What is Session Replay Useful For?

Session replay tools are powerful empathy engines — good for helping developers, designers, marketers, and customer support.

Though you might have clicked or been tempted to click the “Play” button above, it’s not a play button. Sometimes graphics like this can be confusing to users. #thingsyoulearnthroughsessionreplay

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 experience of 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 metrics fail to convey all the nuances of human behavior, yet it’s the 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.

Session replay steps in to provide the nuance of empathy. Watching user sessions supplies teams with the empathy they need to build better products and improve customer experience.

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

  1. Discover, diagnose, and reproduce bugs with session replay by associating session links with bug reporting tools and customer support tickets; search sessions for “error clicks” (i.e. when a user click results in a JavaScript console error). 
    User examples: thredUP — ecommerce, retail, Travel Syndication Technology (TST) — travel booking engine, Clubhouse — project management app.
  2. Measure and understand feature adoption with session replay by watching sessions from users who engaged with the new feature. Additionally, if your session replay tool includes a way to identify users (FullStory can), you can export the user information (CSV list) needed to conduct a follow-up email marketing campaign. 
    User examples: Kayako — help desk SaaS, Socialie — a social media app, Autopilot — Customer journey automation.
  3. Solve customer support tickets faster by providing context by matching ticket submissions with session replay links (e.g. integrate FullStory with tools like Intercom, Zendesk, Trello, Slack, etc.). 
    User examples: Zenstores — ecommerce platform.
  4. Co-browse with users using live session replay. See what users see with low-latency (1–5 second delay) and help guide them through a tricky aspect for your site or UI (More on co-browsing here and 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: Wistia — online video platform, Help Scout — help desk platform, Go Pollock — education app.
  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: Zenstores — ecommerce platform.
  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 by watching session from users who land on these pages. 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: Prospero — proposal creation app.
  9. Discover and watch user frustration. Because a session replay tool captures all user interactions, it also picks up signals that indicate user frustration. For example, FullStory finds “rage clicks,” which are sessions wherein users click repeatedly on specific elements. These sessions can be watched to determine if the user is misunderstanding some aspect the web site design.
  10. Discover and watch sessions that include form abandonment. Similar to rage clicks, session replay tools such as FullStory can find when users abandon a form on your web site or app. Watching sessions that include form abandonment can help discover is 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, etc. These dynamic states aren’t a problem for session replay even as they can be a showstopper for traditional analytic tools. For that matter, with a tool 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.

Session replay is powerful.

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.

If you’re already a FullStory user but see something that your team or another team in a different job function could be doing to get more value out of FullStory, share this post!

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FullStory is the Customer Experience platform that helps everyone in your company build the best online experience for your users. Capture every click, swipe and scroll and unlock pixel-perfect playback, funnel analytics, detailed search and segmenting, and more.

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