• Magazine Luiza’s rally makes it world’s top retail stock
  • Digital saleswoman helps crack tricky e-commerce market

Lu’s not like other girls on Tinder. For starters, she’s an avatar.

Even so, within 12 hours of hitting the dating app last June, the pretty-if-somewhat-stiff brunette had garnered more than 150,000 matches. Her admirers, both men and women, were on the hunt not for a hookup so much as a good deal on refrigerators and TVs.

Onlookers from the developed world might be tempted to write off Lu, the brainchild of Brazil retailer Magazine Luiza SA, as a gimmick in this increasingly crowded digital era. But they’d be missing the point. In Brazil, she’s become something of a trailblazer, an unlikely bridge between a leery consumer base and online retailers who have struggled to gain a foothold in Latin America’s largest economy.

“Lu was created to encourage people who aren’t so comfortable with technology. When she was introduced, there was nothing like it out there,” said Pedro Guasti, chief executive officer of Ebit, an e-commerce researcher in Brazil. “In that sense, she’s pretty special.”

The digital saleswoman helped Magazine Luiza boost its online sales by 56 percent in the first six months of 2017 from a year earlier, a pace that dwarfed the 12 percent gain for all e-commerce in Brazil, according to the company and Ebit. That’s one of the reasons investors have turned Magazine Luiza into the world’s best-performing major retail stock, driving up shares more than 2,000 percent since the start of 2016.

“Magazine Luiza will be the Amazon of Brazil,” said Luiz Alves Paes de Barros, the Brazilian tycoon whose Alaska Investimentos Ltda. made the retailer one of its biggest holdings before the rally took…