Social shopping startup Needle has secured $10.5 million in Series B funding in a round co-led by Shasta Ventures and Rembrandt Venture Partners, bringing its total capital raised to $12.5 million.

The Salt Lake City, Utah-based company enables ecommerce companies to connect certified product experts and fans with potential online customers to provide guided shopping assistance via chat, video or voice.

Think of it as a replacement for, or perhaps a complement to, the ‘live chat’ customer service representatives you can (occasionally) reach out to on Internet shopping sites.

But rather than getting help from someone who doesn’t necessarily use, understand or even like the product or service you’re considering purchasing, you can touch base with experts and fans from a ‘Needler’ pool, in real time. Brand advocates and specialists, of course, get paid for giving advice.

The startup refers to it as ‘fan-sourcing’.

Needle claims it existing clients have seen improvements in site performance, increased sales conversion rates and better customer retention and loyalty.

Jim Barnett, a partner at Shasta Ventures, and Douglas Schrier, a partner at Rembrandt Venture Partners, will both join Needle’s board of directors. Barnett in particular is an interesting addition; he was previously chairman and co-founder of Turn, a platform for managing data-driven digital advertising and formerly president of Overture Search and AltaVista before that.

Shasta Ventures had earlier invested in a company founded by Needle CEO Morgan Lynch, having previously backed his startup Logoworks, which was acquired by HP in 2007.