Looker vs. Tableau: Compare Core BI Capabilities and More

Looker and Tableau are two of the more popular self-service business intelligence (BI) products on the market that help companies better visualize and understand their data. In this post, we’ll compare the two solutions on various factors.

What is the Difference Between Looker and Tableau?

  • While both software solutions have robust BI capabilities, they each have unique features. Looker’s Action feature lets users perform a task, such as sending a Slack chat, in their data, and its Keboola Natural Language Query integration provides AI features to marketing and customer service teams. Tableau users can optimize dashboards for mobile devices with Device Designer, as well as create dashboards with data from specific software with Dashboards Starter.
  • Looker is deployed in the cloud, whereas Tableau supports both on-premise and cloud hosting.
  • Looker has recently provided some pricing info, but still prefers to give prospects a custom quote. Tableau displays pricing information on its site.

Product Overviews

To summarize each product, here’s some information from our reviews of Looker and Tableau:


Google Cloud’s Looker Data Platform is a cloud-based data-discovery platform that helps companies make better business decisions through real-time access to data. Data, no matter the size, can be analyzed within Looker’s 100% in-database and 100% browser-based platform. Looker analytics integrate with any SQL database or data warehouse, such as Amazon Athena, Greenplum and Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

The platform is accessible on any browser as well as on mobile (its app is available on both iOS and Android devices)  – reports and data can be shared via email or URLs. Data can be integrated into different applications such as Google Docs, Excel, and even customer and third-party applications. It can also be manually exported in .csv or text files.

Looker has a unique feature called Looker Blocks, which are prebuilt pieces of codes that allow developers to build out their own SQL patterns, data models or visualizations. Looker Blocks are available via the Looker marketplace, and there are specific blocks targeted to a use case (e.g., Marketing, Finance) or industry (e.g., Healthcare, Retail).


Tableau provides all types of users with intuitive business intelligence (BI) tools to enhance data discovery and understanding. With simple drag-and-drop features, a user is able to easily access and analyze key data, create innovative reports and visualizations, and share critical insights across the company.

Tableau has three main products for robust data discovery:

  1. Tableau DesktopTableau Desktop is used to connect and analyze disparate data, and create highly innovative reports in just a few clicks.
  2. Tableau ServerTableau Server allows users to securely collaborate and share critical insights and information through comprehensive dashboards created in Tableau Desktop or directly in Tableau Server.
  3. Tableau Cloud – Tableau Cloud (formerly Tableau Online) is a cloud-based version of Tableau Server. It not only saves time and money by skipping hardware setup, Tableau Cloud also supports mobile access.

Tableau serves a variety of industries, including major corporations and banks, educational institutions and healthcare providers.

Features Comparisons

Dashboards and Visualizations


Looker has interactive data visualization tools and dashboards that let users drill down into the data at row-level detail. It includes a library of visualization templates in different formats (e.g., timelines, funnel, combined charts, treemaps), but Looker users can build their own visualizations, too. It also includes a drag-and-drop functionality for users to explore and ask questions in their data. Users can also take action or complete a task directly into their data, such as sending an email or a Slack chat, with the Actions feature that has prebuilt integrations to third-party software systems.


Users can create a dashboard in a few clicks, including combining data sources and adding filters, and they can also share their dashboard with their colleagues.

Tableau has advanced dashboarding features, such as the Story Points (users arrange their data in a narrative style) and the Device Designer (dashboards are optimized for phones or tablets). In addition, Tableau Cloud’s Dashboard Starters feature allows users to develop dashboards by pulling in data from specific software (e.g., Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Oracle Eloqua, Marketo and ServiceNow) directly within Tableau. After a dashboard is created, users can set up thresholds in the data that trigger alerts, and they can specify who the alerts are sent to, as well as the type of notification (e.g., email notification).

Bottom Line

While both vendors have robust data visualization features, they each bring unique features to the table: Looker’s Action feature and Tableau’s Story Points, Device Designer and Dashboard Starters.

Natural Language Query (NLQ)


Looker integrates with Keboola, a data operations solution, to provide NLQ features to users via the Voice of the Customer with its natural language processing (NLP) block. The block, which users can install via the Looker Marketplace, provides companies with detailed customer reviews on its products, as well as any issues or opportunities. The NLP engine uses machine learning to analyzes customer reviews and then provides positive and negative sentient data using keywords (e.g., price, service). Users can measure their team’s responsiveness to customer issues, compare review feedback among its multiple locations or compare its performance to their competitors’.


Tableau’s Ask Data feature lets business users type in a question and get an answer in the form of a visualization. As users are typing in a question, Ask Data provides guided search suggestions. This feature is also available in Salesforce as it give those users answers based on their CRM data. Tableau has another feature called Explain Data that deploys machine learning to provide users a detailed explanation of a data point.

Bottom Line

Looker’s NLQ integration with Keboola is mainly intended for marketing and customer service use cases, but Tableau’s Ask Data targets all users.

Mobile Functionality


The Looker mobile app allows users to browse their dashboards and collaborate with others. The app stores the user’s content in four categories: Favorites (saved dashboards), Recently-viewed content, Boards (keeps a user’s personal content in one place) and More (accessible content in other users’ folders). Users can share dashboards and other content via email, Slack or chat, and they can easily access their scheduled reports in an email, too. Additional features include biometric authentication and the ability to use the app in 22 languages.


The Tableau Mobile app lets users access any dashboards or reports that are published on Tableau Server or in Tableau Cloud. Each dashboard is mobile optimized, so users can search, filter or drill down into their data. They can also track their personalized key performance indicators (KPIs) with the Metrics feature. Tableau Mobile supports offline functionality, as well as a variety of authentication methods (e.g., SAML, OpenID Connect).

Bottom Line

Looker currently doesn’t offer drill down functionality (although it’s on their product roadmap), while Tableau does.



Google Cloud offers pay-as-you-go pricing for the Standard edition of Looker (Google Cloud core), which costs $5,000 per month. Pricing for the Enterprise and Embed editions are available by quote.

Google Cloud also provides user licenses. A Developer user license costs $125 per user, per month, a Standard user license costs $60 per user, per month and a Viewer user license costs ($30 per user, per month).


Instead of basing the prices on its products, Tableau’s subscription strategy focuses on individual users and their data needs. Each subscription includes maintenance, product upgrades and support at one cost, so there are no surprise fees. Note that the pricing is based on annual billing.

  • Tableau Creator – Tableau Creator is designed for individual analysts and power users, and costs $70 per user, per month. It includes access to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, and companies can purchase a single Creator license for either Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau offers the same price for Tableau Creator whether the software is deployed in the cloud or on premise.
  • Tableau ExplorerTableau Explorer is designed for users that prefer governed self-service analytics instead of relying on data from others. It costs $42 per user, per month, whether it’s deployed on-premise or in the cloud. The price includes one license to Tableau Server (on-premise) and one license to Tableau Cloud (cloud).
  • Tableau ViewerTableau Viewer is designed for users that just want to access dashboards and visualizations. It costs $15 per user, per month for both on-premise and cloud deployments. The price includes one Viewer license of Tableau Server (on-premise) and one Viewer license of Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau requires a minimum of 100 Viewers for this plan.

Companies can also purchase add-on features, such as Tableau Data Management and Einstein Discovery. Tableau has a 14-day free trial.

Bottom Line

We’d like to note that in the past, Looker’s pricing has been only available by quote. That has recently changed as Google Cloud now displays pricing info for the Looker Standard edition and its user licenses. Prospects interested in the Enterprise and Embed editions will need a tailored quote.

Customer Support


Google Cloud provides basic support that’s included in the subscription price, such as documentation, a community forum, Active Assist Recommendations (tools that generate insights and recommendations to help optimize customer’s usage of Google Cloud products) and access to billing specialist for payment/billing questions. Then, Google Cloud Customer Care offers a range of support services for additional fees. Those services are:

Standard – The Standard support costs $29 per month plus 3% of monthly charges. It includes:

  • Initial response times: Priority 2 cases within four hours; Priority 3 cases within eight hours; Priority 4 cases within eight hours
  • 8/5 service for high-impact issues
  • Unlimited individual access to support
  • Multi-channel billing and tech support
  • Active Assist Recommendations API

Enhanced – The Enhanced support costs $500 per month plus 3% of monthly charges. It adds on:

  • Initial response times: Priority 1 cases within one hour; Priority 2 cases within four hours; Priority 3 cases within eight hours; Priority 4 cases within eight hours
  • 24/7 response for critical-impact and high-impact issues
  • Availability in English, Japanese, Mandarin, Chinese and Korean (Standard support is only available in English)
  • Technical support escalations
  • Cloud support API
  • Third-party technology support

Premium – The Enhanced support costs $12,500 per month plus 4% of monthly charges. It adds on:

  • Initial response times: Priority 1 cases within 15 minutes; Priority 2 cases within two hours; Priority 3 cases within four hours; Priority 4 cases within eight hours
  • Google Cloud Skills Boost
  • Event management service
  • Operational  health reviews
  • Customer aware support (learning about and maintaining information about customer’s architecture, partners, and Google Cloud projects in order to provide efficient support)
  • Technical account management


Tableau offers complimentary online access to all users that includes:

  • A knowledge base
  • On-demand training videos/tutorials
  • Live online training
  • Product documentation
  • Tableau Community forums

In addition, it has a Technical Support Program with three tiers:

Standard – Standard support is included in the subscription purchase. Coverage is during Tableau’s regular business hours (6 a.m.to 6 p.m. PST Mondays to Fridays). In addition to the online access, the Standard tier has:

  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within eight hours
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within 24 hours
  • Three named contacts

Extended – The Extended Support tier includes all of the features of the Standard tier, plus:

  • Phone support
  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within one hour
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within two hours
  • Five named contacts

Premium – The Premium Support tier includes all of the features of the Extended tier, plus:

  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 and Priority 2 issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within 30 minutes
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within two hours
  • A technical account manager
  • Key event management
  • Service level agreement for Tableau Cloud users only
  • Deployment reviews for Tableau Server users only
  • Recurring status calls and service reports
  • Online update guidance
  • Upgrade assistance for Tableau Server users only
  • Strategic planning
  • Exclusive events
  • Access to the Senior Support team
  • Case escalation and oversight
  • Onsite escalation management for Tableau Server users
  • Product roadmap participation
  • Prioritized feature request reviews
  • Root cause analysis
  • Sandbox site for Tableau Cloud users only

Bottom Line

Although both vendors provide similar support, Looker’s Standard plan is an additional cost (its basic support is free), while Tableau’s Standard plan is included in the subscription price.

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