The Inkey List is addressing the current economic downturn with a new service.
In mid-January, The Inkey List quietly launched a new online service called Smarter Skincare. Smarter Skincare can be accessed via “AskInkey,” a chat function on the brand’s e-commerce, or by direct-messaging the brand’s Instagram account. Smart Skincare allows people to share their current product routine and associated costs, to then receive recommendations from The Inkey List about which products to keep and which ones to swap out for Inkey List items. The Inkey List has long positioned itself in marketing as a brand that wants to empower people to make smarter skin-care decisions. However, leaning into a price-accessible narrative serves as a stronger spoke in its communication wheel. The Inkey List sells hair and skin products, with most around $10 each.
Smarter Skincare emerged from debrief meetings with the team behind AskInkey, an existing customer service tool launched in April 2020 that has served 3 million people. Budgeting and saving money on products was a frequent topic of conversation among users, according to the team. The AskInkey team is now being tasked with recommending product swaps, where similar Inkey List items are similar and more economical, and pinpointing what non-Inkey List products are worth keeping.
“The Smart Skincare service is like a financial advisor [for beauty],” said Colette Laxton, co-founder and CEO of The Inkey List. “A customer can come every six months and [share with us] what they’re using and their goals, like opening a toiletry bag and going through it with an AskInkey advisor.”
The timing of the service launch is notable. In the U.K., where The Inkey List is based, there has been an ongoing cost of living crisis since late 2021. According to the non-profit think tank Institute for Government, high inflation has outstripped wage and benefit increases and has been further exacerbated by recent tax increases. The Consumer Price Index, which tracks the inflation of common consumer goods, was 10.1% in the 12 months ending July 2022. Meanwhile, the Bank of England aims to keep the CPI rate of inflation between 1-3%. Meanwhile, in the U.S., where The Inkey List is sold in Sephora, inflation rose 6.5% over the last 12 months as of Dec. 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Inkey List is no stranger to adding services to its e-commerce site. Aside from AskInkey, another called MyInkey debuted in 2021 and serves as a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week hotline for anyone wanting to ask skin, hair or scalp questions and receive answers from skin-care professionals. MyInkey is a more extensive free service tool allowing people to communicate with a dedicated personal coach and receive personalized product or habit recommendations.
“When times get tough and people are more conscientious of money, [price] does become more prescient on their minds,” said Mark Curry, co-founder and lead chemist of The Inkey List. “We have not specifically [highlighted] our value positioning as luxury products at affordable prices in this way. This is a way to connect our brand DNA about knowledge — being smarter is not only about knowing the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of skin care.”
Though in a soft-launch period, The Inkey List has announced the existence of Smarter Skincare on its Instagram account, and it will soon do the same on its TikTok. But there is not yet a wider-scale marketing campaign planned. Laxton said The Inkey List belongs to the school of thought about more readily testing new services and seeing “what sticks.” Curry said The Inkey List grew its sales in 2022 by high double-digits.
“We want to be the go-to brand that sees people through tough times, and that means being there where they usually shop, on dot com, as well as showing up socially and in service of [customer] needs and building trust,” said Curry.