Building critical mass: dcGTR talks Create, Research, Empower tools

By Luke Barras-hill |


Alan Brennan, MD, dcGTR delivered a thought-provoking presentation during last month’s TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference on the future of technology-driven, immersive store design using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality twinned with in-depth shopper insight and research (AR). Source: TFWA.

In today’s tech-heady climate, dcGTR has forged a cluster of solutions designed to maximise commercial returns for travel retail stakeholders and is generating momentum.

As reported, dcGTR entered the market officially in March as a creative commercial tech agency marrying cutting-edge technology with detailed customer insight.

It works with stakeholders across the value chain, from airport operators and retailers to brands and trade associations.

TRBusiness took the opportunity during last month’s TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference to gain a timely update from Alan Brennan, Managing Director, dcGTR and Rob Thorpe, Managing Director – Associate Partners, dcActiv, on the firm’s future pathway.

Bring us up to date on the progress you’ve made and the market reaction to dcGTR since you launched in March?

Alan Brennan (AB): It’s new thinking and a fresh approach; we’re very much aligned with bringing a new ecosystem of digital technology to better understand shopping behaviour in terms of what drives purchase. The tools allow that to happen in a very cost-effective way in the virtual world. The reaction has been fantastic.

To grasp what it can do is part of the challenge and it is very difficult to describe that in five minutes because the technology really has no boundaries in terms of its relevance and application across the commercial process. We can get stakeholders excited very quickly. What is important is to understand how the technology is relevant in areas where there maybe a skillset gap, or where there are decisions being made that are not insight driven. That might be on a relatively low level, or involve big investment.

From our side, the beauty of what we do is virtually anything can be created from an airport environment, to product, and everything in between, which can then be brought to life virtually and researched if required. Equally, at the other end of the scale we have the leverage of the tech for operational use. The suite of technology that we use covers three areas: Create, Research and Empower. The third empowers field sales through access to digital content that could be viewed through a PlayBook platform, either through a smartphone, pad or laptop remotely. One of the biggest challenges for a retailer or brand owner is compliance at the point of engagement. We have the Store Checker app to see the level of compliance.


VR/AR is transforming the realms of possibility in everyday business.

Taking tobacco for instance and the challenges facing the category, how easy would it be to implement a solution?

It depends on their direction. If they are trying to upscale and empower knowledge of regulatory compliance to their frontline staff, yes, there is a tool that can be used to inform in terms of best practice and compliance. But there is instore compliance; planogramming, space, ranging and so on. But the same principles would apply to all categories. On the aspects of regulatory compliance – if it is about implying what are staff do’s and don’ts, again it would be part of the learning application. We also have a learning academy.

We’ve spoken to one or two tobacco companies and from their side it’s more about skillset development and ‘empower’, whether empowering knowledge, best practice, or the regulatory aspect that is unique to that category.

From a technology perspective in terms of what you are implementing, is it the full package yet?

Technology is continually evolving, and the speed of that change is rapid. With the rollout of the 5G network, that speed will only accelerate further so the advance of technology will not stop in terms of speed, quality, size and depth. This is the start. But from our perspective we provide solutions in the commercial process under those three clusters (Create, Research, Empower).


Rob Thorpe, Managing Director – Associate Partners, dcactiv.

Give me a little more background on dcactiv’s involvement and how it views dcGTR’s development?

Rob Thorpe (RT): We’ve run the business for 20 years. It started as multi-discipline design agency where we did everything – obviously pre-digital it’s print, packaging, point of sale display literature… we quickly became quite a specialist in point-of-sale and display and over the years we sort of morphed into category experts as we were working for some of the bigger brands and those were being appointed as category captains by the big retailers. It was helping them understand how the category was behaving, evolving and growing.

And that morphed into shopper marketing where everyone wins: when the retailer works together with the brand, the shopper benefits. Now we are a leading shopper marketing agency working all over the world with a broad range of clients – Coca Cola, Unilever, Lego… In 2008 we started working with Alan at Nestlé ITR and we started to develop the virtual solutions behind the Perfect Store concept thinking, which was primarily a category initiative. At that point, we embarked on virtual reality modelling and became best-in-class in that area.

We were ahead of the curve but a lot people have now caught up. All of the airport  and store designers are working in good quality VR but that’s 2D primarily. The next level for us was to move into 3D and that 360-degree immersive experience. And in order for that to work as a research tool, we needed to get really high quality over the internet and that was a big breakthrough for us to be able to email out a link that allows a user anywhere in the world to be able to download a very sophisticated environment and work their way around it.


dcGTR is able to scale virtual world environments to help travel retail stakeholders generate more effective ROI.

That is the code that we’ve essentially cracked. We can then bring that into a headset (VR). It hasn’t taken off in the consumer world as quickly as anticipated like gaming; now that is going cloud-based, you don’t need a gaming console anymore, you’ll be able to stream via 5G straight into those headsets. The technology is here and now and our’s is robust and well-tested. We have Storechecker (app) live in over 40 markets.

What are your plans for the coming months?

AB: A lot of what we’re doing at the moment is doing the foundation work; connecting, informing and going through with key stakeholders the benefits of the virtual world and bringing practical tools to them and explaining how it can help their business. The next phase is getting traction behind that. From our side it’s about taking small steps, handholding through the process, particularly those not comfortable with embracing change.

We know once they start to see the results, future project work will be a lot easier. The second phase as we head towards Cannes is building up that client base and piloting more as we progress towards the end of the year. Watch this space…

Stay close to TRBusiness for future updates on dcGTR.


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