Note: 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 (a.k.a. user replay, session recording, or session playback) steps in to provide the nuance of empathy. If you're unfamiliar with session replay, it is a reproduction of a user session on your website or web application down to the mouse movements (or mobile user taps). Importantly, it's not video replay as the playback is recreated from logged individual events. Watching user sessions gives teams the qualitative insights about customer behaviors they need to build better products and improve customer 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 (FullStory can), 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.). Additionally, 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 and here).

    User examples:

  4. Co-browse with users in real-time using live session replay.

  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 captures all visitor 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 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 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, or whatever dynamic content lives on your site. 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.

  14. Detect fraud. Session replay even allows you to detect fraud. For example, you can look up suspicious activity in FullStory. This works by finding "patterns of text input on your site to identify values that appear to be a SQL injection or cross-site scripting (XSS) attack instead of expected user text input." Read more about fraud-detection through session playback here.

  15. Legal evidence. Because user session recording is high-fidelity, capturing everything, it can be used to prove that a user did something specific.

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

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!