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.

Other Links from Ken Lonyai:

Perspectives (blog)

  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Microsoft exploring checkout-less technologies

    This is definitely a future direction for retail so having multiple vendors is always good for competition. However, I've worked with these technologies and automated checkout using cameras is very difficult to master and prone to higher rates of shrinkage and over-rings, especially via the Amazon Go system -- but the press won't hear about that. In keeping with Friday's BrainTrust Live discussion, RFID scan and go checkout has existed at least 15 years and is an alternative with supply chain benefits. So given that these shopper conveniences are capital intensive, even when cart-mounted, a retailer has to really evaluate pros and cons of technology they want to invest in and not be influenced by media hype, especially if they don't have a cloud computing platform to underwrite their shiny new technology forays.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2018

    Sam’s to open small concept focused on tech, fresh and grab-and-go foods

    Amazon Amazon Amazon! There, I said it. This surely smacks of a heavily influenced response to both Amazon Go and's thorn in Walmart/Sam's Club's side. The whole industry is moving to better technology integration and more nimble/ better-targeted stores. Streamlined SKUs and cashierless or automated checkout is not especially an Amazon original, but given the other tit-for-tat Walmart jabs (did anyone say Marc Lore?), I think there's a theme here. In fact, it's kinda-sorta a mashup of Amazon Go, Amazon lockers, and Walmart. Nevertheless, it has potential to be a winner if the execution is carried off well. It's also an indicator of the next wave of changes coming to a retailer near you.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    Do retailers need RFID to do BOPIS right?

    It's a given that true inventory accuracy has no downsides, but I think I've only encountered an out-of-stock BOPIS issue once. While I've been a fan of the technology for multiple reasons for well over a decade, it sounds like Mark Roberti is stretching to make yet another argument for RFID. Retailers (AFAIK except for Walmart) do little to demand suppliers get on-board with tagged products. The offset in retail inventory management costs and customer frustration mitigation would far outweigh the even what, 25 cents(?) max per item that would be added to the wholesale cost of goods? For the kinds of goods in fashion, department and much of mass retail, it's a no-brainer. If that would really help BOPIS, all the better. Still, sadly, I believe we'll be waiting for RFID mass penetration for many more years.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Macy’s takes stake in retail-as-a-service tech firm

    "b8ta, a retail-as-a-service startup founded in 2015 with the goal of giving consumers access to try new technology products before they buy" Macy's has no business figuratively and literally trying to sell technology. Doing so only clouds their brand perception and it is not a vertical they can be competitive in. "Macy’s was the best partner for b8ta to scale our pioneering retail-as-a-service model to a breadth of categories like apparel, beauty, home, and more" If carefully curated by Macy's or in Macy's interest, their involvement in these categories via b8ta makes some sense. However, I don't believe that a few years down the road, a revenue analysis is going to show much benefit nor will a customer acquisition analysis. Macy's is acting as landlord with the hope of attracting add-on sales from the shopper attraction b8ta's clients bring. That's murky and the long way around to trying to reinvent the diminishing department store category. STORY was more in line with what Macy's really needs: bold thinking and a new department store paradigm that is uniquely their own.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    There's always going to be some variation of a bell curve distribution for online returns. Anything that has to do with fit, color, size/weight, or quality that has never been experienced by a consumer in-person is open to dissatisfaction and return. It's part of the cost of doing business online. To try and mitigate returns by making them costly or otherwise restrictive is an invitation for shoppers to move on to more liberal competitors. So three things that make sense and are about all that can reasonably be done by merchants are:
    1. Reasonably define what excess returns are and provide ample warnings to consumers that are approaching the line in an effort not to penalize them but work with them to find a happy medium.
    2. Emulate Jet's model of offering shoppers a small per-item discount for (at the time of purchase) waiving the right to return the item unless it's defective/damaged. It works especially well for CPG products
    3. Incentivize/reward shoppers that don't make returns often.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Brands win with TV 2.0 and the new direct mail

    This is a limited strategy that doesn't compare to national TV advertising campaigns typically produced by major brands. For targeted audiences and off-prime TV times or niche channels/markets, the reach of small campaigns and limited production commercials may prove effective. Trying to scale, however, would put this approach out of its league both in reach and budget and likely flop. As ineffective as it is in our home, we haven't seen any lull in direct mail and wouldn't view it as a present, so I'm skeptical of the claims there.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    This is absolutely an avenue forward for department stores that year after year offer the same experience to shoppers. The model described here is similar to what I call "fast turn stores." The idea is that there is a certain amount of bedrock brands that shoppers know they can find at their local store, infused with constantly changing, limited quantity, unique finds. Neighborhood Goods has a different spin, but the same outcome is sought: motivation to shop the physical store, driven by unexpected discoveries. If however, the rotating brands/products can also be had through the company website, foot traffic won't see too much of a rise.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’

    Ian: great comments, I'm in total agreement with your thinking. Unfortunately, I have no hope of Amazon+ Whole Foods moving in the direction you expressed. My expectation is that within a few years, Amazonification will move Whole Foods farther away from your ideals and much closer to a mainstream supermarket chain.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2018

    New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’

    I've passed that store during construction, but have yet to visit. It's on a very retail saturated highway and may now be part of a small strip mall environment. It's hardly a destination and probably in some ways, just the area supermarket. Meh. I just don't see this as any big draw. Whole Foods sells a smattering of these types of items in-store already. I'm doubtful that the so-called "boutique" is so extraordinary. Sure it's better than not having it, but at this location or any other, I don't see it as a big draw, nor do I see it having any balance sheet impact. Amazon would do much better by customers to focus on and resolve the broken order-to-shelf inventory system that creates bare shelves and disenfranchised shoppers.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    eBay asks consumers what they want

    Stephen - sounds like a bunch of excuses. If retailers can't "easily" turn interests into meaningful search results, they shouldn't be thinking of personalization or AI. Profiling by "weak software" is no worse than search results via weak software. Shoppers that don't want a personalized experience needn't participate. None of this is that difficult given all the technology and talent available for a willing retailer, I know, I design consumer-facing interactive applications.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    eBay asks consumers what they want

    HALLELUJAH! I've been saying this for too long. There's such buzz that AI can figure out consumer wants and needs better than consumers can for themselves and it often falls short (hello Amazon!). The simplest thing to do is ask consumers both what they want and what they don't want -- then carefully apply some AI. Netflix is a perfect example of highly-touted AI that fails. Aside from a crappy UI (it is!) the AI sucks. We never watch the kinds of things that would cause them to suggest WWII death machine and inmate documentaries yet they can't stop putting that in our faces. So retailers can take a cue from Netflix or eBay or better yet, use some basic common sense and stop looking for magic technology until logic is applied to customer interactions.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2018

    Will store-within-a-store concepts make Hy-Vee’s more attractive destinations?

    As a concept, store-within-a-store clearly works with one caveat: the mix is crucial. Adding convenience and unexpected reasons to visit a grocery or department store is easily a winner, but it takes adept research into what products/brands are of interest to shoppers. Regarding Hy-Vee, supermarkets have for a long-time sold staple beauty items from the biggest mainstream brands. The success of Basin and Beauty is going to depend upon how well it differentiates them from competitors, how well it fits their customer's wants/needs, and how much of a revenue driver it ultimately is given the loss of some internal footprint.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2018

    Ocado to automate Kroger warehouses in exclusive U.S. deal

    This is a big deal. Ocado has really awesome technology that works. Kroger has been impressive in its efforts to explore innovation and stand up to threats from Amazon and Walmart in grocery. Automated inventory/pick and pack at this level is a competitive boost and the exclusivity raises them an extra couple of notches. If it lives up to its promise and is implemented well, the benefit to stocking stores is very powerful too. Right now, Whole Foods' new inventory approach (as we've discussed here) is not working well for consumers, so there's potential for Kroger to leverage the Ocado technology and create a better experience. The losers are the smaller chains that are always trying to play catch-up. Without the funding to access leading-edge technologies on the logistics side (well everywhere), they are going to be ever more marginalized as online grocery and home delivery heats up.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2018

    Amazon plans to become the fresh food safety leader

    I believe the initiative is a great idea, I believe it's doable, but based on the Amazon PR machine and Amazon being almost entirely hype regarding Whole Foods, I'll believe it when I see it. Amazon is masterful at throwing big ideas out that the press chokes on as it tries to swallow them down so quickly, even though so much is spin and fluff. BTW - How are those dirigible warehouses coming along? To date, less than 1 percent of Whole Foods merchandise has lower prices -- far from 1 percent. And as a twice-weekly Whole Foods shopper, we see the bare shelf spaces and hear the complaints from employees we know. So I invite Carletta Ooto to reach out to me when Amazon really has something to show for this, not just talk.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2018

    Retail loyalty programs are no longer in the cards

    The ultimate loyalty program is Prime. Everyone else is trying to find a combination that will compete, but discounts just won't create the same loyalty. Macy's has always had a discount system through structured price discounts where they knew how each discount level would translate into sales. To me, this "loyalty" system is a new spin on old practices and one, despite positive claims, that is not going to be very beneficial in the long run. In fact, if Macy's bets too heavily on this "loyalty program" while ignoring more crucial factors like invigorating the store experience, decluttering the sales floor and better targeting merchandise, they are going to continue to drive customers further away. True loyalty can't be bought by discounts -- that's just a race to the bottom. Loyalty comes from resonating with customer needs and desired experiences in a way that stays fresh and intrigues them to shop and shop again.

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