For the past two years, Trader Joe’s has reigned supreme on dunnhumby’s Top U.S. Grocery Retailer leaderboard. The customer data science company released its second annual Retailer Preference Index on Jan. 9, 2019, once again crowning the top-rated grocer based on price, quality, digital, operations, convenience, discounts/rewards and speed.
Trader Joe’s leads the $700 billion grocery market by keeping an ear to consumer needs that carry the most weight in terms of brand preference when fulfilled.
“The retailers who focus their business on superior value perception – defined by the strongest combination of price and quality – tend to have the most financial success and the strongest emotional bond with consumers,” according to dunnhumby.
Trader Joe’s winning blend of price and quality is a result of the company’s private label offerings and decision not to feature online shopping. A strategy that saves consumers’ money and allows Trader Joe’s to monitor product quality while maintaining a commitment to customer service.
“For us the store is our brand and our products work the best when they’re sold as part of this overall customer experience within the store,” says Joe Basalone, president of stores.
Without a digital presence to manage, Trader Joe’s is also able to devote a greater share of its resources to the core of the brand, its physical locations. The obvious drawbacks to brick-and-mortar-exclusive shopping are present, but it’s what allows the national chain to preserve a high standard of hospitality, increasing value perception and brand preference, as indicated by dunnhumby’s RPI.
The emotional bond consumers have with Trader Joe’s is particularly special. The privately owned retailer has grown a cult-like following due in part to its general off-the-grid demeanor and nonchalant marketing approach. Trader Joe’s itself says it’s biggest marketing spend comes from letting in-store visitors sample foods, followed only by a few radio spots, an email newsletter and its low-budget newsletter, “The Fearless Flyer.” All of which are conversational and serve as vehicles for building customer connections. These select channels of communication specifically work toward Trader Joe’s overarching goal of being your local neighborhood store and enriching the in-store customer experience.
Supporters of the store have gone so far as to create social media profiles on its behalf. You know you’ve made it when you see fan accounts.
Aside from the less-is-more attitude, Trader Joe’s is tapping into something else none of its competitors are doing – and likely wouldn’t pull off as well anyway. As a nod to its mid-1980s radio ads, Trader Joe’s launched its now 10-episode podcast series, “Inside Trader Joe’s,” in May 2018, where wholesome stories of the company’s history unfold alongside industry insights and employee testimonials (which are glowing, by the way).
As hosts dissect the newest and hottest items in the store, the quips of casual conversation invite listeners to sit down with them and welcome them into the company’s culture. With an open door to its history, Trader Joe’s is fostering a community of listeners who now feel a connection to the store they shop in and the items they pick from the shelves to serve to their families. Trader Joe’s caters to people who appreciate transparency from brands and love to hear from where their food is coming.
Storytelling has been engrained in Trader Joe’s culture since conception and is a vital component of its brand engagement and loyalty. Its inaugural 1970s newsletter was designed to be rich with entertainment value in place of straightforward promotion, so much so that customers paid for it! Browsing its website today equates to reading your favorite foodie blog. Filled with recipes, tips for entertaining, product stories – even contests and events, its approachable, alternative tone is consistent with the value placed on treating customers like neighborhood friends.
Trader Joe’s is on top of the food chain – and having fun with it! From 1967, when Joe Coulombe (the original Trader Joe) first elevated a small chain of convenience stores into Trader Joe’s stores in Pasadena, California, to today with 475 stores across 42 states, Trader Joe’s is winning by fulfilling what matters to shoppers – quality food for a worthwhile price – and team members provide with a smile on their faces and a Hawaiian shirt on their backs.