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Do good looks matter in retail sales?

A university study finds livestream sellers receive a boost in consumer engagement if they are good-looking.

The study led by Australia’s Charles Darwin University explored the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of those watching livestream broadcasts on China’s Taobao platform.

Ninety percent of respondents were between 20 and 30 years old, with the vast majority watching streams for one-to-two hours per day. The more time respondents spent watching livestreaming services, the more they engaged with broadcasters and other viewers.

“The finding indicates that consumers appreciate the beauty and tend to focus their entire attention and interests on good-looking broadcasters because they are physically attractive and charming,” Charles Darwin University senior lecturer Ninh Nguyen said in a statement. “The physical attractiveness of broadcasters encourages consumers to devote more time and efforts to watching the livestreaming of good-looking broadcasters.”

Researchers said the findings are only relevant to livestreaming and similar forms of online selling.

Numerous studies have shown attractive individuals have an advantage in hiring, wages and career development across industries — a phenomenon referred to as the “beauty premium.” The studies often come with warnings about bias.

Less studied is whether better-looking store associates offer proven benefits to the retailer.

Studies from the University of Alberta in 2008 and the Stockholm School of Economics in 2009 showed that attractive service workers often positively impact customer satisfaction. The University of Alberta study identified “sex as a critical moderating variable in the realization of this positive contagion effect; the contact source and observing consumer must be of the opposite sex for positive contagion to occur.”

Some other studies have found that attractive store associates can intimidate certain shoppers, deterring purchases or engagement.

Research from the University of Dayton in 2019 found shoppers who see themselves as less good-looking feel more of a social distance from attractive sales associates. The researchers wrote, “Although contentious to some, our findings indicate that the recruitment of attractive representatives may be an effective business practice in service settings. However, managers should not regard consumers as a homogeneous group; self-perceived unattractive consumers may respond negatively to their service representative’s physical attractiveness.”



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