Looker vs Sisense - Which is The Better Tool for SaaS Products?

Data Visualization
Jun 29, 2023
Looker vs Sisense - Which is The Better Tool for SaaS Products?

There are many ways you could add value for your customers with your SaaS product. Better pricing, improved onboarding, additional features - the sky is the limit. But one of the fastest ways to make your product better is to give your customers access to key data - with embedded analytics.

There are many tools that can help you add embedded analytics to your product, and today, we’re taking a look at two major competitors - Looker vs. Sisense. Both are excellent tools in their own right, but which one is better for SaaS companies?

Let’s take a detailed look at this Looker vs. Sisense comparison - two cloud-based business intelligence tools.

Why is embedded analytics important for SaaS?

Let’s get an important question out of the way first - why should you even bother adding an analytics dashboard to your SaaS app? There are a few key benefits for your customers.

Better decision-making: when customers know their key data, they can make more informed decisions about their business. For example, if you have an app for SEO optimization, it can tell your customers how much of their content is not optimized and how many pages need additional work.

Insights in real-time: business intelligence is great, but not when you have to wait for weeks to find out there’s a leaky funnel on your website. Modern BI solutions can show you data in real-time, so you can prevent situations before they become crises.

Fostering data literacy: with interactive visualizations at their fingertips, your customers will have a better idea of what your product does and how it impacts their workflow and their businesses.

Both Looker and Sisense have an embedded analytics functionality - but which is better?

Looker - the good and bad sides

Before going any further, it’s important to note that Looker is not the same as Looker Studio. Both are Google Products, but Looker is a more complex data analytics and management platform, while Looker Studio is a simpler tool for building dashboards and reports with connectors.

a dashboard in Looker

Like most Google products, Looker has an okay ease of use but leaves a bit to be desired. While doing our research, we were not so much interested in data analysis and data modeling, as we were in visualization and the ability to embed Looker into a website or SaaS app.

And like most BI tools, Looker is not ideal. There are many issues with embedding, and most of them revolve around user permissions. You’ll need a skilled developer to enable log-in and view rights to users as there are two ways to do it: Google authentication and SSO. Public embedding is possible too, but as we’ll talk about later on, it comes at a high cost.

Knowledge of SQL is a deal-breaker for many businesses, as is the pricing for smaller companies. Moreover, many user reviews contain complaints about the slow loading speeds if you’re working with larger data sets.

There is a good number of visualizations, but Looker is behind competitors such as Tableau by Salesforce, PowerBI by Microsoft, and embedded-first options like Luzmo. When it comes to data sources, Looker supports a nice variety of them, but none of them connect directly. In other words, you need to connect Looker to your data warehouse that has the data extracted, cleaned and ready to use.

If you get stuck with Looker, you may need some help from customer support and this is where Looker is surprisingly good. Besides tons of self-help materials, you can reach out to support that is timely and effective.

Sisense - the good and bad sides

Sisense was built with a great user interface in mind, and this reflects in their drag-and-drop dashboard builder. You won’t need a team of data analysts to be able to connect your data and create visualizations. The tool can be used on-premise and in the cloud for ad hoc data analysis without knowledge of SQL or other complex languages.

Sisense dashboard

Speaking of which, Sisense has a good variety of visualization types for your KPIs and metrics, from charts and plots to graphs and tables. The dashboards look pretty modern and sleek and they’re relatively easy to embed using Sisense’s Embed SDK.

When it comes to data sources, you can plug a variety of them into Sisense using something called Elasticube.

Relatively is the keyword here, as setting up an embedded dashboard in Sisense requires a cumbersome setup of user permissions. Simply put, you can segment your data differently so that two sets of customers can see different visualizations. You can also export your visualizations to various formats, such as CSV and Excel.

So while Sisense is oriented towards embedded analytics (unlike Looker, or even tools like Domo, Tableau, and Power BI), getting your dashboard to be embedded can be a bit of a complex process and it’s anything but user-friendly.

Many users complain about Sisense being buggy and slow, especially when it comes to larger datasets. However, the tool is fairly easy to master for developers thanks to good UX/UI and a variety of tutorials available. If you don’t have the basic knowledge of Jquery and some insights about the Sisense API, you’ll have to spend more time learning first before customizing your visualizations.

Should you get stuck, you might have to wait a bit to get an answer from customer support, as users state that it is not exactly the fastest in the world. In other words, non-technical users might struggle with setting up Sisense and discovering all of its functionalities.

Looker vs Sisense - pricing

Looker does not have pricing publicly displayed on their website, so you’ll have to do a bit of research to find out how much it can cost you. The basic pricing starts at around $35,000 per year or just about $2,900 per month. On top of that price, you need to add an extra monthly fee for a developer seat and another fee for each creator in the app.

looker pricing

But the biggest concern is the pricing for dashboard viewers. Data visualization does look pretty good in Looker, but you’ll have to pay $30 for each dashboard viewer. This makes Looker unsuitable as an embedded analytics platform as the cost can quickly go through the roof. In terms of visualization tools, this is rather costly.

One of Sisense’s weakest points is the pricing, for two reasons. The first one is that just finding out what Sisense costs can seem like a wild goose chase. There is no pricing anywhere on the website and you have to get in touch with the sales team to learn what it will cost you.

Various online sources claim that the typical Sisense subscription costs anywhere from $35 to $75k per year, with some sources stating numbers as low as $25k per year. The total costs depend on how many user seats you have, what kind of hosting you choose, and how much of the product you use.

The bottom line is that Sisense costs anywhere from $2-9k per month.

To sum up, Looker is cheaper on the face of it, but if you need embedded analytics, it’s actually very expensive - so it’s a tie between the two tools. Startups and smaller companies will struggle to justify the high costs of running either tool.

The better alternative to Looker and Sisense

Do you want a tool built specifically for SaaS, one that allows data-driven professionals to embed a dashboard into a SaaS product within just a few hours and not weeks?

A Luzmo dashboard

Luzmo is intuitive and easy to use and you need just the very basic programming skills to be able to connect your source, create a dashboard and share it internally with your team or externally with your customers.

What’s more, we have a dashboard editor for your customers too. You can create a dashboard, embed it and then let your end-users edit it to their liking. Naturally, this means that white-labeling with Luzmo is effortless.

And the best part is, you can get Luzmo for less money than Looker, Sisense, or any other data analytics tool. Pricing starts at $950 per month and even with the most expensive plan (at $2,950 monthly), it’s still cheaper than any competitor.

Ready to get rolling? Sign up for your free trial of Luzmo today!

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