Back in October 2022, Google announced the rebranding of Google Data Studio (GDS), which now functions as part of Looker. This may have come as a surprise to agencies that relied on GDS for client reporting and also raised concerns about what’s different.
While there were a few new developments to note, one thing remained the same–its ability to create visual reports and dashboards, albeit with some limitations.
As a data visualization tool, Looker Studio is a good starting point, especially when you’re establishing processes and finding your groove. But after some time, you will likely find that it isn’t the best option for managing multiple clients, accessing real-time data, or responsive customer support.
In the very beginning, the reporting was manual and time intensive. We knew long term this was not a viable option. We tried more automated services such as Google Data Studio and others. These were a bit more automated but cumbersome, difficult to connect with all ad platforms, buggy, and not visually appealing.
–Brian Ferritto, Partner at 42connect
Reporting gets complex pretty quickly when you’ve got a growing roster of clients and increased time demands.
Think about it–what happens when you suddenly end up with 10 times more reports to produce? Or new clients to onboard, and you want to do so seamlessly? As GDS used to, Looker Studio gets the job done, but you (and your clients) need more than the bare minimum.
Not sure where that leaves you? You’ve got options! In this article, we’ll explore:
What Is Looker Studio?
Looker Studio is a free, cloud-based reporting platform that transforms marketing data into visual dashboards and reports.
Agencies often use it to pull metrics across multiple data sources, provide data analysis, and show the ROI of marketing campaigns. Looker Studio does have a Pro version that includes additional features like team workspaces and different levels of customer support (depending on your chosen package).
When Did Google Data Studio Become Part of Looker?
Looker was acquired by Google in 2020 to become part of its Google Looker & Cloud–an enterprise-level platform that’s used for predictive modeling, creating embedded analytics, and business intelligence insights.
Looker Studio (the rebranded name of Google Data Studio) is just one arm of this platform. It’s primarily used for more on-demand data analysis, including the creation of reports and dashboards. These tools complement each other and lead to the rich, comprehensive data narratives commonly used by data analysts.
But are these tools right for a marketing agency trying to prove their ROI to a client? Read on to find out!
The Benefits of Looker Studio
Wondering why agencies often turn to Looker Studio? Here are some benefits worth noting.
1. It’s Free
It’s a given–free means no line items on your agency’s credit card statement. And in the early stages of the digital agency life cycle, 100% free may even be a pre-requisite for a reporting tool.
For $0.00, Google Looker Studio gets the job done if you’re managing a relatively small number of clients with a limited number of marketing campaigns.
However, it is important to remember that “Free” doesn’t mean that there is no expense involved. Free often comes at a cost, and it's your precious time uncovering key insights. And the same limitations with Google Data Studio can be found with Looker Studio.
2. Effective Data Visualization
Client reporting is just an eyesore without some form of data visualization, which is where the visualization tools within Looker Studio also come in handy. There’s also the option to blend data from multiple sources and use pre-built templates.
3. Integrates With Other Google Platforms
If your agency relies on any form of Google reporting, then using Looker Studio seems like a no-brainer in the early days. Their list of first-party connectors (integrations) pulls in business metrics from disparate data sources, including:
Additionally, Looker Studio also offers third-party connectors, such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Microsoft Ads (though the popular ones come at an additional cost).
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Looker Studio Drawbacks: Why Agencies Look for Looker Studio Alternatives
No analytics platform is perfect. And as a growing agency, you’ve probably encountered a couple of Looker Studio hiccups.
Here are a few reasons why you may be exploring alternatives (and reading this article).
1. To Manage Multiple Clients and Scale More Effectively
When the end of the month rolls around, you don’t want to spend valuable billable hours toiling over client reports. While Looker Studio is a powerful analytics platform that offers pre-built templates, it gets complicated when you’re pulling data from multiple sources. And creating client reports or running ad hoc queries becomes increasingly time-consuming.
This is especially the case when integrating data outside of Google’s ecosystem or creating more complex reports, which can even run into a few glitches. The last thing you want is to spend hours creating a report only to end up with a blank, frozen screen.
We’ve worked previously with Google Data Studio. It was a good solution for a while but a slower, more complex setup. There were also lower load times, and it was often too overwhelming for our average client.
–Anthony Guilhem, CEO of Momentumm Digital
And to top it off, add-on integrations are priced individually. So if your agency needs to analyze data from many third-party connectors, you’ll incur high costs. That doesn’t sound sustainable if you ask us.
Drag and drop widgets from a variety of data sources in an easy-to-use interface. All 75+ platform integrations are included on AgencyAnalytics at no extra cost–create reports and dashboards free for 14 days.
2. For Customer Support
Let’s take our previous example. Say you’ve spent countless hours creating a Looker Studio report, only to have it crash right before your eyes. One logical solution would be to seek customer support. There’s just one problem–it isn’t available on Looker Studio’s free version.
That means you're basically back to square one despite your best efforts to resuscitate that broken report. More time spent fixing standard client reports means less time developing actionable insights.
If a widget breaks or you can't figure out how to navigate a platform update–you're pretty much on your own. We wanted to switch to a platform that would have support available to us should something go wrong, that would be easier to use and more aesthetically pleasing out-of-the-box, and that could be updated more or less with a single click.
–Molly Lopez, Founder & CEO, Sparo
And while customer support is available for Looker Studio Pro version, there are wait times of up to 8 hours (depending on the issue's severity). If you’re working on a time-sensitive report, that means added delays or missing your clients’ deadlines altogether.
Get customer support exactly when you need it. With response times under 3 minutes, access a 24/5 live support chat directly from your AgencyAnalytics dashboard–sign up for a free 14-day trial today.
3. To Get Real-time Data Access
Accurate analytics is one of the cornerstones of client reporting. As marketing campaigns progress, you need to know what’s happening at a moment’s notice. What will you do when a client calls and wants a real-time data update?
Different marketing platforms will have different data freshness (i.e., real-time data accuracy). And because Looker Studio uses cached data, you may open a dashboard and report inaccurate data to your client on the phone.
Not only could this skew your clients’ data-driven decisions, but it will also affect your agency’s credibility.
I was using manual export and import with Google Sheets and feeding it to Google Data Studio. The drawback was no real-time data.
–Matthew Regenie, CEO of Prospect Future
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The Pros and Cons of Looker Studio
As a quick snapshot of what we just discussed, here are the main pros and cons of Looker Studio.
Free version of the analytics tool is available
Lack of customer support for the free version and long response times for the paid version
Seamless integration to import data from other Google platforms
Limited number of free integrations, slow loading times and glitches when creating more complex reports
Pre-built templates to turn complex data into visually appealing reports and dashboards
Possible inaccuracies when monitoring real-time metrics because of caching and variable data freshness
Ideal for smaller agencies with fewer client reports
Not ideal for agencies with 10+ clients who need a scalable client reporting platform
Good visualization tool with lots of options to display data
A complex platform with a steep learning curve
The Top 6 Looker Studio Alternatives To Consider
If you’re ready to mash the gas on a Looker Studio alternative, here we go! To compile this list of some of the top business intelligence platforms, we considered the needs of growing agencies that need:
Access to highly visual reports and dashboards
Fast loading times to maximize efficiency
Pre-built reporting templates for easy replication
The ability to create interactive dashboards to provide on-demand business analytics
Automatic business data retrieval to quickly integrate data from multiple marketing apps
Advanced data capabilities (which enterprise-level agencies often seek)
Let’s explore below.
On the hunt for a robust client reporting tool? Look no further. Built specifically for marketing agencies, AgencyAnalytics is a powerful analytics tool that offers valuable features such as:
24/5 live chat customer support with a response time of under 3 minutes
(additional e-mail support available at email@example.com)
Integrate data from over 75 marketing platforms with just a few clicks–and at no additional cost
Real-time data population on dashboards
Easy replication of dashboards, reports, and account-level campaigns
Full white-labeling capabilities from dashboards to emails and custom URLs
Unlimited staff and client login profiles to control access and manage your entire agency
In-app chat features for streamlined client messaging
Annotations to supplement data visualizations and give added context
Pre-built, fully customizable dashboard templates, and reporting templates
Before using AgencyAnalytics, we simply provided reports with no comments and bombarded clients with stats. AgencyAnalytics allows us to break down these stats for clients on all levels. We can customize the reports for each client and tailor them to their individual needs. It has allowed us to communicate their entire digital progress in one comprehensive report that is automatically delivered to their inbox.
–Kim Meissenheimer, Ads Specialist at Expand Agency
If you’re ready to give your client reporting an extra edge, pricing starts from $12/month per client campaign and a free 14-day trial to get started–no Credit Card required.
2. Microsoft Power BI
This powerful business intelligence tool pulls information across multiple data sources to create highly visual reports and dashboards.
If your clients rely on manual Excel spreadsheets for any form of data collection, Microsoft Power BI has the benefit of seamless integration and advanced data analysis of a self-service BI tool.
Some notable features of Microsoft Power BI include:
Advanced Excel capabilities, such as consolidating multiple worksheets in a single report
Predictive modeling (predictive analytics is helpful for large-scale exercises like media mix modeling)
Creation of automated workflows, dashboards, and reports
There’s a free version of Microsoft's business intelligence software that includes report creation for personal use. The Power BI Pro package offers more features (like collaboration and report themes), starting from $13.70 per user per month.
Agency Tip: Want a complete 360-degree connection to Google Sheets? Easily export your clients’ marketing data into a spreadsheet using the AgencyAnalytics Google Sheets app (currently in beta), run any calculations your agency needs, and then import the resulting data into AgencyAnalytics via the Google Sheets Integration.
3. SAP Lumira
Similar to Microsoft BI, SAP Lumira is another business intelligence software that’s useful for analyzing your clients’ Excel databases. Their extensive range of data visualizations also helps data analysts uncover historical trends and other valuable insights to make data-driven decisions.
This enterprise-level business intelligence tool isn’t for all agencies but is a viable option for large-scale data analysis. Some key features include:
Real-time access to governed data (which is useful for historical predictive modeling)
Data storytelling through dashboards
Data filtering for increased insights and customization
If you’re interested in trying SAP Lumira, there’s a free 30-day trial and standard pricing starts from $185 per user.
Have clients that heavily rely on a Salesforce CRM? Their business intelligence tool Tableau provides data visualization for CRM analytics and customer data insights. Additionally, Tableau has the ability to pull data from other sources like Google Analytics and Microsoft Excel.
Tableau’s handy features include:
Embeddable analytics for data integration on other platforms
Streamlined workflows and data cleaning
Visual and mobile-friendly dashboards
Enhanced data modeling capabilities
This platform offers a free 14-day trial. There’s also the option to get a Tableau creator license starting from $70/month billed annually (which works out to $840/year).
5. IBM Cognos Analytics
An enterprise-level solution like IBM Cognos Analytics works well for big-picture business overviews and reporting. From analyzing website traffic to promotion performance, this platform consolidates marketing data into highly visual formats.
IBM Cognos Analytics’ standout features include:
Built-in AI for more insights and recommendations
Interactive dashboards and reports
Streamlined process and task management
If you prefer to test it out before committing, IBM Cognos Analytics offers a free 30-day trial. Their standard pricing starts from $10/user monthly.
This cloud-based business intelligence platform provides data visualization, predictive analysis, and unified goals across departments (e.g., sales, marketing, and finance).
Domo offers useful features such as:
Pre-built and fully customizable design themes
A range of marketing integrations including Google Analytics and Hubspot
Automated workflows for increased efficiency
A free trial is available (its length depends on how you’re planning to use the platform) and custom quotes are provided upon request.
7. Zoho Analytics
A powerful business intelligence software with user-friendly drag-and-drop functionality, Zoho Analytics allows marketers to weave compelling, data-driven narratives through visuals. As one of the top alternatives to Looker, It serves as an intuitive platform that brings data analytics to life, going beyond static numbers to tell stories that truly resonate.
Key Features of Zoho Analytics:
Easy data visualization using a drag-and-drop interface
Incorporate multimedia elements, including links, videos, and images
Easy-to-use data management interface to enable data-driven decisions
Zoho Analytics offers a flexible pricing model, catering to a range of budgets. Its basic package is available at $24 per month, while the highly sought-after premium version is priced at $115 per month.
Which is the Best Looker Alternative for Client Reporting?
We hope you’ve found this list useful! Wondering why AgencyAnalytics is listed as the top choice when it comes to alternatives to Looker?
The additional tools we’ve mentioned are excellent for in-depth analysis, managing big data, and data visualization. That being said, they may not always provide the exact features that agencies need to grow and thrive.
From platform-specific dashboards to pre-built marketing reports, AgencyAnalytics was created with you in mind. Plus, AgencyAnalytics offers drag-and-drop functionality to create customizable reports and dashboards that are perfect for non-technical users, such as your less tech-savvy clients.
Over 75 built-in platform integrations means not having to pull out your agency's credit card every time you need to add another data source to your business intelligence platform. Plus, AgencyAnalytics offers integrated add-ons for keyword rank tracking, site auditing, and backlink analytics.
Go Beyond Looker Studio Limits With AgencyAnalytics
There are more than a few reasons why over 6,500 agencies have jumped on the AgencyAnalytics train. After all, it’s built specifically for marketing agencies!
Growing agencies have growing demands. And with a million things on your plate, the last thing you need is a lag in client reporting or wasting billable hours.
AgencyAnalytics has helped us recoup the time previously spent doing our reporting. We are now able to update reports much more seamlessly. Plus, the team offers support via chat, email, and, if needed, phone–which many other platforms, including our previous platform, GDS, did not.
–Molly Lopez, Founder & CEO, Sparo
No more short-term fixes–invest in a sustainable reporting solution like AgencyAnalytics to complement your scaling goals. From automatic data retrieval to fully customizable dashboards, use AgencyAnalytics to streamline client reporting and focus on growing your business.
Add hours back to your agency’s days with robust automation features. Try AgencyAnalytics free for 14 days!