate profits, and then there's logical and respectful policymaking.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    How will companies manage a staff of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers?

    Bob - I did not state that anyone was duped. I asked a question about logic. As far as collective responsibility, where is that every year for the flu? 350,000+ deaths since 2010 in the US alone. Do you want mandates for that too? What other personal mandates should be required for people to hold a job?
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    How will companies manage a staff of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers?

    Rick - I didn't miss any point.
    1. I answered the query which referenced "corporate offices, warehouses and stores"
    2. So your position is to fire competent employees that are unvaccinated rather than have smarter policies?
    3. Many vaccinated people are now concerned as information is coming to the fore from very unequivocal sources [not fringe websites] that these vaccines may have long-term or permanent negative health consequences. And other reliable sources have reported that the 90% effectiveness you reference from manufacturers was manipulated by how their "studies" were conducted in order to get product approved under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). And that proves that Phil Rubin's "data and science" is dependent on who interprets the "data and science."
    For all the above reasons, I see no valid argument to further erode citizens' rights to accommodate corporate liability concerns when there are simple alternative solutions that can work for everyone, especially when the next phase, vaccine passports managed by large private tech companies with poor privacy records, was not mentioned here at all--but should have been.

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