Does the attractiveness of a streamer influence your decision to watch, engage, or even purchase products during a live stream? A recent study suggests that the answer is yes. Researchers found that streamers who are perceived as more physically attractive not only draw more viewers but also significantly increase engagement and purchase intentions among their audience. The findings have been published in Frontiers in Psychology.
The motivation behind this study stems from the rapid growth of live-streaming marketing, a phenomenon fueled by increasing internet penetration and the sophistication of online sales platforms. With live e-commerce becoming a competitive profession, and the quality of streamers varying widely, understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior is crucial for brands.
Specifically, the researchers aimed to explore how streamers’ physical attractiveness impacts consumer response behavior, a topic that has received limited attention in academic research despite its apparent importance in the live-streaming environment.
“Live streaming marketing has become a significantly popular method for selling products in recent years, emerging one of the most important ways for many brands to attract consumers,” said study author Xiaoli Tang of Yanshan University. “While watching a live broadcast one day, I noticed a viewer’s comment that read, ‘Can you change to a better-looking streamer?’ Despite the apparent rudeness of the remark, it inadvertently attracted my attention. Thus, the research topic was focused on the influence of streamers’ physical attractiveness on consumer response behavior.”
To conduct their study, researchers designed an experiment involving 128 college students, evenly divided by gender, aged between 18 and 25 years. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups, each exposed to different experimental conditions based on the streamers’ physical attractiveness (high or low) and the participants’ level of involvement (high or low).
The experiment simulated a real-life shopping scenario on Taobao Live, focusing on the purchase of lipstick—a product chosen for its relevance to appearance and familiarity among the target demographic. The attractiveness of the streamers was predetermined through a pre-experiment rating process, ensuring that the experimental groups were exposed to streamers who significantly differed in perceived attractiveness.
During the experiment, participants viewed screenshots of live broadcasts, from which all external identifiers (e.g., the name of the live room, number of viewers, and brand information of the products) were removed to focus solely on the streamer and the product. After viewing, participants filled out questionnaires designed to measure their continued watching intention, engagement intention, purchase intention, level of quasi-social interaction, flow experience, and consumer involvement. The questionnaires utilized a seven-point Likert scale, ranging from complete disagreement to complete agreement, to ensure a nuanced capture of participants’ responses.
The findings revealed that streamers with higher physical attractiveness significantly enhanced viewers’ intentions to continue watching, engage with the content, and make purchases. Moreover, the study uncovered that quasi-social interaction and flow experience — internal psychological states that denote the quality of interaction and the level of immersion experienced by viewers, respectively — partially mediated the effect of the streamers’ attractiveness on consumer response behaviors.
“Although it is true that having a good appearance will attract consumers’ attention, people should not judge others by their appearance or feel inferior because of their own looks,” Tang told PsyPost.
Interestingly, while more attractive streamers managed to capture longer attention spans from their audience, the duration of attention did not directly translate to increased consumer response behaviors, suggesting that other factors might play more significant roles in influencing viewer actions.
Despite its insightful findings, the study includes some limitations. For instance, it focused solely on lipstick as the experimental product, which may limit the generalizability of the results to other product categories. Additionally, the study’s participant pool, composed entirely of college students, suggests a need for research involving a broader demographic to understand more fully the diverse consumer responses in live-streaming contexts.
The research also concentrated exclusively on the physical attractiveness of streamers, leaving room for future studies to explore other dimensions of attractiveness, such as the influence of voice. “The human senses do not only include visual perception, and it is hoped that the halo effect of appearance can be studied in the future by expanding the boundaries of the senses and combining multiple senses such as vision and hearing,” Tang said.
Future research could also examine whether physical attractiveness can backfire in some circumstances. “Although academics have shown that consumers may pay for appearance, there is also the phenomenon of individuals choosing to ignore good-looking people because of jealousy,” Tang explained.
The study, “The influence of streamers’ physical attractiveness on consumer response behavior: based on eye-tracking experiments,” was authored by Xiaoli Tang, Zefeng Hao, and Xiaolin Li.