Trader Joe’s Secret Ingredient: Fast Checkouts?

September 24, 2013Perry Kuklin

Trader Joe’s has made a name for itself and you might think its reputation was born entirely on the basis of its unique product selection. But according to a new study of consumers, the shoppers at Trader Joe’s are the most satisfied in the United States… because of their speedy checkouts (FYI, Trader Joe’s was not in the top five in categories like convenient location, low prices, sales/promotions, or one-stop shopping). Which begs the questions: Are fast queues Trader Joe’s secret ingredient? Are checkout lines really that important? If Trader Joe’s is so popular and making customers happy, what are they doing right that other grocery chains should be doing too? At Trader Joe’s, they use a multi-line, multi-server configuration – which actually isn’t the most efficient way to queue (a single-line, multi-server queue is) – but the store makes it an efficient system by ensuring that there is always adequate staffing available to open up new lines at the drop of a hat. And that’s where the difference may lie – queues are a priority to Trader Joe’s. They think about their lines and are genuinely concerned about the customer’s experience within those lines. Janet Eden-Harris, the chief marketing office for Market Force, who conducted the study, said, “We start to see the greatest opportunities for differentiation in operations-related attributes such as fast check-outs, gracious staff, and atmosphere.” That extra little boost to making customers happy can distinguish one chain from another for what might seem to some like a very surprising reason – but what, to Trader Joe’s, is clearly just common sense. How can you differentiate yourself from competitors with queue management modifications? Talk to a Lavi expert to find out what will work for your business.

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