SparkFun Customer Survey Results


At SparkFun, we see ourselves as more than just an online electronics retailer - we’re a community of hobbyists, engineers, programmers, creatives, nerds, tinkerers, and teachers. Our culture grew from the concept that all ideas are created equal - and are better off shared. We are expected to be transparent and question the rules. Everyone has an equal right to voice their opinion and listen to the opinions of others.

In that vein, we reached out to some of you to learn about your experiences with us, and find out what we need to do to get better. In this post, we’ll share the results of the survey and our plans (and progress so far) to make necessary improvements.

One of the most important takeaways from the survey is that you (our customers) are doing some really amazing things!

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At Motoczysz we are always looking for new ways to solve problems in order to build the sickest roadracing motorcycles out there. SparkFun has a great selection and we don’t need to be electrical engineers to have a polished solution fast." Nick Schoeps, Lead Motorsports Engineer

The survey also brought home that you are willing to give us honest feedback. We received a ton of new insights and actionable suggestions as we spent up to an hour with customers on the phone. Some ideas we had already considered, but as a result of the feedback, we pushed them up the pipeline.

I don’t think I have seen you guys do discounts - that would be awesome

Look for discounts via social media later this spring on these channels: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, Youtube and the newsletter.

We would like to thank our survey takers (and everyone that leaves feedback on the SparkFun website and forum) for sharing your opinions and ideas, and we hope our follow up will improve your experience with us.

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I have the impression that it is an organization composed
of people who really enjoy what they are doing.

If you’re interested in specifics, here is a brief summary of the survey results:

What does SparkFun Electronics do best?

  • Product information
  • Product inventory
  • SparkFun community and personality

What do you think is most in need of improvement here at SparkFun? (Note the similarity in responses to those above):

  • The addition of specific product information
    There have been products where the description does not match the device because the product was updated
  • Tweaks/fixes to the website
    A time estimate on re-stocking out-of-stock products would be really great” (this has been done - check it out on the product pages now)
  • The addition of specific products
    Source more interesting components and provide breakouts?

Our customers feel that the most relevant content includes the Friday New Product videos and the New Products section of the website (75% of respondents mentioned this).

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On my workbench I need the same tools as your engineers - screwdrivers, wire, and boards. SparkFun continually introduces new tools and new ways to solve problems, so I find all I need.

Our customers most often found out about SparkFun from search engines (31%) and word-of-mouth (31%), followed by referrals from magazines, blogs, and other websites (21%).

The interests of SparkFun’s customer base are incredibly varied, but hobbyist is the most common, followed by computer engineering, software engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, creative endeavors, and teaching.

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Desk of Nick Poole, Hobbyist, and Creative Technologist at SparkFun

Suggested Improvements from Survey Takers - Status of Follow Up

  • Out-of-stock products should include an “Estimated Time of Arrival" - Fixed
  • Searches should not land on a retired product page - Fix underway
  • Include more complete product information, including schematics, example hook-up and source code for all boards and applicable products - Three fixes, done or underway:
    • Toni (formerly in Tech Support) is now doing Quality Assurance for Engineering
    • We are expanding and encouraging use of GitHub
    • We have been building out our Tutorials
  • Better accommodate mobile traffic - Fix underway
  • Document and notify customers when new product iterations are rolled out - In addition to expanding and encouraging use of GitHub we are discussing the possibility of email notifications
  • Each shipping option should include an average Estimated Time of Arrival - In the pipeline
  • Tag content with beginner, intermediate and advanced ratings - In the pipeline - look for skill level and skill set icons on product pages soon
  • Add more beginner-level resources - Additions underway - learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials
  • More guidance in the descriptions on how custom boards are different - New tutorials are being put up weekly, Shieldstravaganza may help, and a better site search tool is live now
  • Provide better page navigation and load times for products with long comment threads - Utilizing tabs may be the fix, but is in discussion
  • Provide a better way for innovative ideas to be heard - In discussion
  • Include lists of all parts and components used in blogs and videos - Underway
  • Create a Free Day-style promo that rewards long-term customers - This year we will be rolling out special benefits to all of our customers most likely via shipping cost breaks; and discounts will soon be posted via social media
  • Subtitle the videos - We looked into this awhile back - it took longer than it took to create video. Recently there has been some movement -we started a Git repo of transcriptions for According to Pete videos. Help out if you can, information from a previous blog here.

Phew, that was a lot! If you made it through all that - congrats! Please feel free to leave any thoughts or suggestions you might have for us in the comments below - we are always looking for ways to improve. Thanks for reading!


Comments 20 comments

  • The last order I placed with you guys was for $300 worth of cool stuff. I thought maybe you guys would have thrown in a large “RTFM” T-shirt or something for that one. That would have been cool.

    • Yea, I often forget to add a sticker to my order. Ya know, to add to everything i build to promote this awesome company.

  • Have project of the week? or some sort of puzzle? or even something where if users have a general but boggling question they can submit it and it can be posted within some time. Or give a list of parts/wishlist link and say only with these parts and hardware build a contraption that does blank. I think it would be cool and get people’s creative juices flowing a little bit.

    • Even project ideas for varying skill levels would be very cool!

    • I like these ideas because it seems there are plenty of sites out there already where “innovative ideas” can be heard. Thanks!

  • I wanted to congratulate you guys on keeping up the awesome! Not only are your completely open business practices great knowledge, but we get to see a story developing over time. This isn’t just a company making money, this is a company helping to make huge societal changes that are spreading like wildfire! I love a lot of the changes above, and some seem tedious and costly, do what you can.

  • Considering some of the other wild things Sparkfun has done, wouldn’t it be fun to pickup failed projects from one source or another (customer service returns, beta tester failed builds, or public demo fails of some remarkable nature to save) and make a video of going through the steps diagnosing the fault. Make sure to include tips on what your looking for, and when found what it means.

    After we know whats wrong with the device, go through the process of repairing it (or why a repair of that type of fault is impossible).

    For that matter engineering device failures like running enough juice through LEDs or other components, ICs, etc al. to fail in ways that the average hobbist might encounter… And the ‘mythbusters’ version too where you really blow things up. Perhaps you have another budding VidStar like Pete that would be willing to post a monthly horror show.

    • This is a fun idea - sort of like a tear down - content may end up including anything from common mistakes to breakthrough discoveries. Will pass this along. Thanks.

  • I feel vindicated! My desk looks a lot like Nick Poole’s.

  • Could you please include “post dates” on product pages and such. Every item page seems to include terms such as: newest, smallest,… which never gets changed once a newer / smaller… item comes out.

  • Regarding the video transcriptions, I would imagine you guys tried this, but YouTube was pretty good about getting close with its captions, then they can be edited later. I helped my wife with some demonstration videos she had made and it took us maybe 2-3 times the length of the video to fix up the captions. Sometimes it was spot-on and sometimes it was hilariously wrong, but it was still better than doing it all from scratch.

    If that’s still too much then you might be able to export the text from YouTube’s first pass, then you could just drop that in the git repo that was discussed to give a good starting point for any helpful souls who want to improve the transcriptions.

  • PLEASE:

    PIC 16F886 + FTDI + ICSP Header Pickit 3 compatible + Arduino Style Headers

    (there are many PIN compatible chips so you can put a IC socket and users can choose their processor)

    You do this, you open a whole new world of solutions (What you sell) to the other side of the Microcontroller culture… I would buy shields…write code… you know the drill…

    Talk to CCS , cut a deal - They have a wonderful EASY compiler… i actively write code and post it on the forum, as do many others… I have so many product ideas you could sell, that would help many.

    PIC users -> we were here first, yet we are forgotten.

    Where can i send a picture of a product i think you should develop and sell?

  • Congrats on a new building!

  • Please don’t do away with the retired product information completely as it still is useful information.

    Make it easier for locals to pickup at SFE. I have picked up from your place more than once and its never an easy experience.

    • Please don’t do away with the retired product information completely as it still is useful information.

      We don’t have any plans to do so. Keeping that stuff visible has always been a priority; we just need to make sure that people aren’t getting lost on the way to finding items that are actually still for sale.

      • I’ve never had a problem of finding the replacement items for retired product, the big, bold link that says “This item is retired and has been superceded by this new item” was always pretty obvious.


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