The User Experience Of Trader Joe’s

What makes Trader Joe’s everyone’s favorite grocery store? It’s a combination of friendly staff, simplified product options and a healthy dose of individuality. By keeping things consistent and putting customers first, Trader Joe’s has designed an unparalleled user experience that keeps people coming back.

Great Products, Readily Available

People come to the grocery store to buy food and Trader Joe’s, affectionately known as TJ’s, has some of the best items you can find with lots of organic options, affordable staples and tasty pre-made meals. Having great products is one of the core reasons that TJ’s has become so popular and is the basis of their store experience. What you’ll also find is that the products you see at TJ’s are mostly the same, meaning you’ll see an identical inventory from Salem, Oregon to Salem, Massachusetts. The only things you might find different are the availability of certain fruits and vegetables or local beers. Like McDonald’s restaurants around the world, you know what you’re going to get at TJ’s and people love that consistency. The mandarin orange chicken and peanut butter filled pretzels have cult followings and people everywhere love them.

You can get the same product in every TJ’s and even better, you probably already know where they are in the store. TJ’s stores aren’t as large as other big grocery chains and they keep products in the same sections next to the same products from store to store. This makes finding your frozen peas easy peasy. Forrester Research reported that, “Eighty-seven percent of Trader Joe’s shoppers said their experience of shopping with the brand was easy.” I can’t overstate how frustrating it can be to go into a new grocery store and find yourself lost while looking for a product. While having the same products carried everywhere can be boring, people love the consistent experience they can come to expect when they enter their local TJ’s.

Trader Joe’s products like the Mandarin Orange Chicken and Cookie Butter have cult followings

On the other hand, TJ’s also does a great job at promoting their new products. The Fearless Flyer is a store-produced newspaper that you can pickup in store or online and it highlights all of the new products and in-season items as well as recipes. There are also devout TJ’s fans that post new products on Instagram like @traderjoeslist and others. While maintaining consistency, these new products keep people excited and doubles the delightfulness of the shopping experience.

Friendly and Helpful Employees

Trader Joe’s ranked first among multichannel retailers in Forrester Research’s 2018 U.S. Customer Experience Index. They said that a large factor in this index was the “friendly customer service, which helps deliver unique value in the hypercompetitive grocery world.” Maybe it’s a California thing, but gosh the people who work at TJ’s here are about as friendly as they come. To the point of being nearly overly-conversational, TJ’s employees are always chatting with customers asking, “How are you doing today” or as they see you struggle in the cheese section asking “Can I help you find something?” There is an essence of good vibes, and when you’re in a crowded store after a long day of work these friendly folks lighten the mood.

Another fun-loving TJ’s employee

Creating this friendly atmosphere is very much intentional. Employees say the interview process can be challenging because TJ’s is looking for a certain type of person and are willing to take the time to filter out potential workers to help ensure the hired employee will fit the TJ’s personality profile of gregarious and hard-working.

In a study of TJ’s employees carried out by Pepperdine scholars, “crew members indicated that they felt empowered to make decisions, were collaborative in their relationship with others, and were motivated to high levels of performance. These characteristics were demonstrated in the extent to which they were enthusiastic, hardworking, outgoing, team and customer oriented.”

TJ’s does a great job of finding the right employees to fit their culture and they keep employees there by providing an enjoyable workplace and above average compensation packages.

TJ’s employees are not only friendly, they’re helpful. Being helpful saves customers time and money and greatly impacts customer satisfaction. You had a bag of lettuce go bad before the expiration date? If you tell them on your next visit, TJ’s will take the cost off your bill or replace it for free with no questions asked. These type of no-hassle return policies are common among place with high customer satisfaction like Nordstrom. Why bother the customer over $2 when they spend $100 there every week? This follows the simple user experience ethos of doing right by your customer, choosing a lasting customer relationship over a short-term business gain.

An Extra Dose Of Individuality

The experience of shopping at Trader Joe’s has the consistency of great service and products, but it also has a healthy mix of individuality. How does the company do it? Part of the strategy is encouraging employees to express themselves and another part of it is making sure to keep things local.

TJ’s hires local artists to design murals and chalk art signs for the store and this puts money back into their store’s community and shows a willingness to embrace uniqueness. What they get in return are the clever one-liners on the food labels reading things like this awesome Mr. T sign.

A typical TJ’s food sign: “I PITA the fool who doesn’t try Pita Bite Crackers!”

In addition to hiring local artists, TJ’s also provides local products. You can often find local beers and wines and even local produce. At many of the stores, TJ’s sells reusable bags that are designed with for that city. This provides a sense of being a local store, even if it is a national chain. These bespoke offerings delight customers who generally want to feel closer to their community and support local businesses by purchasing local products.

In Conclusion

These easy-to-navigate stores packed with great products and friendly customer service are unparalleled in the grocery store world. Trader Joe’s has managed to capture our hearts and wallets by designing an experience that is both fun and efficient. With a local community feel to each store, every TJ’s has a unique feel without compromising their core capacity to make a friendly and helpful shopping experience.

Do you love shopping at TJ’s too? Next time you visit a Trader Joe’s, take note of your store experience and let me know what you think!


Pepperdine Graziadio Business Review —

The UX Mindset —

Forrester Research —