SaaS Dashboards: What They Are and How To Build One

SaaS Growth and Trends
Sep 25, 2023
SaaS Dashboards: What They Are and How To Build One

Hacking your SaaS growth? There are lots of successful models & strategies to fall back on. But every business is different. What works at one company, won’t automatically work at another. So, how to find your winning formula?

It’s important to constantly measure what you are doing & how it affects your business. Probably, you already have your own stack of dashboards to do so. In any case, with a solid view on your processes & performance, you’ll be able to make much better decisions while scaling your SaaS. Whether it’s on a sales, marketing or product level.

In this Dashboard 101, we will address the basics of dashboard design, and a list of KPIs to track. We will also offer a framework, full of smart dashboarding hacks. It will help you to build SaaS dashboards that are more than just ‘reporting’. Create no-BS dashboards that drive action in your team, without much further ado.

Picture of a SaaS team building actionable dashboards

What is a SaaS dashboard?

A SaaS (software as a service) dashboard is an analytics dashboard that shows the most important KPIs and metrics from your SaaS product in real-time. This allows business owners, product managers, and marketers to spot changes as they are happening and adapt their strategies.

A SaaS dashboard is a visualization of your key metrics and helps you get an overview of a lot of information at a glance. The visualization part is like Excel on steroids. Connect your data sources (your API or some other source) and then your favorite dashboard tool visualizes that in different ways.

Examples include: graphs, charts, histograms, heat maps, scatter plots and more.

Why do you need a SaaS metrics dashboard?

A SaaS dashboard helps you use data visualization to show a large number of data points in context. Instead of staring at raw data, you can use visulization to show data in context. For example, you can easily see the growth in new customers and compare it with customer acquisition cost over time.

The main benefit of SaaS dashboards is that they make it easier to understand data. Through interactive visualizations, dashboards let users get to actionable insights more quickly. As a result, SaaS CEOs, product managers and marketers can make data-driven decisions more easily.

Moreover, the interactive part contributes to the overall user experience. The person viewing the dashboard can change the dates, the dimensions in the dashboard, the different points of view and more.

Top metrics to include in a SaaS dashboard

The SaaS metrics you include will depend on many things. Depending on your goals and the teams accessing the dashboard, you can go in many different directions. Below, we’ll list some of the top choices to include, regardless of who your audience is and what your product is about. The metrics are:

  • MRR (monthly recurring revenue)
  • ARR (annual recurring revenue)
  • CAC (customer acquisition cost)
  • CLV or LTV (customer lifetime value)
  • Churn or churn rate
  • CAC:LTV ratio
  • ARPU (average revenue per user)
  • Net retention rate
  • Expansion MRR
  • And many others

There is no definitive answer or template for what you will need in your own dashboard. However, this is a great set of SaaS KPIs to get you inspired.

How to create a SaaS dashboard that works across the sales funnel

Want to create a user-friendly dashboard that helps you capture important insights throughout the sales funnel? We have your back.

Tip #1: Creating a funnel that converts

Your customers have different needs at every stage of the customer journey. Unfortunately, that means that users can get stuck or drop out of the funnel at many stages. Ideally, you want them to advance all the way to the deeper end of the funnel.

What if we told you it’s possible to ‘hack’ the funnel, with the right dashboards?

Example of a SaaS funnel

It sounds a bit shifty, but ‘hacking’ the funnel basically comes down to optimizing 3 simple things:

  • Increasing the volume in your funnel (lead generation) - you can also use a marketing dashboard for this
  • Increasing the conversion rate from one phase to the next (conversion)
  • Increasing the overall life-time value of customers (retention & upsell)

You probably have most of this data available at your company: traffic volumes, conversion rates per funnel stage, and deal size,… 

If you combine this with qualitative data like traffic sources, reasons for refusal, and customer demographics,… you’ll be able to understand why things are happening, and what you can do about it. This is especially valuable for a startup going after its first active users.

Optimizing the funnel in 4 steps

The idea is to analyze the status of each customer journey phase and make small optimizations in each phase. Eventually, these small changes per phase will lead to an optimization of the whole journey. 

To make it easier to get started, let’s break it down into a short 4-step process. Pick 1 customer journey phase, and start with the following actions:

Build a dashboard that visualizes one customer journey phase:

- What are the main KPIs in this phase?

- Which factors have an influence on these KPIs?

- Which factors influence the customer’s progress to the next phase?

Analyze and gain insights:

- Which process, action, or variable has a positive effect on conversion?

- Which process, action, or variable has a negative effect on conversion?

Take action based on the insights:

- Put more effort or budget into reinforcing factors

- Define actions to eliminate, downscale, or prevent the things that are negatively influencing your results

- Repeat the analysis & optimization process regularly, and apply it to each journey phase

As an example, let’s say you want to start by optimizing the attraction phase. Let’s have a look at an example dashboard below.

In the blink of an eye, you’ve learned that you’re driving a lot of traffic to your website, but only 8% converts from your main landing page. While you’re investing almost half of your budget in Facebook, LinkedIn has a much higher conversion rate to the nurture phase. 

Shifting your budget from Facebook to LinkedIn will have a huge impact on your conversion rate from attraction to nurture. And this won’t just affect your social media performance and metrics but overall funnel performance too.

Tip #2: Throw out 50% of your metrics

Since every company has its own set of key metrics, we don’t share an endless list of metrics to track here We advise you to rely on your own judgment because you are the expert when it comes to your business. However, here are 2 tips that can be relevant to any SaaS company.

1. Not all metrics are important

You can literally track & measure everything. And that makes it hard to separate insights from clutter. So, it’s important to realize that not every single metric matters to your company. Your dashboards will be much more useful if you only include your most important metrics. In that way, you can guarantee not to get lost in the data.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on 3 to 4 main KPIs per dashboard. Adding trends and influential factors to the dashboard is fine, as long as it all relates to the same set of metrics. Regarding the number of dashboards, it really depends from business to business.

What works well for us, is to give individual teams ownership of their own dashboards. Usually, our teams have 1 strategic dashboard as their main source of information. 

In addition, they add 3 to 5 dashboards that go more into detail on specific items that are important in their field of business. With different dashboard types, you can always keep the global overview in 1 strategic dashboard, and get a more detailed view when needed.

Example of an actionable SaaS dashboard

2. Never lose track of your North Star Metric

So, while you’re ignoring the vanity metrics that have little impact on your business, there’s 1 metric you absolutely can’t ignore: your North Star Metric. It’s different for every company, but you can define yours by asking yourself the following question:

“What is the core value that your product delivers to your customer?”

Once you have the answer, you’ll need to turn this into a quantifiable metric. For example, for Netflix, this could be “# subscribers who watched more than X hours of content”. For AirBnb, it could be “# apartments rented”. A North Star Metric is most powerful when it quantifies both your business objectives and the value you bring to your customers compared to your pricing.

Bonus tip: display your North Star Metric and its evolution on a single dashboard, and display KPI dashboards on TV monitors across the office. Your employees will feel much more involved, and it helps you to build a truly data-driven culture at the office.

Example of a SaaS dashboard displaying North Star metrics in an office

Tip #3: Create dashboards that drive action

In a fast-paced SaaS business, you don’t want to create reports just for the fun of it. Gaining insights from your dashboards is a smart move. But if it doesn’t lead to action, then why bother?

Usually, when creating a dashboard, you would ask yourself: “What do I want to know?” But if you really want people to act upon your data, your first question should be:

“What do I want people to do? Which actions should they take?”

Being a SaaS company ourselves, this is something we learned along the way. When we started modifying our dashboards to be more action-driven, we noticed a much higher engagement of our employees to act directly on the numbers they saw in the dashboards.

How to make your dashboards actionable?

Let’s look into a few tangible examples. Take for example the following chart.

Example of a chart that doesn't follow best practices for actionable saas dashboards

It shows a clear drop in engagement of new leads who are trying out your platform. What’s less clear, however, is who will take action on this, and how. If the actions are clearly defined afterward – for example in a weekly meeting – that will work fine too. But the chart in itself doesn’t encourage an action directly.

Compare the dashboard example above to the following ‘calling dashboard’. When someone tries your SaaS platform, they are attributed to a salesperson, who should contact the lead within 48 hours. 

In the dashboard, it shows for each salesperson how many hours a new lead has been ‘open’. If you pop up in red, it’s directly clear what you need to do: start calling. This makes things much easier and more transparent for sales teams.

Example of an actionable SaaS dashboard for sales reps

Another example is a chart on customer inactivity. The longer your customers are inactive, the larger the risk of churn. In the following example chart, each line is a threshold that can have a clear retention action defined, for example:

  • After 20 days: e-mail follow-up with resources to boost usage
  • After 40 days: first telephone follow-up to align on their progress with your product
  • After 60 days: second telephone follow-up to book a 1-on-1 help customer support session
Example of a chart that drives immediate action for customer success reps

These actionable charts help you to do the right things while scaling your company. By simply looking at the dashboards on a daily basis, your teams or colleagues will know which important actions they need to take at every moment. No need to book meetings to ask them for upgrades, or to convince them what they should do and why.

Start building great SaaS dashboards!

So now it’s time to put theory into practice! If you’re getting started, this guide should make a good starting point. Otherwise, it might be a refreshing view of how to approach your SaaS dashboards.

If you are looking for a new SaaS analytics tool, you can always explore the Luzmo platform for free during a 10-day trial. Build dashboards to track your SaaS growth, or even offer value-adding insights to your customers through embedded analytics.

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