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: 04/19/2019

    Is AI’s impact on demand forecasting more hype than reality?

    Not sure how much AI is used in forecasting yet. The potential is there but just like everything AI, it's early days. There is a lot of promise but it hinges on a couple of key points:
    1. AI that's based on human-derived algorithms is more likely to include bias and not address all data points in ways that can be truly useful for an AI predictive system. Machine Learning-enabled platforms that can evolve their own algorithms and utilize a feedback loop that compares prediction to actual utilization, in time, will be more valuable.
    2. Inventory forecasts can require updating in a blink of an eye and AI can handle that better than any alternative, but logistics aren't so fast. So no matter how good AI forecasting gets, the weak link will always be the logistical fulfillment of predicted inventory.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2019

    Will former exec’s Godiva café plans spell trouble for Starbucks?

    Much Ado About Nothing. Godiva likely will see success with this and be yet another player with a slice of a very crowded vertical. How thin or meaty a slice is to be seen. Some people will like it, some will balk at prices and any substantive competitor will keep on keepin' on doing what they're doing. To get a large national footprint would take a massive investment so Ms. Young-Scrivner’s experience at Starbucks will only stretch so far. I think it will be a very thin slice.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2019

    Apple owns the checkout at Decathlon’s sporting goods store

    This doesn't seem as groundbreaking as it first sounds. It still requires an associate, a checkout process, and a checkout location. How does this impact associates' primary duties of assisting customers pre-purchase? How many associates are there per customer, especially at peak/holiday times? What do shoppers do when there is a shortage of associates or when checkout stations are in use? Just like other hyped new tech checkout implementations, time will tell what's real, what works, and what is technology for technology's sake.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Will Walmart’s KIDBOX help kids look good and do good at the same time?

    I like the idea and see a lot of potential upside, but there are some issues. First, some kids may have distinct ideas or brands or branded favorites that they hope to wear that algorithms may miss. It also takes traffic away from stores just as m-/e-commerce does including sales of spontaneous add-on items. That said, if it can be made to work, it probably has a good chance at reaching outside the existing Walmart demographic and eroding sales from competitors targeting different socio-economic strata like Gap Kids.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Is Bed Bath & Beyond smart to draw the line on coupons?

    The long-term strategy of having more vision into how/why/when coupons are distributed and tracking analytics to make informed decisions is clearly necessary and wise. However (and it's a big one) they have ingrained customers with their coupon culture very deeply, so any noticeable change is going to challenge customer loyalty and put them at risk of permanently losing consumers, especially if they are not price/delivery competitive which often, they don't seem to be.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Again, Amazon attempts to shed Whole Foods’ high price image

    Not holding my breath for yet more Amazon/Whole Foods hype. To date, it's all been nothing but hot air. That on top of the failed Order-To-Shelf program that still has stores out of inventory EVERY day. Discounting produce is nice, but offering quality is better. I've previously commented on that here and compared Whole Foods to an independent grocer in Princeton, New Jersey and that store has immensely superior produce at, very often, lower prices and they are in a very upscale town. Add to that the fact that Whole Foods now sells Cheerios in-store, which is documented as one of the most heavily glyphosate polluted name brand cereals on the market and the Whole Foods "mission" amounts to nothing these days. Amazon needs to sell off Whole Foods and focus on its own supermarkets with a sincere approach to being the Amazon of food. This acquisition just doesn't work and based on performance to date, never is likely to.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2019

    Has wearable tech already gone out of style?

    Largely wearables have been a solution looking for a use case (a.k.a. technology for technology's sake). There are absolutely plausible use cases but they don't scale at the level major tech firms like Apple need them to. Runners tracking performance often prefer a wearable, but a Bluetooth sensor and a phone can accomplish the same. Heart rate monitoring in a watch is very convenient, but the majority of watch buyers don't fit the heart monitoring demographic. Mobile phones are universally embedded globally in the daily lives of vast numbers of people. There has yet to be a killer wearable app to unseat it despite so many clunky aspects of carrying around a phone and all the taps it can take to accomplish some things.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2019

    Target plans to speed grab-and-go purchases with ‘Snack Bar’

    It's great that Target is experimenting with new formats. Overall, in a dynamically changing retail environment, it's a prudent approach to staying relevant. Snack Bar: some pros, some cons, overall I don't see much impact if they decide to roll it out.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2019

    Crowdsourcing can enable retailers to scale more quickly

    Crowdsourcing is good but overhyped. Thanks to technology, it's a contemporary update to focus groups. Well executed, I believe crowdsourcing can outshine focus groups and the rapid scalability and real-time data offer additional advantages, but it's no panacea. Retail success demands keen listening skills and crowdsourcing is just one avenue to deliver it.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2019

    Will a new name and private labels give DSW a leg up on the competition?

    The changes for DSW are all positive, logical, and forward-thinking, except for the name change. I see absolutely no benefit other than it being a little bit better name behind private brand shoes. It will likely take a couple of years (or more) for consumers to fully settle into the new name, so the damage done initially by rebranding and creating confusion will probably take a long time to recoup.
  • Posted on: 03/19/2019

    Are Amazon’s private labels falling short or just getting started?

    I do believe that the apparent lack of success with Amazon's private labels has everything to do with branding/marketing. Keyword: apparent. Likely there's a long-game there. Shoppers that need something like a cable, batteries, or socks and don't want to put effort into research/and or purchasing will go with an Amazon brand readily. Those that have specific needs or beliefs about marquee brand attributes are harder to convert. So until Amazon puts real effort into brand building and marketing for its own labels, it's expected that it won't be making a huge dent in the verticals its brands compete in. They own the sandbox and make the rules to play in it, so whenever they do decide to turn up the volume about their brands, competitors will need to have concern.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Can location intelligence provide a lifeline for retailers?

    This might have some utility, but privacy concerns are a top issue and the reality is, geo-location is way down on the needs list for most retailers and FMCG/CPG brands. Any entity that thinks the fix to whatever is ailing their retail success can be found in geo-location, is out of touch.
  • Posted on: 03/05/2019

    Where are chatbots falling short of consumer expectations?

    First, the report cited is essentially content marketing and is both flawed and biased. I didn't read all of it and the obvious points are correct, but a huge, huge red flag is the verbiage of the response for the question "What would stop you from using a chatbot?" The "report" is about Drift creating a market for their bot products. Aside from that, all industries are moving to AI, especially one of the easier to implement forms, chatbots. Deployed in a realistic manner, chatbots solve a number of low-level support issues for customers and employees alike. So retail is moving that way quickly, whether all retailers know it yet or not. Of course the potential for problems is tremendous, but those problems stem from only three core issues:
    1. Having unrealistic expectations for what can be achieved with present bot (AI) technology, such as expecting users to stay within certain guardrails;
    2. Not having a (human) support mechanism that can efficiently/effectively take over a failing bot interaction, particularly by knowing the user/bot conversation that led to the transfer;
    3. As I've stated for so many user scenarios; Approaching chatbot deployment in light of the user's wants and needs, not management's.
    Failure to follow all three considerations is asking for unhappy users. Heading them is the start of potentially well-appreciated user experiences.
  • Posted on: 02/28/2019

    Brands see voice ordering as more opportunity than threat

    Voice ordering is not a threat and is no more of an opportunity for consumers to make purchases than any other modality. Simply, it is the way that in time, many people will shop. There are those that cite statistics of voice ordering today and use that as a yardstick to predict the future. They are wrong in their assessments. Today's nascent attempts at VUIs (voice user interfaces) for commerce are meaningless in the long-term trajectory, except for lessons learned. Voice will be paired with GUIs (graphical user interfaces) to provide shoppers with rich experiences that are easily/comfortably voice driven. And with improved AI, they will be ever more assistive and suggestive. We're just not there yet. When that comes to be and when people have successfully experienced shopping by voice even when it's only voice, the floodgates will be open. Brands that choose to listen to the naysayers and their incorrect predictions will pay the price in the future, just as brands and merchants did in the past when they didn't see e-commerce amounting to anything until it was more than obvious. Amazon is again way out in front with Google trying to piece together a response that matters. Apple is unlikely to ever have a meaningful stake in the market. That is the world brands will have to accept, save for the fact that browsers will be voice-enabled too, meaning that websites and m/e-commerce will be voice driven too. In fact, it's little known that some browsers can do so today.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Will the ‘c’ in c-stores soon stand for cannabis?

    It's likely that where cannabis is legal, it will take a few years to evolve into a model that works in a traditional retail setting. When that does happen, selling cannabis products really won't be that different than liquor sales, save for limits and some additional control measures. Where there's a product to fill a market need, there's always a means to make it happen. C-stores/retailers will find the way.

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