An attractive salesperson – of either sex – is more likely to discourage shoppers from buying a product, new research indicates
Are attractive salespeople more likely to boost sales in the retail environment? While the common belief is that people react more favourably to physically appealing individuals, new research indicates this may not be the case when it comes to shopping.
Instead, an attractive salesperson can discourage people from buying a product, and consumers may react more negatively to a good-looking service provider than to an average-looking one. This is because attractive salespeople can cause consumers to have concerns about their ability to make a good impression.
Professors Lisa Wan and Robert Wyer of the Chinese University of Hong Kong undertook several experiments that monitored highly attractive/less attractive shop assistants of both sexes and how shoppers then interacted with them. In the study involving female shop assistants, male shoppers interacted more with the average-looking assistant and bought higher-value goods from her.
In the experiment involving male shop assistants, female shoppers had to seek information about a thermal weight belt that can be used to either promote weight loss in overweight people, or to promote general relaxation and good health.
“As expected, the results show that participants in the embarrassing consumption condition were less likely to make a purchase when the salesperson was presented in an attractive way than when he was not – and had a greater concern with the impression they created when he was attractive than when he was ungroomed,” the researchers say.
“The study demonstrates that when a consumption situation is likely to be embarrassing, attractive opposite-sex providers can lead consumers to have self-presentation concerns. And when it occurs, it has a detrimental effect on purchase decisions.”
There were also problems when shoppers and shop assistants were of the same sex. “Self-presentation concerns appear to be driven by social comparison processes, leading consumers to dislike the provider and to avoid interacting,” the study says.