Retailers have Black Friday. Irish whiskey distillers have St. Patrick’s Day.
Indeed, with global sales of Irish whiskey typically up 400% around the feast day of that country’s patron saint, Dublin-based Irish Distillers faces its most important marketing challenge of the year each March: to keep its websites up and running with fresh and interesting information about the whiskey brands it sells, the cocktails that can be made with them, and the long history of the libation itself as visitor traffic spikes in advance of the holiday.
But what happens if all that traffic is too much for the site to bear, and performance suffers? Retailers are ready to stock their shelves; restaurants are looking to supply their bars; and consumers are about to make some all-important choices about what kind of whiskey they will be enjoying to celebrate the Irish spirit—and they’re not about to wait around for pages that fail to load and apps that refuse to fire. Which means that instead of learning about Irish Distillers’ innovative Jameson Caskmates or its Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey, they will likely have moved on to explore the bevy of Irish whiskeys that are now available from a range of other distillers.
These are the stakes Irish Distillers faces each St. Patrick’s Day, but in truth they’re the stakes it faces just about every day of the year in distributing premium champagnes, spirits, and wines. Whether it’s bubbly for New Year celebrations or wine for the annual barrage of June weddings, there’s always an occasion that’s worthy of raising a glass to and a confounding array of spirits with which to celebrate. By partnering with New Relic to monitor every aspect of its websites’ performance, Irish Distillers ensures that on each such occasion, its website visitors are met with up-to-date, easy-to-access content that matches the quality of its products.
More than just a whiskey maker
Formally established in 1966 when Irish whiskey distillers John Jameson & Son, John Powers & Son, and the Cork Distilleries Company merged, Irish Distillers joined Pernod Ricard in 1988. In so doing, it became Ireland’s leading supplier of spirits and wines as well as the producer of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys. Today, with the Jameson brand leading the way as the fastest-growing Irish whiskey, Irish Distillers exports its brands into more than 130 markets (over 50 of which are experiencing double- or triple-digit growth).
When Pete McVicar joined Irish Distillers as head of IT marketing and sales solutions, he realized almost immediately that the company’s websites could benefit from monitoring—both in terms of end-user experience and backend code performance. Starting, as he did, just a month or so before St. Patrick’s Day, McVicar was able to see almost immediately how the sites were performing at one of its busiest times of year.
‘Right after St. Patrick’s Day, I got a number of emails saying that the site had been a bit slow’, he says. ‘However, it was all anecdotal information; I couldn’t tell whether these comments represented the true user experience unless we looked into Google Analytics. And even then all we could determine was yes, there were a lot of people on the site. But we couldn’t see where it was fast or slow and thus couldn’t truly figure out how to improve the user experience.’
Having used New Relic in previous roles, McVicar knew it was just what Irish Distillers needed to begin truly understanding (and improving) its website performance. And with the company in the process of redeveloping its site to afford a much more consumer- and market-centric experience, it was easy for McVicar to sell the tool to management, since it would allow Irish Distillers to understand how the redesign was affecting performance every step of the redevelopment process and beyond.