Why Is Trader Joe’s So Successful?

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April 10, 2014 by elainelorent

Three months ago, I moved into the upper part of Manhattan and I had to find a new spot to do all my grocery shopping. I asked around to my friends and the most popular response was Trader Joe’s… I was skeptical at first and I was also surprised by how a grocery store name would be cited so much. After all, it is just a grocery store. Well, now, after three months … let just say that I’m addicted to this place! Even though I have tons of other stores around my apartment, I don’t mind taking the train to 72nd street to go to Trader Joe’s! But still, as a future graduate student in marketing, I kind of wanted to figure out what makes that store so popular and successful. I tried to gather here the couple of things that, according to my opinion, makes the customer experience so great.

  • It’s a different world

When you enter into the store, you arrive in a different world. All the designs that are placed around the store make you feel like you’ve landed on the moon or a tropical island. It’s a totally different ambiance than a usual grocery store; I always find myself smiling when I enter the store. Their drawings, which are all over the place, entertain the customer throughout his/her journey. You don’t mind waiting in the line because you have all those cartoons around you that make the line go faster.

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  • ImageTheir communication

For every new product they introduce, they have a sign on top speaking directly to their clients such as “you must be a real innovator if you try this product”; or like this one:

But the point is this: they have a really human and direct communication within their stores that makes it more personal and attractive for customers.Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Their packaging

Their packaging is designed in a way that makes it super attractive, colorful, vintage/old fashion and funny at the same time. They use a font that looks like handwriting, which emphasizes the personal communication they have with their customers. Also, since they only sell their own brand, the packaging falls into the store ambiance with perfect harmony.

  • The price

They have relatively low prices compared to the ones in the city. It is one of their competitive advantages, and they know it:

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One business and marketing default to that for me is that they say that because they have really low prices, they don’t do any reward card or discount. Fine, that’s true. Their low prices kill the need of a reward card. But after all, what it is the purpose of a company to have a reward card? “To reward the loyal clients”. Ok, for this one they already give us a really good deal with the prices. BUT, from my perspective, they are missing a lot of information about their clients and also a good way to improve their service even more and the whole experience inside the store through a data analysis system. But let’s agree on this, I do not really know if they need it. I’m just saying. Plus, I am a data analytics addict…

  • Their employees

They train employees to be both super friendly and quick. When you look at them, it’s like all the employees have gone fishing or hiking the week-end before. They seem to be a part of the big “Trader Joe’s family”. Also, they are really reliable and kind to the customers. For instance: last time, I was in the line for 5 minutes (which is already half way through there) and I realized that I forgot to buy sugar. I asked to one of the employees where the sugar was in case I was about to pass in front of it while doing the line. She kindly answered that it was downstairs. I was upset and ready to give up on my sugar when she asked me if I wanted her to go get the pack for me. Two minutes later, I was still in the line, with my sugar in hand!

 

  • The speedImage

You may believe that because this store is so successful the line may take ages. Actually no. I timed how long it took me to get to the cashier when the line was at its maximum. 11 minutes.

How did they make that happen? Well, they have a whole army of cashiers, 22 to be exact in 72nd street. Everything is quick and well thought out in this store. But don’t misunderstand me here, it’s not because they are quick that they don’t stay friendly. You’ll always end up in front a cashier smiling and asking you “how was your day?”; “did you find all you needed?” and sometimes even commenting on your products such as “Oh my god, that’s also my favorite bread!”. They’re human. And it’s really great. Especially because grocery shopping is usually something you don’t want to do.

  • The products

Everything inside the store is branded “Trader Joe’s”. They have their own brand! This, once again in my opinion, makes you feel more confident at trying all the different kinds of weird and unique products line they offer. You can for instance find “Cookies Butter”, “A large bag of individual frozen chicken breast for $6.99” or even “Pasta with asparagus and brie”, and so forth. You know it is certified by Trader Joe’s and you love and trust Trader Joe’s, …so why not just try it? Plus, it’s cheap! Perfect combination. And on the plus side, their products are always high quality and really tasty.

  • The name

You’re actually going to Trader Joe’s, not Key Food or any other chain brands. What’s the difference? You’re going a person’s store, and not a brand store. Of course Trader Joe’s is a chain brand, but it makes a huge difference when you think about it. It is a person’s name; a human being’s name … not only a random brand that you think wants to make money on your back.


At the end of the day, Trader Joe’s has invented one of the best customer experiences, consistent image and integrated marketing strategies I have seen in my field, and let me tell you that I read case studies everyday. In my opinion, they are as high value as Starbucks and Apple are.

Do you remember that at the beginning of the article I was wondering why people so often cited this store? Well, the answer is simple. The whole experience they have created for their customer journey makes their clients want to talk about it, and spread the word around to their friends and family. The power of word of mouth ladies and gentlemen! True story. And if you still don’t believe me, think at this one: have you ever seen a Trader Joe’s ad on the street? The answer is no, they don’t need it.

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