Buy-now-pay-later provider Klarna Bank AB is pushing further into the retail industry by offering traditional stores a platform to stream and video-chat with online customers.

Stockholm-based Klarna said its virtual shopping tools are being used by about 300 brands including Levi’s and Hugo Boss, allowing customers to interact directly with shop assistants when browsing online.

“We replicate the brick-and-mortar experience of receiving personalized advice from an in-store expert and bring it to the online realm,” said David Sandstrom, Klarna’s chief marketing officer.

Acquiring social shopping platform Hero

The new merchant-facing app comes after Klarna’s acquisition in July 2021 of social shopping platform Hero. Adam Levene, Hero’s founder, said customers are more likely to make a purchase after speaking with an in-store expert online.

The platform also has the potential to reshape the working day for sales assistants. They could be sharing videos and photos of items during quieter times in the physical store. They can even do so while working from home, according to Klarna. It could mean stores, which were forced to overhaul their business models during the pandemic, become more like content creation studios, with fewer or no customers but a bustling online presence.

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Klarna said it would not be responsible for training retail staff in this new role. But it said it would offer tutorial videos on the app. Retailers will also be responsible for allocating time for virtual shopping assistance. Retailers pay a onetime set-up fee to use the platform. Sales representatives will be able to toggle their availability to chat, and can log credit or commission for sales on the app.

The virtual shopping feature is going live in 18 markets. In North America: the U.S. and Canada. In Europe: the U.K., Norway, Denmark, France, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Sweden. It will also be available in Australia and New Zealand. The offering will roll out to additional countries later in the year, Klarna said.

Emerging from the pandemic

Buy-now-pay-later credit use exploded when the COVID-19 pandemic drove shoppers to online stores. Klarna was valued at $45.6 billion in its most recent funding round last June, which made it Europe’s most valuable startup.

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Financial regulators are looking at tighter rules on these increasingly popular short-term debt products, and Klarna has said it will start providing information on UK customers to credit agencies.

Klarna has been seeking to expand beyond its buy-now-pay-later service. In November 2021, the firm announced it acquired PriceRunner to incorporate more product information into its app. PriceRunner is a Nordic comparison shopping service.

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