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Alan Linter

Capita Director of Innovation and Data Science Alan Linter explains how now is the time to seize new opportunities in the digital retail sector and to capitalise on the realities of accelerated change and innovation.

At Capita, we understand the main drivers to keeping your digital customer happy in 2021 and beyond. Not only has retail been reshaped by the Covid-19 crisis, but consumers have been too. So, while it’s critical to learn the lessons of the events of 2020, now is the time to move forward and take advantage of all that is available to the sector.

Innovation and technology

Innovation is being adopted much more quickly because of the pandemic. Conversational AI that goes far beyond robots, augmented reality and in-store video have all come together to marry the physical and the digital – the ‘phygital’.

One such example is Mojo. The invisible computing company has developed a contact lens that enables the wearer to see timely information by superimposing a computer-generated image on their view of the real world. Imagine your customer wearing these contact lenses as they browse in your shop. Each time their eye falls on an item for sale, they see details of what the product is, its price, stock availability and so on. They’re enveloped entirely in the moment.

Imagine the experiences you could create... and what this could do for your digital customer. From the comfort of their sofa, they are placed ‘virtually’ within a physical shopping environment. Their human senses are engaged. Emotionally, they’re left excited and invigorated by their experience.

Customer service

So, within the idea of digitisation, what sort of service and experience are customers expecting? Capita’s study of data from the UK Institute of Customer Service Report 2021 found that it’s no longer enough to offer digital shoppers a seamless app and website. Brands must provide the kind of human-to-human interaction that people get on the high street and makes shopping such an enjoyable, social experience, through: 

  • Explaining information clearly 
  • User-friendly apps 
  • Experiences that don’t frustrate 
  • Experiences that reassure 
  • Competent employees. 

This may initially be delivered via AI but natural, human conversation remains of huge value to the customer.

Interestingly, only a couple of contributing drivers relating to technology made it into the top 10 findings in the UK Institute of Customer Service Report. So, while technology is a given - within this hybrid ‘phygital’ space - human conversations are still needed to support customers. It’s good to know that, even at this time of huge change, some things stay the same.


The importance of data also stays the same. Data – in this case metrics that measure customer experience - is vastly more important than technology and is a constant we have seen all through the Internet of Things, emergence of 5G and so on. Metrics arm you with tangible benchmarks for success. In retail, the challenge lies in using this data to pull together the many different strands that make the ideal shopping experience. You must be able to deal with data from both human and digital interaction, join them together and make them work for your business. This is vital to your future success.


So, for me, there are three key messages: 

  1. Power your organisation with data and insight - data is your most powerful tool. It enables you to know what your customer wants and needs and it’s vastly more important than technology 
  2. Enable the right technology - use it and increase it in the best way for your brand 
  3. Make conversations human to deliver great retail focus on emotions, whether positive or negative. For example, customers look for emotive interactions at the very least, they don’t want to be left feeling frustrated by their shopping experience; ideally, they want to feel excited, joyful and inspired.

Overall, human interaction underpins the technology.

Spotlight: What next for the retail sector

Written by

Alan Linter

Alan Linter

Innovation and Data Science Director at Capita

In his current role, Alan is responsible for searching out new and innovative technology solutions that allow our clients to be at the forefront of customer service delivery. He is also responsible for our Data Science practice that looks to link complex data sets and maximise the value that data can generate for clients in improving customer experience, generating revenue and reducing costs.


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