Designing the World’s Smoothest Shopping Experience with Ege Altunsu

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Toto Castiglione

Updated Aug 3, 2023 • 10 min read

Klarna, the buy now, pay later giant, has made it more affordable and easier to checkout on online shopping sites for many customers, and usage only increased during the pandemic.

To talk about the design side of things, Ege Altunsu, Product Design Lead, Design Manager at Klarna, joined this episode of Disruption Talks.

Ege explains how Klarna was able to get ahead in the market, scale up quickly, and still maintain a high level of service for customers and merchants. Ege also shares what it’s like to be a product designer and lead a large design team efficiently.

What is shopping experience design?

Shopping experience design is a process that design teams go through to optimize the customer experience. It’s a way of designing websites or apps to ensure that they’re simple and easy to use, which results in greater conversions or purchases for the business.

Good shopping experience design can help to reduce any friction for users. It’s easier and faster to find what you need and pay, which is essential for busy consumers. This helps to greatly improve the overall customer experience, which is a win-win for businesses and consumers alike. Customers are much more likely to return to the business if they’ve experienced a smooth shopping experience, so website and app design are key to that.

Toto Castiglione: Could you give us a short introduction to yourself?

Ege Altunsu: At the moment, I’m based in Berlin, although I’m originally from Turkey. I’ve also worked in Florence in Italy, Barcelona, and then Stockholm. I originally moved to Stockholm for Klarna, which was three and a half years ago. At Klarna, I am now the Product Design Lead and Manager.

What is the current focus for your team?

We’re focusing on the consumer-facing parts of Klarna. Klarna originally started as a payment provider in Sweden before expanding to more than 17 countries with 90 million monthly active users. The team has grown to more than 4,000 people at Klarna. On the design side, we have over 100 people now.

Online you’ve said that you love to simplify complex things. How does this translate to your work at Klarna?

I think that’s what we always seek to do. Whatever we do, whatever solution with offer, if it’s not understandable, it means we’re not successful. To make something more understandable makes it more effective.

What is the mission of the Klarna design team? What’s your north star?

The design team has expanded and changed after Klarna pulled its focus from the merchants onto the consumers. That strategy impacts the design needs, especially in a competitive environment of consumer products. So, we started to hire many designers, and the team grew from three or four to over 100.

As we grow, we aim to continue changing for the better. We to solve our customers’ problems by combining banking and shopping together to create a new way to use money.

In fintech, there’s a growing need for designers. Why do you think that is?

I think we’re living in a golden age of design. Design has been around for more than 100 years, but it’s never been as disruptive or impactful on the decision-making process for companies before. This means there’s a huge learning curve as the discipline is changing and constantly evolving to improve itself in line with technological advances.

It seems that Klarna is a very design-oriented institution, would you agree?

It’s not just that way on the design team. It’s also the brand itself. We are incredibly lucky to work with many people who are so aware of design and its importance. It’s great to work with open-minded people when it comes to design.

In a lot of other companies, designers spend half their time explaining why design is important to the rest of the company. But in Klarna, we can spend 100% of our time on getting the work done, and this gives us more flexibility and speed.

Klarna has a very ambitious target, to not just raise the bar, but become the bar. How does this translate into your day-to-day job?

The industry we’re coming from is so far behind, especially the banking industry. Older banks are quite clumsy and slow when it comes to documenting and over-processing everything.

We aim to make it much simpler, which means we can be quite disruptive in the industry. We feel the responsibility to hire the best designers because we know how important money is to everyone’s lives.

How does the design team design for different needs?

Understanding our customers is a big challenge because everyone has different habits, traditions, and backgrounds. But in the end, all humans are quite similar in how we tackle money in daily life. Some countries might be a bit more advanced on the digitization side of things, but everyone has similar needs with their money.

We do lots of usability tests, but it’s quite challenging because we cannot test easily with placeholder text. People want to see their own data in testing, but it’s tough to do that.

How does the design team maintain consistency across all your work and current products?

We have four different groups in design at Klarna. One of them is the design system, which is critical for all of us. It’s a product inside Klarna that many designers and product managers use.

We also have another area for the merchant side of things. Then there’s the payments side, which is more of a deep dive into payments in every country. This can be very complicated due to all the different regulations. Lastly, we have the consumer area where we focus on all the consumer-facing products.

This organizational structure allows us to focus on the problem spaces and be responsible for each area.

What do you think will be the biggest design challenges in the future?

Many people are thinking about how we can simplify and solve problems, but the industry changes so fast. People are learning very quickly, and sometimes we forget that Klarna has over 90 million active users. We know that we can change how people shop and spend money, which is a big responsibility.

At the same time, we need to think about ethical constraints, and this can be a big challenge for design teams. We also need to think about challenges like regulations and changing trends in the finance world as well.

The pandemic changed a lot in ecommerce. How was Klarna affected?

In the beginning, nearly everything stopped, and shopping decreased suddenly. Then we all started to shop again almost around the same time. People realized that there was an easier and more affordable way to shop, and we ended up seeing numbers that we’ve only ever seen during Black Friday.

One positive thing is that people are now more trusting of online services and shopping because they had to rely on them during the pandemic.

What challenges or areas for improvement do you see in the fintech shopping industry?

Klarna is innovating and disrupting the industry in a very unusual way. I wouldn’t say that the industry is failing, just that things are changing, and we’re trying to make things more accessible.

What we want is for people to borrow money in a more sustainable and transparent way. We think this is something the traditional banks manipulate quite a lot because, for some people, it’s been their only option. So, we are trying to solve this inequality in the industry.

This discussion is part of our Disruption Talks recordings, where we invite experts to share their insights on winning innovation strategies, the next generation of disruptors, and scaling digital products. To get unlimited access to this interview and many more, sign up here:

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