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That smile looks so artificial anyway🙄 Great story!
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The big idea
Smiling or exhibiting other positive emotional displays while selling a product over live video – known as livestreaming – makes people less likely to buy it, we found in new research published in the Journal of Marketing.
Livestreaming through channels such as Amazon Live and QVC is an increasingly popular way to sell goods online. In segments that usually last somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, someone pitches a product. Viewers can then readily buy it by clicking on a link.
We analyzed 99,451 sales pitches on a livestream retailing platform and matched them with actual sales transactions. In terms of duration, that is the equivalent of over 2 million 30-second television advertisements.
To determine the emotional expression of the salesperson, we used two deep learning models: a face detection model and an emotion classification model. The face detection model discovers the presence or absence of a face in a frame of a video stream. The emotions classifier then determines the probability that a face is exhibiting any of the six basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, fear or disgust. For example, smiling signals a high probability of happiness, while a scowling expression usually points toward anger.
We wanted to see the impact of emotions expressed at different times in the sales pitch so we computed probabilities for each emotion for all 62 million image frames in our dataset. We then combined these probabilities with other possible variables that might drive sales – such as price and product characteristics – to isolate the effect of emotion.
We found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, when salespeople convey more negative emotions – such as anger and disgust – the volume of sales went down. But we also found that a similar thing happened when the sales pitch involved high levels of positive emotional displays, such as happiness or surprise.
A likely explanation, based on prior research, is that smiling can be off-putting because it lacks authenticity and can reduce trust in the seller.