Swedish fintech company Klarna specializes in letting consumers split up the costs of payments without charging interest. Today, it’s taking one more step toward changing the future of shopping, launching a virtual-shopping feature that allows retailers to provide consumers with the ability to connect with sales associates through chat and video calls in order to get advice, product photos, and demos.
“We’re trying to solve for a lack of service in online shopping,” says Adam Levene, Klarna’s head of social shopping.
In 2021, e-commerce made up only 19.1% of total U.S. retail sales, even despite the pandemic. Klarna conducted research to discover what the pain points were. According to its January 2022 study, 68% of U.S. consumers said they shopped in person once a week, and 58% of U.S. shoppers said in-store shopping was a better experience. The main reasons they said in-store shopping was better was social interaction, and better service. Meanwhile, 78% of U.S. consumers said retailers should invest in new technology, while 45% stated they wanted more personal product recommendations, and 40% wanted personalized services.
“Trust and confidence grow through the ability to touch, see, demo, and ask questions at a human level,” says David Sandström, Klarna’s chief marketing officer. “People are not used to making informed decisions based on a few photos.”
The new virtual-shopping feature also has the ability to change how retail workers do their jobs, Sandström and Levene pointed out. The virtual aspect creates the opportunity for sales associates to work from home with a stock of the most popular items instead of being tied to a particular store. It also allows sales associates to become even more niche experts and connect with an audience who appreciates their knowledge base. If an interaction goes well, a sales associate can reach out to a customer and invite them to their contacts list to keep building the relationship to recommend new products or keep them updated on items that are back in stock.
“We’re trying to humanize e-commerce,” Sandström says.
The new feature is rolling out in 18 markets, including the United States, Canada, the U.K., Sweden, and Australia. The company says all of its integrated retail partners will have the ability to add the feature to their online stores. The launch follows Klarna’s acquisition of the social shopping platform Hero last summer.