Looker vs Tableau for Business Intelligence

Looker vs Tableau for Business Intelligence


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There are hundreds of Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics solutions available to businesses across all industries that provide a variety of insights and functionality for teams. It’s crucial in today’s world to leverage all the data at your disposal to make the best decisions for your company.

However, over the past couple of years, sharing that same data and insights with your customers has become equally important. As BI tools launch functionality to solve this use case with their embedded products, it becomes more important to evaluate solutions for both applications.

In this article, we compare two of the most well known BI tools head to head; Looker and Tableau. Readers will gain insights into differences between the platforms for internal BI and also augment their software offerings with embedded analytics. 

What is Looker?

Looker is a comprehensive analytics solution that equips organizations with a range of tools to support data-driven decision-making. It offers a robust platform for data discovery, visualization, and analytics, serving a wide array of industries and applications. The core of Looker's effectiveness lies in its data modeling capabilities, enabling organizations to establish and maintain standard business metrics throughout their entities. Additionally, Looker provides an embedded analytics service that merits further examination.

Key Features:

  1. Data Modeling: Utilizing LookML (Looker Modeling Language), users have the capacity to create and oversee data models, promoting consistency and precision in data analysis.
  2. No code interface: once the LookML layer is set up, users with no technical expertise can create visualizations or Looks, using their point and click interface.
  3. Embedded Analytics: Looker's embedded analytics feature allows for the integration of analytical functions into existing applications that can leverage all the existing benefits of Looker and LookML, while allowing customizations via code.
  4. Team Collaboration: Looker supports team collaboration through various functionalities, including shared dashboards, report scheduling, and comment features. It also offers a robust permissioning system crucial for larger teams.

Potential Drawbacks:

  1. Learning Curve: Looker's comprehensive suite of features may present a learning challenge for newcomers to analytics platforms, necessitating familiarity with LookML, their proprietary language.
  2. Pricing: The cost structure of Looker might be prohibitive for small businesses or startups, as it tends to be more expensive relative to its competitors. Especially for external use cases, pricing can balloon based on the number of external users/viewers in your application. Additional costs are often required for complex implementations that can easily outpace the cost of Looker itself.
  3. Resource Demands: The deployment and ongoing management of Looker can demand significant resources in terms of time, staff, and infrastructure. Support for Looker is largely limited via community forums and external, paid services.
  4. Design constraints: Looker’s look and feel is not easily customizable for embedded use cases without significant implementation resources. It also is not optimized for viewing on mobile devices.

What Is Tableau?

Tableau is a powerful data visualization and analytics platform designed to help organizations unlock the potential of their data. Since 2003, Tableau has become a staple tool for businesses across various industries.

 Key Features

  1. Intuitive Visualizations: Tableau offers a wide range of interactive visualizations, including charts, graphs, maps, and dashboards. Mapping functionality within Tableau is often considered the best.
  2. Seamless Data Integration: With support for databases, spreadsheets, cloud services, and more, Tableau allows users to connect to data from various sources.
  3. Powerful Analytics Tools: Tableau provides advanced analytics capabilities, including forecasting, trend analysis, statistical functions, and predictive modeling, empowering users to uncover hidden patterns and trends.
  4. Collaboration and Sharing: Tableau facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing within organizations through features such as data storytelling, commenting, annotations, and the ability to publish and share dashboards and reports.
  5. Scalability and Flexibility: Whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, Tableau offers scalability and flexibility to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to large enterprises.

 Potential Drawbacks

  1. Steep Learning Curve: While Tableau's intuitive interface makes it easy for beginners to get started with basic visualizations, mastering advanced features and techniques may require time and effort.
  2. Cost: Tableau's pricing can be relatively high, particularly for organizations requiring advanced features, scalability, and additional support services. For external use cases, advanced packages and pay by viewer costs start at over $100,000 annually.
  3. Resource Intensiveness: Tableau's data processing and visualization capabilities may require significant computational resources, particularly when dealing with large datasets or complex visualizations.
  4. Limited Customization: While Tableau offers a wide range of visualization options, users may find certain limitations in terms of customization of the interface, making it stand out from applications that it’s embedded into.

Software Comparison: Looker vs. Tableau

Selecting between Looker and Tableau hinges on balancing factors such as cost, ease of implementation, customization, and the specific needs of your organization. Let's dive into this comparison to pinpoint the best fit.


Looker's pricing model, which depends on the number of end-users, can lead to significant expenses for companies with a large user base. This model might not be economical, especially for businesses looking to expand their analytics features.

Conversely, Tableau's approach to pricing for embedded analytics is often not transparent, with costs reportedly reaching into the six-figure range for comprehensive solutions. While Tableau is a powerful tool, its pricing structure may pose challenges for companies seeking cost-effective embedding options.

Ease of Implementation

Looker benefits from its proprietary LookML language and semantic layer, providing a structured but complex framework for data modeling. This complexity can introduce a steep learning curve for those unfamiliar with LookML.

Tableau, while offering robust support and extensive documentation, may present varying implementation challenges based on the integration's complexity and customization needs. The degree of technical expertise required can affect the ease of adopting Tableau for embedded analytics.

Speed of Implementation

The proprietary nature of Looker's LookML may slow down the implementation process for organizations new to its environment, due to the learning curve associated with its unique modeling language.

Tableau's implementation timeline can also vary significantly, impacted by the specifics of the integration and customization efforts required. This variability may lead to longer setup periods compared to platforms designed for quicker deployment.

End User Customizability for Embedded

Looker provides certain levels of customization, allowing users to modify their analytics experiences to an extent. However, its capabilities may be perceived as less flexible compared to platforms emphasizing user-driven customization.

Tableau offers robust report generation features, catering primarily to data analysts and those with technical backgrounds and not so much for other users. Allowing users to create their own dashboards is not feasible unless the entire Tableau platform is exposed.

Seamless Embedding

Both Looker and Tableau offer embedding capabilities, but their approaches differ significantly in terms of flexibility, ease of use, and customization. Tableau's customization and white-labeling options might not match the level of adaptability offered by competitors focused on providing a seamless, brand-cohesive embedding experience.

Why Companies Choose Explo Over Looker & Tableau

As opposed to traditional BI platforms, Explo focuses specifically on embedded analytics. As this becomes more important, it’s wise to consider if your BI solution can provide internal and external analytics, or if it makes sense to use two separate platforms.

Companies often choose Explo over legacy BI solutions like Looker and Tableau for several compelling reasons, as exemplified by SafeBase's successful adoption of Explo's embedded business intelligence solution. 

  1. Ease of Implementation: Explo offers a streamlined implementation process, allowing companies to deploy embedded analytics solutions quickly and efficiently. SafeBase was able to fully deploy Explo and embed its first dashboard in just one week.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Explo's pricing model proved to be significantly more cost-effective for SafeBase compared to other options evaluated, such as building a front-end infrastructure in-house or adopting third-party solutions.
  3. User-Friendly Experience: Explo's intuitive interface and user-friendly features make it easy for organizations to create and customize insightful dashboards tailored to their specific needs.
  4. Responsive Support: The high level of support received from Explo ensured a seamless and efficient implementation, allowing SafeBase to focus on delivering value to its customers without encountering significant roadblocks or challenges.
  5. Embedded first features: Features such as customer management, multi-time zone support, mobile responsiveness are all features that are crucial for embedded use cases but an afterthought for traditional BI solutions.
  6. White-label and design: Explo provides the most design and styling flexibility with it’s point and click interface so that when it’s embedded into an application, users have no idea they’re looking at a third party solution. 

Get Started with Explo for Embedded Business Intelligence

Explo emerges as a modern solution for embedded business intelligence with unmatched flexibility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. It empowers product teams to integrate analytics into their platforms, driving value and enhancing customer experiences.

Ready to embark on your journey for embedded analytics? Take the next step today and discover the power of embedded insights. Click here to get started with a trial or take a tour of Explo's features, and unlock a world of possibilities for your business.

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