DataStudio vs Looker, is it Time for an Upgrade?


If you are familiar with DataStudio, and in general with data visualization tools, you understand the importance and value BI platforms bring to easily access and analyze your data. However, like most free platforms, there are often alternative and superior solutions. When it comes to Google products, Looker is that enterprise BI solution built for next gen analytics. 

What is DataStudio, and what are the primary cases of use?

DatSstudio is Google’s free data visualization platform. It has become an essential tool for small businesses and organizations that want to easily visualize their data and create one-time ad hoc reports. It’s definitely friendly, providing some direct connections to some of Google’s main marketing solutions (Analytics, Google Ads, DV360, etc.). And for those who need to connect additional sources, there are 3rd party vendors who can enable the aggregation of additional data sources via google sheets and other simplified mechanisms.   

What is Looker, and what are the primary cases of use?

Looker is Google’s enterprise business intelligence platform made for next gen analytics. Organizations that own their data often have it on-premises databases or in multi-cloud environments. Looker was built with this purpose in mind, being able to tap into the various databases across an organization and aggregating data in a common language (LookML). Moreover, Looker enables users to go beyond charts and dashboards, being able to explore data on their own, enabling them to set up alerts, and take actions within Looker. As a result, data is democratized throughout the organization, and end users are empowered to make real time data driven business decisions. 

When to use DataStudio?

  • Your data still lives in 3rd party platforms (Google Ads, DV360, Analytics, etc.)
  • You do not require sophisticated combinations and joins
  • You do not work with significantly large amounts of data
  • Result latency is not an issue
  • Retaining historical data is not a requirement or priority
  • You would like to control and limit exactly what end users see  

When to use Looker?

  • You own your data and it’s stored in either on-premises databases and/or throughout various cloud solutions (AWS, GCP, Azure, etc.)
  • You work with big-data
  • Your organization doesn’t want any latency issues
  • You would like to incorporate data governance, and at the same time enable business users the ability to go beyond charts and explore data on their own
  • You need real time alerts on key metrics to be delivered via email or though your company chat platform
  • You would like to take actions from your dashboards to make changes in other platforms (Google Ads, Marketo, Salesforce, DV360, etc.)
  • You are working with machine learning and want to display predictive components like revenue forecast, customer segmentation, and others.

DataStudio vs Looker, is it time for an upgrade? – Final Words

Tools are truly a means to an end. Having the most sophisticated platform, knowing advanced SQL, or creating predictive models will only get you as far as the people using these tools to understand the priorities and main KPIs of the organization. If you are looking to generate one-time simple reports, then DataStudio will be your platform of choice, and may I say it will do a fantastic job at meeting your expectations. On the other hand, if data plays a bigger role across your organization, then Looker would be your ideal platform of choice.