Things change very quickly in SaaS businesses. Users constantly sign up, make purchases, and churn. Revenues follow suit, rising and falling on a daily basis, often for reasons unclear at first glance. In such ever-changing environments, SaaS managers must find a way to monitor their business on a frequent basis, as often as daily, and act on that knowledge.
There are many different ways to approach SaaS reporting. You certainly need to make a plan on what you want to track and set up to always have that essential data within reach. In this practical guide, we cover the process from A to Z.
The importance of reporting in SaaS companies
To understand why it’s so crucial to track the key SaaS metrics, let’s look at an example.
Preparing a monthly report for stakeholders, you realize that your MRR is declining for the third month in a row and you’re struggling to explain the trend. Looking at the pace of new sign-ups, you see that things are rather stable there. And since these are virtually all metrics at your disposal, you end up hypothesizing at the meeting about possible causes for a decline, without actually having any clue as to what happened and how to reverse the trend.
And what could have actually happened? Perhaps a change in an interface made it harder for new users to find the feature they signed up for. As a result, many could have abandoned their accounts and opted out of purchasing a subscription. Or perhaps users brought by Facebook Ads are still coming in high volume but their quality is much worse due to the changes to Facebook’s algorithm. You won’t find these and many other issues without the right metrics in front of you.
Proper SaaS reporting allows you to:
- Oversee what happens in every area of a business
- Pin down where the problems are when metrics begin to plummet
- Start implementing countermeasures the moment you spot an issue, not weeks or months later
- Predict seasonal trends and prepare for them
- Experiment with different features and approaches in a data-driven way
MRR alone isn’t a good indicator of the health of a company. The problem with it is that it typically tells you about the problems in the business weeks, perhaps even months after they started impacting the company.
For example, if you charge an annual subscription for your product but don’t monitor what users do throughout that year, you’re guaranteed to lose some of the customers you may have retained with better SaaS reporting. A user may, after all, stop using a product two months into their subscription. By the time you realize it 10 months later, it’s almost certainly too late to bring them back. Read more about a similar case and how we tackled it in one of our case studies.
How to do SaaS reporting?
There’s more than one way to go about reporting in SaaS businesses. Here’s a checklist you may want to follow to get things started:
- Decide on the scope of your reporting. Do you want to track the metrics for an entire business or only for a particular department or team? Are you interested in subscription-related metrics, app usage stats, marketing metrics, or all of them combined? Do you want to monitor just the recent data or do you want to also look way into the past? Perhaps you even want to use data to predict what the future holds?
- Choose what kinds of metrics you want to track. Where do you want to start and what do you want to track in the long run? We’ll talk more about it in the SaaS reporting metrics to track chapter.
- Figure out where the data is. Analyze which apps or datasets have the data you’ll need for reporting. Are you monitoring all the data points you’ll need? Where is the historical data stored?
- Choose the method for aggregating and analyzing the analytics. Lots of tools can help you collect the data and turn it into meaningful insights. We’ll talk more about them in the Top tools for SaaS reporting chapter.
- Find the solution you need and deploy it in the format convenient for you. Interactive dashboards are increasingly popular for SaaS reporting and we’ll discuss them in the Examples of SaaS reports chapter. Some choose to push the metrics to Slack or monitor them directly in the tools suitable for SaaS analytics.
Top tools for SaaS reporting
To run proper SaaS reporting, you’ll need the appropriate toolset. It can be as simple as an Excel file aggregating your data or you can opt for more advanced business intelligence tools that help you find the right insights, calculate the metrics, run forecasts, and use the data to your advantage in a multitude of other forms.
The proper reporting should be automated, accessible, and require zero effort on your side apart from the initial setup. You may find yourself in a meeting or perhaps running to one, urgently needing to look up a relevant metric so you can plan on improving it right away. If you don’t have that data in front of you or it’s inconsistent, you’re missing out on an important context.
Now, let’s look at some of the top tools commonly used for reporting in SaaS.
Coupler.io is a data analytics and automation platform used by thousands of SaaS businesses. The platform lets you import data automatically from 60+ applications, including HubSpot, Airtable, Salesforce, GA4, and many others. That data can be fetched into spreadsheets, data warehouses, or DataViz tools on a schedule you choose. This opens up the doors to automated report scheduling, close to real-time dashboards and automations that can greatly benefit any business.
And if you lack the expertise or need a custom data solution, the professional data analytics services offered by Coupler.io would be a great option. You can hire experienced data experts to build a custom data project for your business needs. There’s a wide range of services available, which include:
- Visualizing your SaaS metrics on dashboards and reports
- Setting up a suitable data infrastructure
- Building flows to automatically gather data coming from the apps you use and deliver it to chosen destinations (databases, BI tools, spreadsheets, and others)
- Setting up data monitoring and alerts – pushing analytical reports to Slack, sending emails when particular events occur, etc.
Looker Studio, known previously as Google Data Studio, is a data visualization platform with an easy-to-use interface and a set of tools perfectly sufficient for SaaS reporting.
It offers native integrations with a number of Google’s products, such as Sheets, BigQuery, or Google Analytics, as well as with databases (Redshift, PostgreSQL, MySQL). Third-party connectors amount to nearly 700 and virtually any data can be connected and visualized in Looker Studio. Coupler.io mentioned earlier can also load any data into Looker Studio automatically.
The tool allows you to build interactive dashboards and share them with teammates or stakeholders. You can calculate any metrics for your data and have them refresh with the chosen frequency. You may find yourself building a simple dashboard demonstrating just the key metrics or opting for a robust SaaS dashboard encompassing entire product funnels, different marketing channels, detailed website analytics, and more.
In the later chapter, you’ll find examples of some beautiful Looker Studio dashboards.
ProfitWell is a popular tool focused on tracking SaaS revenues. The platform connects to your payment processors and turns transactions into charts and metrics. You can use it to track MRR and ARR, monitor churn, upgrades, reactivations, and growth, and compare each to the historical data.
The tool can also serve as a monitor for both incoming and failed payments. It integrates with all major payment providers, including Braintree, Stripe, Recharge, and others. Handy integrations with Slack or Zapier make it easy to connect to the other apps you use, and for example, push a daily payments summary to your channels.
HubSpot Marketing Analytics
If you use HubSpot or you’re thinking about it, you will likely have a great experience working with their marketing analytics. The available features let you monitor the performance of all marketing efforts as well as of each department separately. HubSpot also provides features for website tracking, making it easy to follow users as they find your pages, wander around, and convert (or not).
Using HubSpot Marketing Analytics you can take advantage of dashboards, reports, and advanced analytics adjusting in real-time as the data on the platform changes. If it’s not enough, you can build custom dashboards with the available templates or from scratch if you’d like.
Zoho Analytics is a tool within a Zoho ecosystem that can connect to your data and turn it into valuable insights. The app supports over 250 data sources, including business apps, databases, files stored on drives, web URLs, and more. You can even connect the files stored locally to merge that data with what’s available on the web.
Zoho Analytics automatically fetches the data, transforms it into a meaningful shape, and showcases it on interactive dashboards. The dashboards themselves are very customizable thanks to a drag-and-drop interface and a multitude of visualization options. And if you can’t get what you want, you can always ask Zoho’s AI-powered assistant, Zia. Within seconds you’ll have the data you need in front of your eyes.
SaaS reporting metrics to track
Once you’ve picked the tool for reporting in SaaS, it’s important to consider which metrics make sense to be tracked. In this case, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Building your first dashboard or report, you’re much better off picking just a few metrics that will give the clearest, most meaningful insights about the state of a business. Then, you can gradually expand it with additional metrics that you see fit.
While there’s no fixed set of metrics that will make sense for every SaaS business, there are several that make sense to start with. Below we’ve provided a brief summary of each but if you’re eager to learn more, grab a copy of our extensive ebook that talks about a product funnel and 8 SaaS metrics every business should monitor. On top of metrics definitions and hints on properly calculating each, we also share our own knowledge and experience on how to improve each of the metrics. Check it out!
Arguably, the most important metric for SaaS businesses is MRR – monthly recurring revenue as well as its annual equivalent – ARR. Both tell you how much recurring revenue a business generates in a given period of time. If MRR is growing over time, it means the business is growing and this is always good news. Stagnating or, worse, shrinking MRR can be a sign of trouble.
MRR = the sum of recurring revenue accumulated in a given month.
ARR = MRR * 12
For example, if your business earns $50lk between July 1st and 31st, $50k is your July’s MRR. That’s the ARR of $600k.
There are a few other metrics that break down MRR into more specific categories:
- New MRR refers only to the recurring revenue generated by new users
- Churn MRR is the revenue you lose because of the users that churned (canceled or downgraded their subscriptions)
- Expansion MRR which only counts the additional purchases by existing customers – add-ons, upgraded to their plans, etc.
LTV (Lifetime Value) is a popular metric that predicts how much a customer will spend on a product from the moment they sign up until one day (perhaps never) eventually resign. Knowing what a new customer may bring in the long run can predict future revenues and help justify spending financial and human resources on acquiring new clients.
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) = Predicted total amount a customer will spend throughout their tenure with a product.
For example, if an average customer stays with a business for three years, paying $1,000 of an annual subscription and not purchasing anything else, the Customer LTV is $3,000.
LTV works well with another metric worth monitoring – Customer Acquisition Cost. We’ll discuss it next.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) gives you an average cost of acquiring a new customer, including all the sales and marketing efforts. There can be one overall CAC for all customer acquisitions but often it makes sense to break down CAC into individual acquisition channels. You may find that, for example, a CAC is much lower on Facebook Ads while users generated through Google Search cost a lot more. In such case, you may have good reasons to justify higher spending on Facebook advertising.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) = The average cost of acquiring a customer
For example, if you acquire 100 users from Facebook Ads at the average cost of $25/user and another 100 from LinkedIn Ads at the average cost of $15/user, then the overall CAC is $20 (assuming you don’t acquire users through any other channels).
Once you have the LTV and CAC ready, you can calculate another metric – LTV/CAC ratio. This tells you about the profitability of your acquisition efforts. A ratio higher than 1 indicates that the efforts are profitable and the gains outweigh the costs. Whereas, a ratio below 1 means that you’re (currently at least) paying more than you will gain in the long run.
Churn rate indicates how many paying customers chose to cancel their subscription, as compared to the total number of paying customers. At the early stages of a business churn is not something to be overly worried about. After all, it’s fairly easy to recruit a few new users to make up for the losses.
However, as the business and userbase grow, high churn becomes difficult to mitigate. That’s why it’s worth monitoring it regularly and picking up any spikes if they occur. A sudden increase in churn rate often indicates a problem with a product that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. It could be failing payments, bugs that derail user’s efforts, and many other scenarios.
Churn rate = Number of customers that canceled their subscription / Number of all paying customers
For example, if your product has 1,000 paying users and 20 of them cancel their subscription in May, the Churn rate for May is 2%.
As mentioned earlier, churn can also be expressed as Churn MRR. Here, you don’t analyze how many users dropped out but how much in recurring revenue that costed you.
New signups indicate basically that – the quantity of new registrations to your product. Inevitably some users will churn or downgrade their plans. To make up for these losses, it’s essential to be bringing in new users on a regular basis. A sustainable business should be increasing the signup numbers at a consistent pace. A slowdown in signups will likely be reflected in MRR, albeit with a certain delay.
New signups = Number of users that created an account with a product in a chosen period of time.
For example, if your product has 1,000 users in May and 1,100 in June, your new signups number for June is 100 (and you’ve got a really nice 10% userbase growth month-to-month).
Examples of SaaS reports
Generating reports for monthly or quarterly business reviews may work in traditional businesses but in SaaS, you need to have access to fresh data at any time, day and night. That’s when interactive, auto-updating dashboards come into play. Tools like Looker Studio, Tableau, or Power BI make it possible to build and share rich dashboards encompassing different areas of a business. They can help you make sense of your data, providing an overview of what’s going on, and aid decision-making when issues arise and need to be addressed.
At Coupler.io we operate on a set of dashboards covering the general state of the business as well as each of the areas – marketing, product management, sales, etc. At meetings, we often find ourselves needing some additional data.
For example, when talking about ideas to retain more users, someone may ask “how did the usage of feature X change over the last couple of months? Is there a correlation with dropping user retention?” Normally that’s something you would need to delegate to an analyst who would come back to you with data after a meeting. Here, we can just look up such data within seconds and right away, decide if the issue is worth looking at and plan our actions accordingly. This helps speed things up and makes our work more efficient.
Here are examples of several dashboards built by data experts from Coupler.io:
- The product funnel dashboard demonstrates precisely that – the five stages of a custom product funnel we use at Coupler.io. It’s used to track the number of users that reach particular stages of a funnel as well as conversions between the stages. It helps find bottlenecks, spot sudden drops, and see how product decisions impact the metrics.
- There’s plenty to like about the visual approach of Looker Studio dashboards. The same data can, however, also be displayed in good old spreadsheets and enhanced with some conditional formatting. Here you can see the product funnel dashboard in Google Sheets.
- Ensuring a great level of support is among the top factors impacting the success of any SaaS business. Why not monitor how the customer success team is doing with a handy dashboard? With this omnichannel reporting dashboard, executives and managers can track the numbers of open and closed cases, gauge the satisfaction level, and see which of the agents did particularly well in the chosen period.
- Running a SaaS business, you can benefit greatly from analyzing individual cohorts of users rather than all users as a whole. This handy Cohort Analysis dashboard groups users by the month they signed up and monitors the repurchase rate and LTV for each cohort. The dashboard makes it easy to spot trends that affect only particular groups of users which can prove invaluable in many product meetings.
Would you fancy having those kinds of dashboards for your business? Our data analytics consulting team specializes in automating data flows and visualizing that data on custom dashboards. Check out what we can offer and get in touch to talk about your project.
Reporting for SaaS – summing up
There are many different ways to do reporting in SaaS. Various tools, once plugged in, will extract the key metrics for you so you can look them up at any time. Or, you may prefer to extract the metrics yourself and build custom reports in a tool of your choice, be it Looker Studio or Tableau.
There’s also a third option – with Coupler.io you can automate your data reporting and have our data experts build the needed SaaS reports for you. Choose what you want to track, pick the visualization tool of your choice, and we’ll set up a custom auto-updating dashboard for you in no time. Get in touch for a free consultation!Back to Blog