If you’ve got one eye on your competitors, you know that user-facing analytics is becoming more popular.
It’s a great opportunity to turn user data into actionable insights, showcasing the value of your product and supporting your customers to make informed decisions (check out our recent post in which we interviewed 3 experts on the approach their companies took to deliver engaging user-facing analytics experiences).
Depending on your customer, supporting their decision-making with flexible dashboards and interesting data visualizations could be a way to stay competitive. But by the time you’ve built this yourself, user-facing analytics might already be the status quo.
Embedded analytics platforms are a way to fast-track the process, with approaches like being able to add business intelligence (BI) dashboards into your app with minimal coding effort required. But are embedded tools everything they’re cracked up to be? In this article, we discuss popular embedded solutions and their pros and cons.
3 ways to add user-facing analytics to your app
A lot of SaaS tools get caught in the “buy or build” debate around customer-facing analytics: Do you buy an out-of-the-box solution or build it from scratch?
Until recently, those were your only options. But that’s about to change. Let’s take a look at all three ways to get analytics into your app:
- Build it yourself: Even with charting libraries on hand, building your own solution is very time-consuming. It takes a lot of work to create custom components that match your requirements, and that’s before you’ve considered factors like a secure database connection, sufficient caching layers, or row-level security.
- Out of the box: You can get embedded analytics by paying for an out-of-the-box solution, either with your existing BI tool or through a dedicated platform. It has a shorter time to market than building it from scratch, but the drawback is the lack of customization (and performance). You only get a stock set of charting components that look nothing like your app and no option to add your own custom CSS.
- Embeddable: This toolkit for building interactive analytics experiences takes a totally new approach. Instead of “buy or build” you get to embed totally custom components that look and feel like the rest of your app, but take a fraction of the time to create - and it works with charting libraries like D3, Highcharts etc. If that sounds too good to be true, check out how it works below.
Since building your own analytics solution is pretty complex (see link below), and this article is really focused on exploring the tooling options available, we won’t go into more detail here. Instead, you’ll get a breakdown of the top solutions on the market, including BI platforms with embeddable components and dedicated embeddable analytics platforms. But first, we’ll explain in a bit more detail how Embeddable works.
Still thinking of building it yourself? Find out how complex it is to build customer-facing analytics before you commit to doing it in-house.
7 Top Embedded Analytics Tools for Building User-Facing Dashboards
Embeddable is a software development kit (SDK) for building remarkable, highly custom user-facing analytics. It wraps data models and charting components, that your own engineers define or tweak in code, and makes them available via a no-code builder to allow your customer-facing teams to build engaging, interactive dashboards that fit perfectly with your existing user experience. With Embeddable, you’ll get a:
- Front-end toolkit, which dramatically reduces the time it takes to build charting components and modifiers, and can be used alongside open-source libraries like ChartJS, Highcharts, Google Charts, and Tremor.
- Backend engine to handle performance, security, caching, and infrastructure requirements, while delivering live data that loads instantly. It connects to all major databases via a secure read-only transaction, and allows you to customize the caching refresh rate to ensure performance for your customer, whilst keeping your database server costs low.
- No-code builder, which enables non-technical people on your design, product, or customer success teams to create and iterate upon your dashboards, using an intuitive point-and-click interface.
Embeddable exists because we know, through years of running the BI tool Trevor.io, how complex it is to build great analytics experiences from scratch—and we believe that teams shouldn’t have to choose between undertaking an expensive, time-consuming custom build, or sacrificing the flexibility and performance they want for their customers by using a third-party tool.
This isn’t just some SaaS tool you sign up for, either. When you get involved, you’ll get welcomed into a community of software engineers, designers, and leaders who are all supporting each other, innovating, and experimenting with crafting their own bespoke user experiences.
Curious to see the code? Request developer docs
Trevor is a business intelligence platform that gives non-technical team members the ability to do their own reporting, even if they don’t know SQL. It also has embedded analytics capabilities, powered by the same intuitive, no-code query builder.
Your team can embed Trevor dashboards either via a JS snippet, or via an iframe (both are the same price). Then, when a customer loads your data analysis page, you pass through an identifier to Trevor which enables it to render the data specifically for that user. You control who can access what, and which filtering options are available on the dashboards. You can read the developer docs here.
- Low-code setup, no-code iterations: Anyone on your team can build and iterate their own data visualizations using Trevor’s no-code query builder and drag-and-drop dashboard builder. Then, it’ll take an engineer less than an hour to embed the dashboard into your application.
- Secure access: Trevor connects to your database using a secure read-only transaction, without taking a copy of your data. Customers log in via your app, not Trevor, and can only see the data you give them permission to see.
- Responsive dashboards: Your dashboards update in real time, or whenever you configure it to, allowing users to confidently access fresh, accurate data insights.
Trevor is a great BI platform that has helped a lot of businesses take actionable insights from complex data. The dashboard embedding functionality is really easy to use and many customers say they love the aesthetics of the charts and dashboards (to which you can apply your brand’s color palette). But, because it provides you with a charting library and a degree of customization out of the box, it doesn’t allow you to bring the individual charts into your own code repo. So, it’ll never be quite as flexible as something you build yourself - which is why we built Embeddable.
If you’re looking to build an aesthetically pleasing dashboard super fast with an intuitive no-code builder and embed it into your app with a few lines of code, then Trevor might be the option for you.
What users say about Trevor
“I love that Trevor democratizes access to data for non-technical teams across our business. It was also quick to set up and didn't have a steep learning curve. As we've baked it into our processes, the Trevor team has been very keen to hear our feedback, e.g. changing the default background color of charts from gray to white.”—Kevin, Head of Product, reviewed Trevor on Capterra.
Supported databases: Postgres, MySQL, Snowflake, Redshift, BigQuery, SQL Server, MariaDB, and more
Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: Trevor allows you to embed your dashboard using an iframe or a simple JS snippet which enables you to embed it into any frontend application with minimal engineering effort.
Security considerations: Trevor is highly secure because it never copies your database and lets you:
- Activate SSO
- Turn on/off: downloads, live-streams, etc.
- View detailed audit logs of your teams’ activity
- Host it on-premise (self-hosted)
- Assign granular user permissions
Performance (loading speed): Fast-loading—Trevor calls your database directly, so it will be fast if your database is able to respond in good time, but may be slow if your server response takes some time.
Customization freedom: Limited. You can apply your brand’s color palette, but the charts themselves are not customisable in CSS.
Hosting options: Self-hosted and cloud-hosted options available. Works on-prem if you’re using AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure.
Sigma is an analytics platform for product builders that was designed to work in a cloud environment. You can also embed Sigma dashboards into your product using an iFrame or via a backend API.
According to Sigma, embedding your first dashboard only takes a few hours, allowing users to access the data very quickly. Sigma offers:
- Cloud-first for faster requests: Sigma says that, since you can run live queries against your cloud data warehouse, without the need for data transfers, you get pretty immediate results. However customers often report waiting long time periods for dashboards to load, and having a spinning Sigma loading wheel in their charts whilst they wait.
- Security features: Sigma works with both single- and multi-tenant setups. It also supports row-level security, so you can define your own authentication preferences without compromising your data.
- Simple components: Its Workbooks feature includes reusable data models, so you can embed analytics without needing to write SQL queries. If you’re using the API you can customise components.
Your team can embed a workbook, a single page (i.e. dashboard), or a single visualization (e.g. line graph), depending on your use case.
While you can change the colors and overall look of your dashboards, as with all embedded BI tools the options are still limited and users have noticed a lack of visualization types—making it difficult to achieve the desired experience for your end users. On the whole, users agree with Sigma and believe the first integration is pretty fast and simple. But after that, creating dashboards or making ad hoc changes to reports can be more fiddly.
What users say about Sigma
“Sigma has many features that allow users of all development levels to get the most out of our data. While it’s simple to use, it sometimes lacks robust visualization options and the ability to customize how certain aspects of the chart look and feel”—Paxon F, Senior Data Scientist, reviewed Sigma on G2.
- Supported databases. Snowflake, BigQuery, Redshift, Databricks, PostgreSQL, AlloyDB, and MySQL
- Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: Sigma require you to embed an iframe. This mean they you can drop it into any frontend application, but you would need to also develop a backend API in order to connect.
- Security considerations: Robust security as it supports single or multi-tenancy architectures. You can define row-level security in Sigma or within your data warehouse.
- Performance (loading speed): Sigma claim to provide fast loading speeds but users are divided in their experiences.
- Customization freedom: Limited. You can create ‘themes’ which allow you to edit colors, fonts, borders etc. across your analytics but you cannot modify the charts behaviors, add interactions or transitions because you cannot edit the code.
- Hosting options: Cloud-hosted, connects to AWS and Azure clouds
4. Power BI Embedded
Power BI’s embedded analytics tool comes with multiple features to present end users with data analytics without much hassle, including:
- White-labeling and out-of-the-box visuals: Use your Azure-hosted data to build visualizations using Power BI’s library of certified components. Add your brand colors and logo.
- Multi-device optimization: Let your users access their analytics from their smartphones or laptops without damaging the UX.
- Data security: Microsoft takes security very seriously and invests $1 billion a year on cybersecurity research and implementations alone, this makes user data protected from threats.
- Documentation: whilst there’s a vast documentation hub on the site, it can be confusing and overwhelming, with information needed for one task spread across multiple pages.
While you can create custom interactive dashboards and organize the data as you want, you’re limited to Power BI’s out-of-the-box designs and charts. Plus, users believe Power BI isn’t as intuitive as you'd think and it takes a lot of dedication to get dashboards up and running.
What users say about Power BI Embedded
“What gets me with Power BI Embedded? Its simplicity. I mean, a few lines of code and bam, I've embedded Power BI content. However, I would also want more flexibility for customizing dashboards and reports. It would be beneficial to have more options for making them appear the way I want” —Zahir V, Sr. IT Specialist, reviewed Power BI Embedded on G2.
- Supported databases: SQL databases, Oracle, IBM, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Sybase, Teradata, SAP, Amazon Redshift, Impala, Google BigQuery, Vertica, Snowflake, BI Connector, Data Virtuality LDW, Denodo, Dremio, Exasol, Indexima, MariaDB, MarkLogic, and more
- Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: Vue.js, Python, Matplotlib, NumPy, Pandas, Scikit-learn, Scipy, Seaborn, Statsmodels, XGBoost, M Language, and DAX
- Security considerations: Highly secure. Offers row-level security and all data is hosted on Microsoft’s secure cloud: Azure
- Performance (loading speed): Users flag this as one of Power BI’s issues as larger datasets or complex queries can take a long time to load
- Customization freedom: Very limited. You can only change colors, fonts, and add your logo. It’s likely to be immediately obvious to your end users that this is a Power BI embed if they have used it before.
- Hosting options: Available for self- or cloud-hosting. It connects to AWS, Azure, and Google clouds as well as regional and national clouds
- Pricing: pay by the hour, price scales with how many virtual cores and GB of RAM you need. Learn more about Power BI Embedded Pricing here.
5. Looker Embedded
Looker Embedded is an enterprise-grade BI platform that’s part of Google Cloud Core. It lets you come up with real-time loading user-facing analytics for your end users with high levels of security.
Looker Embedded is a very powerful BI tool for enterprises that comes with a tonne of features and allows you to create integrated workflows with other tools from your stack. It also comes with these features:
- Secure iframe settings. Enable your users to navigate your dashboards by embedding it into your app with an iframe. This way, users only access the requested data.
- Self-service analytics. The iframe also provides you with interactive dashboards so your users can navigate, filter, and download data from your reports ad hoc.
- Real-time loading dashboards. Make data available to end users live so they can see the metrics that matter the most to them.
Looker is one of the most powerful BI tools but it falls on the expensive end and, like other similar tools, it lacks customization options. On top of that, it’s mostly suited for enterprises but can feel slow to load when processing large volumes of data.
What users say about Looker
“Looker is a powerful tool for data visualization and business intelligence that offers great features. But sometimes, it becomes very prolonged to load dashboards and reports if the data is very large. Lookers should work towards improving their speed” —Akanksha S, Data Analyst (Quality Assurance), reviewed Looker on G2.
- Supported databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, Google Sheets, Google Analytics, SQL Server, BigQuery, MongoDB Atlas, and data from other online tools
- Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: Looker requires you to use LookML (which has had great reviews but requires a learning investment)
- Security considerations: Highly secure. Offers row-level security and all data is hosted on Microsoft’s secure cloud: Azure
- Performance (loading speed): Users flag this as one of Looker’s issues as large files or complex queries can take a long time to load
- Customization freedom: Limited. You can only modify styling - e.g. changing colors, fonts, and add your logo. You do not control the code, and therefore must select from their library of charts.
- Hosting options: Self-hosted and cloud-hosted available.
- Pricing: Learn more about Looker Embedded Pricing here.
Vizzly is a new-to-market low-code solution for building customer-facing analytics into your app. Compared to established BI tools like Tableau and Looker, it can be a cheaper option and therefore some users find it better suits their needs vs. embedding a traditional BI dashboard.
Vizzly makes a deliberate choice to avoid iFrame, which has limited extensibility and means dashboards won’t interact with the rest of your app’s logic. Instead, Vizzly offers both cloud- and self-hosted options that can be embedded via React or using an HTML component:
- Vizzly Lite: It allows users to upload data using a CSV rather than connecting to a database or API. They can then share, or embed visualizations via URL.
- Self-hosted: Lets users deploy Vizzly on their own infrastructure using a command-line interface (CLI). This option works with most data sources including databases, GraphQL, or REST APIs.
Vizzly offers a self-hosted option or a ‘Lite’ cloud version that only works with csv, which could be a drawback. Customers also note that it takes more dev input to get Vizzly up and running. Even still, the level of customization is similar to embedding analytics from a BI tool.
With Vizzly, you can only choose visualizations from their library and apply a color, font or theme. So, if you want to add a label to the most recent data point on your line graph, insert a pop-up when someone hovers over it, or add any unique design ideas, you won’t be able to do it. Vizzly does now support embedding via Angular, Vue, and Svelte, but these are still very new additions.
What users say about Vizzly
“Super simple to set up, considering the query engine is self-hosted. We connected to our DB and set up a live dashboard a few hours after signing up. [But] the initial setup required a bit of developer effort before we could go live.”—Sryansh S, reviewed Vizzly on G2.
- Supported databases: Rest API, BigQuery, GraphQL, MariaDB, Snowflake, PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB, Firebolt, and RedShift
- Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: React Native or HTML
- Security considerations: Secure, supports row-level permissions and multi-tenancy
- Performance (loading speed): Fast-loading with smart implementation - because you can choose which fields to group and the docker image doesn’t run the queries itself, it’s on you to ensure performance
- Customization freedom: Several customization options through a no-code builder - no control over the code.
- Hosting options: Available for self-hosted only, or cloud-hosted if you just need to display data from an uploaded csv. It connects to Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure.
Luzmo, formerly known as Cumul.io, is another out-of-the-box embedded analytics platform aimed at SaaS products.
Thanks to its API-first approach, Luzmo is a good contender if you need a solution that supports multi-tenancy. It has three API offerings:
- Core API: Use it to build datasets and dashboards as well as manage users
- Embedding: Access libraries, exposed methods, and events to use within your app
- Plugin API: Connect your own data stores or APIs
While Luzmo’s pride and joy is its self-service BI interface, users still find that dashboards aren’t very customizable. Some have also found the documentation dense and difficult to use.
Its drag-and-drop interface is more simple and intuitive than many more-established BI platforms, but this comes as a result of a reduced feature-set and it’s not as strong as other no-code options when it comes to empowering non-technical users to get the most out of their data.
What users say about Luzmo
“I struggled to find another provider that offered the same capabilities [as Luzmo]. The ones I did find were much more complicated to implement and weren’t cloud-based. There are still some chart options that [Luzmo] lacks. For a long time, the Evolution function was essentially useless since it wasn’t responsive to date pickers. They have recently updated this.”—Julian, Analytics Engineer, reviewed on Capterra.
- Supported databases: Google Analytics, MongoDB, MySQL, Snowflake, Amazon Athena, Elasticsearch, Panoply, BugQuery, PipelineDB, MariaDB, and more
- Front-end languages and libraries compatibility: Embed with React, React Native, Angular or Vue
- Security considerations: Secure, multi-tenant by default which supports row-level security
- Performance (loading speed): It’s relatively fast to load and is working on launching its “Acceleration layer” to improve loading times
- Customization freedom: Limited out-of-the-box customizations. You have to pay a higher price to take Luzmo’s branding out of your dashboard.
- Hosting options: (not disclosed on its website)
- Pricing: Learn more about Luzmo's pricing here.
How to choose the best embedded analytics solution
Many companies use a BI platform like Trevor or Sigma to enable their internal team to find useful insights about user activity. Sometimes, you get a BI tool and an embedding tool bundled into one for the same price, but typically you need to pay an additional fee. You only need dev support to connect the database and drop the dashboard into your app, leaving most of the curation to your non-technical team.
BI tools are great for helping you drive data-based decision making within the team, and were built from the ground up to serve that purpose.
What they weren’t built to do is to be the perfect tool for embedding beautiful, bespoke analytics into your platform. Which is why you and your customers need a solution that genuinely fits your needs. Here are a few drawbacks of typical BI tools:
- Customization is limited: The charting components are ‘out of the box’ and you can’t change the code, which means you can’t modify them to really suit your customers’ needs. Want to add a data label on the last datapoint of the line graph? A tooltip when you hover over it? Edit the line thickness, or the transitions?... Well, you just can’t do it.
- Slow loading and performance: You’ll often find your end user is staring at a loading wheel for much longer than you’d like them to. Why? These tools are built to run queries for internal teams who are happy to grab a coffee whilst a query runs in the background. They often don’t present data immediately for the end user (especially if you have a lot of data to analyze, or a complex query).
- Pricing: The big BI tools are owned by the likes of Google, Microsoft and Salesforce. The brand reputation might be comforting, but it also comes with a sizable price tag. Depending on the pricing model, you might pay a huge annual fee, or you might find the pricing model scales very quickly with the number of customers you provide analytics to.
If you don’t mind choosing from a limited set of analytics components and only really being able to change the fonts and colors, but you want it built fast, then embedding a BI tool might be the option for you.
If you’re thinking of going down the embedded BI tool route or using any embedded analytics tool, we recommend you ask a few things first.
What to ask about embedded analytics tools before you buy
- Performance: Will my charts and data load instantly for my end customer?
- Customization: What can I customize about the charts, above and beyond fonts and colors?
- Pricing: Will I pay a fixed fee, or will my costs scale with my usage? If the latter, can I see a model to help predict usage?
- What are the longtail features they support? We've created a list of common embedded analytics longtail features here.
If you need a higher degree of customization than embed tools allow, but you don’t want to make a huge investment of development hours into doing a custom build from scratch—there’s now another option.
With Embeddable, you’re able to create a completely custom user experience, while we handle the complexities of performance, authentication, and simplify maintenance to dramatically reduce the investment of developer hours - giving you speed to delivery and full flexibility. It’s your toolkit for embedding fast, interactive, analytics experiences into your app, without the hassle of building everything yourself.
Frequently asked questions about embedded analytics platforms
What is an embedded analytics platform?
An embedded analytics platform is dedicated software that can integrate data analytics or dashboards into an app for end users. That means users can find data insights right within the app they already use, rather than switching to another platform. Examples of embedded analytics platforms include Embeddable, Looker, and Luzmo.
Why use embedded analytics?
Use embedded analytics to raise the perceived value of your product and increase customer engagement. You can also use it to monetize data since a lot of customers are happy to pay to access data that helps them make informed decisions about their business, operations, and activities. Typically, you’d choose an embedded analytics solution if you wanted to deploy analytics more cheaply and quickly than building them from scratch.
What’s an example of embedded analytics?
Here’s an example of embedded analytics: Imagine your product is a no-code website builder. You might embed analytics into your platform so that users can see how their site is performing and make data-driven decisions about their business. This would keep them engaged with your app, rather than having them go to Google Analytics to see metrics like site visitors, bounce rate, and goal completions.