Klarna CMO David Sandström on why he believes that ”virtual shopping” can take over retail
Aiming to bring the in-store experience to online shoppers everywhere.
19 May 2022

After joining five years ago, Sandström explains how the fintech company is currently undergoing an extensive brand transformation. 

— We’re going from one of many financial institutions that held a ’trustworthy blue’ look and feel, to a consumer lifestyle brand and shopping platform meld with a fully licensed bank. All with a hot pink edge and working with celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, and A$AP Rocky as well as launching the company’s first-ever Super Bowl spot, he says.

A few days ago, the company presented an extension of its Virtual Shopping concept, aiming to make it easier for up to 400,000 merchants to seamlessly combine their in-store and online experiences. 

— Online shopping today is missing a key element: human interaction, Sandström states. With this service, we are trying to make shopping more interactive, more personal, and more human and offer our merchants new and more meaningful ways to engage with consumers. By enabling Virtual Shopping, retailers can replicate the experience they provide in their brick-and-mortar stores and bring it to their e-commerce sites. In turn, this will empower their consumers to browse and buy online with confidence, by being able to connect directly with an in-store expert to get advice and inspiration and be able to see products up close. All of this is done via the retailer’s website, where the consumer can click on the Virtual Shopping icon and be routed through to an in-store expert. By using the merchant-facing Klarna Store App, store teams can claim customer inbounds and once connected they can chat, share photos and videos, give product recommendations, and even have a two-way video chat, recreating the experience they would receive in-store. 

Klarna’s Virtual Shopping.

Given the climate crisis, is now really the time to launch a tool for more seamless consumption? What’s your view on this?

— We see this (the Virtual Shopping offering) as an additional step for the consumer to be able to make more informed and considered purchase decisions when they shop online. Today we rely on static images and text descriptions to make online purchases, making it hard to tell if items will be true to size, fit, and colour. If using our feature, consumers can speak to a store expert, see the product up close and ask questions. Thanks to this more personalised service, brands already live with Virtual Shopping are seeing a reduced number of returns, which decreases the environmental impact of shopping. Virtual try-ons can also help cut down on ’bracketing’ — the practice of ordering multiple sizes of a product with the intention of returning the ill-fitting items. Another example from Macy’s, using in-store VR, which is a similar concept, reduced returns to less than 2 per cent which is notable in its deviation from industry-standard retail return rates of 5-7 per cent.

If we look ahead, is this the future of shopping?

— People love the speed and convenience of online shopping, but they also want the expert advice you get from shopping in-store. As retail continues to undergo a major shift, people are seeking out immersive experiences that merge the best of online with in-store shopping — this is exactly what we now set out to solve. And it’s extremely effective. As mentioned, thanks to social shopping features, shopping online will continue to become more connected, more personalized and ultimately more human, says Sandström.

This spring, you also launched your Shopping Pulse report. Can you share any key insights from it?

— It shows that Swedes have regained the first place when it comes to the highest preference for online shopping — out of all 11 countries in the survey. We can also see that sex toys, entertainment, electronics, and beauty are the categories they mostly prefer to buy online. And last but not least, a majority (79%) of the consumers think that online stores should continuously invest in new technology to fulfil their needs. This is something that is evident when it comes to Virtual Shopping — the service markedly improves performance for merchants, with consumers up to 21 x more likely to make a purchase after speaking with an in-store expert online compared to when left unassisted, he concludes.