What is session replay useful for?
Insights · 6 min read

What is session replay useful for?

Justin Owings
Posted June 20, 2017

Customer experiences are increasingly shifting to digital channels. From consumer-facing retail, travel, professional services, communication, or finance to SaaS, online is where critical decisions are made and meaningful engagement occurs.

Yet what actually happens online — that is, the experiences had by users and customers — is often concealed within a black box. Even powerful tools like Google Analytics only provide simple, rudimentary metrics like clicks, bounce rates, and time on page. These quantitative data and metrics fail to convey all the nuances of human behavior, yet it’s those nuances that help developers reproduce bugs, designers understand and improve UX, customer support professionals step-in and help customers in need, and marketers tell compelling product stories.

For an in-depth look at session replay, check out our Definitive Guide to Session Replay.

This is where one of FullStory’s powerful capabilities, Session Replay, can help you combine the quantitative with the qualitative for richer user insights. 

Session replay (a.k.a. user replay, session recording, or session playback) provides the nuance of empathy. If you're unfamiliar with session replay, it is a recreation of a user’s interactions on a website or web application. Importantly, it's not a video recording.  Rather, session replay transforms logged user events—such as mouse movements, clicks, page visits, scrolling, or tapping,—into a reproduction of what the user did on the site or app.

This ability to view recreations of user sessions gives digital teams the qualitative insights about customer behaviors they need to build better, more customer-centric products that improve the digital experience.

How does session replay help, exactly? Consider these examples:

  1. Solve bugs faster with session replay by tying session links with bug reporting tools and customer support tickets. Search for sessions that contain “error clicks” (i.e. when a user click results in a JavaScript console error). Pairing session recordings with console logs makes for a powerful way to eliminate JavaScript errors on your site.

    User examples:

  2. Measure and understand feature adoption with session replay by watching sessions from real users who engaged with the new feature. Additionally, if your session replay tool includes a way to identify individual visitors (like FullStory’s does), you can export the user information (CSV list) needed to conduct a follow-up email marketing campaign.

    User examples:

  3. Help customers faster through context. Match customer support tickets and customer service questions to session replay links (e.g. integrate FullStory with tools like Intercom, Zendesk, Trello, Slack, etc.).

    User examples:

  4. Co-browse with users in real-time using live session replay. You can see what users see live through co-browsing at low-latency (1–5 second delay) and help guide them through your site or UI (More on co-browsing here).

  5. Understand and improve onboarding. Watch sessions of users who go through onboarding flows and understand where onboarding is falling flat or users are failing to engage.

    User examples:

  6. Build, understand marketing funnels and optimize conversion rates. The combination of being able to filter user sessions by multiple events or user actions (as with FullStory OmniSearch) with session replay can help build funnels and optimize conversion rates by watching sessions of users that fall out of the funnel.

    User examples:

  7. Analyze the effectiveness of online advertising. Using UTM parameters and referral sources, session replay can help marketing teams understand how users from different advertising campaigns are reacting to landing pages and other marketing collateral. Team members can watch sessions for specific signs of engagement. Another valuable application (That could save you money!) is to see how many paid visits stay less than 5 seconds (for example) or longer than 30 seconds. Use the results to understand which advertising sources are driving quality traffic — and which are sending bots, mismatched audiences, or low-relevance clicks.

  8. Design and improve user experience (UX). Session replay is a useful tool for gathering user experience research on-demand and “at scale” to help designers see where elements aren’t being understood or how different devices, screen resolutions, and browsers are presenting an experience to users.

    User examples:

  9. Discover and watch user frustration. Because a session replay tool logs all visitor interactions, it also picks up signals that indicate user frustration. For example, FullStory finds Rage Clicks — and create Rage Click heatmaps — which is when users click repeatedly on specific elements. These sessions can be watched to determine if the user is misunderstanding some aspect of the web site design. Learn more about using session replay to solve bad user experiences online in our Guide.

  10. Discover and watch sessions that include form abandonment. Similar to Rage Clicks, platforms like FullStory that include session replay have form analytics that find when users abandon a form on your web site or app. Watching sessions that include form abandonment can help discover if certain aspects of the form were dissuading completion — or if some problem is occurring as users navigate the form fields.

  11. Detect suspicious activity. SQL injection attacks, URL attacks, and cross-site scripting (XSS) are methods malicious actors might use to hack your site. While not all session replay tools can detect and report on these activities, FullStory can. Searching for and watching sessions that include suspected suspicious activity can reveal if malicious actors are trying to affect your web site or app. More on suspicious activity detection here.

  12. See how users interact with dynamic web app states. E.g. pop-ups, lightbox, dropdown menus, endlessly scrolling pages, or whatever dynamic content lives on your site. These dynamic states can be difficult to understand with more traditional analytics tools, but FullStory’s session replay function is designed to handle them seamlessly.  For that matter, with tools like FullStory’s Page Insights and Click Maps, you can see aggregated metrics against these dynamic app or page states (More on Click Maps here and here).

  13. Measure how page load and site performance varies across different browsers and devices. Ever wonder about performance on different browsers? Cut your sessions by device and browser variables.

  14. In some instances, session replay can act as legal evidence. Because user session recording is high-fidelity, capturing everything, it can be used to prove that a user did something specific.

  15. Visualize customer paths with journey mapping. What better way to see how a visitor journeys through your website than by researching the complete journey with session recording? Read more about customer journey mapping using session replay here.

Session replay: The power to know

The above isn’t a comprehensive list. Rather, it’s an introduction to how better insight into user behavior online can be used to solve real problems in customer experience.

If you’re not making use of the power of FullStory session replay, then you should give it a shot. Request a demo. 

Justin OwingsFormer Director, Content

About the author

Justin Owings was previously the Director of Content Marketing at FullStory.

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