People attending the Smithwicks Experience Kilkenny tour.

Transforming Online Sales for Smithwick’s

Merging brand and emotion for phenomenal online conversion.


An 8.3 Billion Industry

The Irish tourism industry was worth €8.3 billion to the Irish economy in 2016, and is growing steadily. For more than eleven years have worked with Diageo, the creators of the Guinness Storehouse – Ireland’s number one tourist destination, and one of the biggest attractions in Europe.

Building on the success of the Guinness Storehouse, Diageo created a brewery experience for their Smithwick’s brand located on the original site where the ale was brewed from the 1700s. Opened in July 2014, The Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny is already the second most popular tourist attraction in Kilkenny.

In recent years Smithwick’s have repositioned their brand, leveraging the increasing popularity of craft beers and ales to resonate with a younger target market of 25 to 40-year-olds. The Smithwick’s Experience website needed to align with this brand repositioning while also retaining some of its own positive brand attributes.

Smithwick’s felt that their existing website did not convey the brand experience adequately, which is fundamental to attracting visitors and encourage recommendations to others. The site was functional, but not compelling. Diageo also wanted to position the Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny within a broader tourism context, primarily by linking it to Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile and to Ireland’s Ancient East. This was particularly important from an SEO perspective and for attracting overseas visitors planning their vacations.

The Smithwick's Experience Kilkenny HomepageRendering of photo style to be used as inspiration

A Persuasive Rationale

A key starting point was understanding the role of the website for the business, and its context of use. Ticket sales were an obvious objective, but we needed to determine key drivers to purchasing, the typical purchasing journey, and the devices used at key points along that journey. We needed to understand customer’s ‘moments of delight’ when visiting the Smithwick’s Experience, what they valued, and what encouraged them to recommend it to others. We achieved this through on-site research, reviews of social media feedback, staff insights, along with insights from Diageo stakeholders.

Our new, fully responsive, website design is considerably simplified, which has improved the UX. We brought key messages to the fore, making sure that task-orientated visitors were conscious of the value proposition. The new design also ties the Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny with the core Smithwick’s ale products. However, persistent calls-to-action to buy tickets leave the users in no doubt that this is not just a brand site, but a visitor attraction. The new site also makes the Smithwick’s Experience synonymous with Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile and Ireland’s Ancient East.

We have delivered a website that truly reflects the direction of the brand and more importantly reflects the type of tour visitors can expect when they come to the Smithwick’s Experience

Mark McGovern, Smithwick’s design team discussing team members at a meeting

The Experience’s local, friendly, and knowledgeable tour guides are highlighted at the outset, reflecting what customer’s value. Elements of the Smithwick’s Experience are alluded to, including high-tech holograms, interactive exhibits, and surprising dynamic media; all without being too explicit and so adding to the sense of discovery. Micro-interactions and micro-motions draw the user through the site and enhance the feeling of surprise. Tripadvisor endorsements provide online social proof, a key factor influencing sales conversion. While the new Tickets button reduces friction in the online purchasing process.

Core to the success of our new design was creating suitable imagery. worked with the Smithwick’s brand team to determine the essence of Smithwick’s Ale’s brand and how that could be applied to the Smithwick’s Experience. We carefully crafted and art-directed the new photographic imagery to create a compelling narrative supported by succinct content. All of the visual assets we created also support above- and below-the-line marketing activities.

Real Results

Within months of launch in 2018, the new website had already demonstrated dramatic improvements across every metric. Our redesign was nominated for an Eir Spider User Experience Award. were delighted to work with one of Ireland’s most cherished brands. The result was a truly contemporary site that reflected Smithwick’s brand value of having innovated for over 300 years.