What’s the state of reporting & dashboards in marketing automation tools?

Reporting on marketing activities & ROI is a crucial but difficult responsibility of CMOs and marketing teams. 33% of marketers say that having the right technologies for data collection & analysis is the most useful asset to understand their customers.

As a result, existing marketing technologies – such as marketing automation tools, email marketing tools, advertising platforms, etcetera – are adding dashboards and analytics to their marketing automation software at scale. In that way, they can respond to the large demand for insights of marketers that make use of their platform.

Now, what’s the current state? How are MarTech platforms currently offering reporting to their customers and what can still be improved? To get a better view on this, we analyzed the 20 top-rated marketing automation tools on Capterra, looking for trends in their use of dashboards. Here’s what we found!

5 criteria to evaluate the state of dashboards in marketing automation tools

To carry out our analysis, we assessed each tool’s reporting capabilities based on 5 qualitative criteria:

  1. Reviews: how are reporting features reviewed by users on Capterra?
  2. Visualization: how much variety is there in types of charts used?
  3. Interactivity: can you easily filter & drill down in the reports?
  4. Level of advancement: how advanced are the reporting features?
  5. UI: is the interface of the reports easy to use?

We’ve assembled all the results in a dashboard, which you can find below. Now, let’s see what we’ve learned from our study in each of those categories.

1. What are users saying about the dashboards in marketing automation software?

To start with, we analyzed the reviews about reporting & dashboards in these marketing automation tools. That led to some first interesting findings.

Out of 20 tools, 16 got reviewed specifically on their reports. Of those, a crushing 88% received at least 1 negative review about their reporting capabilities. We came across a review that might just sum up the situation quite accurately:

“Their out-of-the-box reports aren’t great, but I haven’t run across a marketing automation platform who has great reporting”

What’s even more striking, 69% received more negative than positive reviews regarding their reports. This is a clear signal that there is room for innovation to have better dashboards in marketing automation tools.

Then, which are these main areas of improvement? Before we look into detail into the 4 other criteria, let’s look at the most ‘popular opinions’ found among negative reviews:

  • Reports are too difficult, complex or not user-friendly
  • Reporting features & customization are not robust enough
  • Reports are too basic; there’s more potential with the data

2. How visual are the dashboards in marketing automation platforms?

A first indicator of a good marketing dashboards is the variation in charts. Are the reports numbers-heavy, or do they include charts that visually explain your marketing performance?

Out of all the marketing automation tools studied, a striking 35% offers number-heavy reports, with many data tables rather than visual elements. 

When it comes to chart variation, almost half of the top 20 marketing automation tools only use ‘the basics’ as we call them: bar charts, line charts and pie charts. More advanced chart types like heatmaps, treemaps or funnels are more scarce to come across.

3. How interactive are dashboards in marketing automation tools?

A second indicator we looked at is interactivity. Why? Because it allows users to fully explore their data and drill down where needed. It makes it easier to identify trends & relationships at a glance, instead of having to analyze this manually.

Overall, all the marketing platforms researched contained some form of interactivity. Basic filtering capabilities such as filtering by date or drill-down on a specific automation campaign are usually possible.

However, there are big differences in how advanced these filtering capabilities are. 14 out of 20 tools have extra functionalities like a comparison tool, or the ability to click on links that point to more detailed info like customer data or drill-down reports. That still means that 30% only has basic filter options like campaign or date filters.

When it comes to interactivity between the individual charts, 80% lacks this advanced interactivity, as shown below in the illustration.

4. How advanced are the reporting components in marketing automation platforms?

The next item to look at is how powerful the reporting components are. Do they offer basic reports to view, with your standard KPIs? Or do some of them offer more robust capabilities like building your own dashboards or pulling in data from other sources?

Though almost all of the platforms offer a possibility to export data, only 20% has a dashboard editor that lets you create visualizations or dashboards in the marketing automation tool itself. The other 80% offers so-called ‘view-only’ dashboards.

A positive sign, however, is that 50% has functions that extend further than simple reports. In most cases, these tools have integrations with other SaaS platforms, which allows them to enrich the reports with data from multiple sources. 

5. How easy-to-use are the embedded marketing reports?

Marketing managers want to spend their time on what matters most to them: creating a killer brand & set up great campaigns. So to make sure they don’t have to waste time on complex reporting interfaces, the dashboards in their marketing automation tools should be easy to use.

Still, more than half of the dashboards in marketing automation tools are evaluated as “difficult to use”. In negative reviews, users are often referring to “complicated interfaces” or “clunky to build customizable reports”. Intuitive use is something that can definitely improve.

At the same time, 65% has too little customization options. This means dashboards in these marketing automation tools are either too static, or should have more features to adapt the dashboards to your liking.

The state of dashboards in marketing automation tools

To wrap up, if you’d like to see an overview of the full study, you can find the results per criterion in the dashboard below.

How do you approach user-facing reporting inside your marketing platform? Did you develop a reporting module yourself, or are you looking to integrate an existing analytics software👨‍💻

We’re happy to show you the possibilities of adding Cumul.io dashboards in your marketing automation tool or platform.

Share your thoughts in the comments, or let us know if you have any questions!

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