What Is a Web Session Replay Tool? [2022 Update]

What Is a Web Session Replay Tool [2022 Update]
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A whole lot of technology, tools, and techniques go into creating and designing a website and marketing your products and services into driving traffic to that website, with the ultimate goal of maximizing your conversion rate, i.e., converting a random stranger into a paying customer. No matter how much budget, time, and effort you put into your website, statistics show it will still be wanting in some respect in terms of doing its job of lead conversion.

So, you need a set of tools to determine where your website’s function could use some improvement, collectively called User Experience Monitoring Tools, the most effective weapon in whose arsenal is session replay tools. To catch on how they are so mightily helpful, let us take you through practically everything you need to know about session replay, the what, the why, the who, and the how.

What Is Session Replay?

WatchThemLive Session Replay

When a user enters your site, the journey they embark on by clicking, scrolling, and the mouse movement is called a session or an event. Now, there is software technology that is often called Session Replay, Web Session Replay, User Session Replay, or Webapp Session Replay, which can record all that activity into logs and then recreate them in a video-style clip which you can then replay and see what your user’s experience on the site was like, what happened or didn’t happen, and how it contributed to them buying something and converting to a customer, or not buying something and leaving all unconverted.

Is Session Replay Different From Screen/Video-Recording?

Well, surprise, surprise! Yes, it is.

There are a good many website/business owners who stay under the impression that session recordings are actually video recordings or screen-recording of all that the user does and all that the website does and saves it as a video, which we can later watch like we do a regular video clip. But that’s only a misconception, a rather common one, as the software records only the main activity indicators, i.e., clocks, scrolls, and mouse movements, and then reconstructs them into a video-LIKE clip, which makes you feel like you are actually watching a video recording of the user’s exploration.

What Does Session Replay Not Capture?

The biggest difference between an actual video recording of the screen and a session replay is the anonymized nature of a session replay, as it does not record every single thing you might categorize as private information, including but not limited to: typed-out texts, screenshots taken of the website pages, live video chats, streaming sessions, any personal data or private information, and of courses off-site activity done in other tabs. What is recorded by the software technology stays limited to clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements within the website.

How Is A Web Session Replay Created?

The design and structure of a website are fed into the session replay software as a default setting, code is then written to document every click, scroll, and mouse movement into savable logs. Another set of code is then written to put the first two together and create an animation-like presentation of those activities in the background of the website’s interface, which looks very much like a screen recording video of the user’s activity on your website, minus the non-conversion-related activities.

What Problems Does User Session Replay Fix?

Session replay is quite the asset in website conversion rate and revenue maximization in 5 different ways:

1. Improving Key Conversation Rate Factors

Some key factors and spots directly impact whether a lead (a potential customer drawn to your website) gets converted to a customer or not, including:

  •  Opt-ins: where the user decides to provide contact information,
  •  CTAs: call-to-action spots where the user is prompted into a response that leads to the immediate or ultimate purchase of a product or service
  •   UX: the entirety of a user’s experience elements that help the user get from where they have landed on your page to where they take an action to buy something.
  • Content: product description and related information aimed at convincing your user that A) they need the product or service and  B) your brand will actually meet that need for them.

A session replay tells you whether your CTAs and opt-ins are put at the right spot to get the intended reaction, whether your content does its job of talking users into becoming customers, and whether the user experience is fully functional and smooth enough to facilitate their making the ultimate purchase. You can see what part of the conversion funnel they stop at, and you can change around CTA and opt-in spots, polish up content and revamp UX to yank up the conversion rate as the delicious fruit of session replay.

2. Prompt Debug Of Website Glitches

When you can see how your users are using the website and where they stop because they are struggling with an element or feature, or they abandon their expedition and search after finding something frustrating, it’s like you are watching live how bugs and errors are losing you, customers, so you can get right on fixing them without having to wait for feedback and test-run results.

3. Tackle Confusion About User Feedback By Providing Context

 A classic and highly effective protocol for troubleshooting bugs and glitches is user feedback. Most of us have written tickets describing how an error obstructed our experience on a website and have had those descriptions failing to fully convey the glitch to the developers. When the actual experience is recorded and seen in a session replay, the support team has actual context to see how something is going wrong and can tackle it asap.

4. Detection Of Suspicious Activity And Address Security Issues.

One of the main concerns of any website owner is security issues that can be tackled using session replay. When you get to see how any given user is navigating your website, you can pre-empt quite a bit of security breach attempts, and that alone makes a session replay quite the trump card.

5. Improving Staff Onboarding

Getting your new staff oriented into streamlined use of the admin side of a website and making sure the old staff’s performance is not subpar in terms of optimum customer service is another way a session replay can directly contribute to the success of a business on their website.

Who Can Benefit From Session Replay?

There are four types of professionals involved in the conversion funnel spectrum that can use the many benefits of a session replay specifically to better the outcome of their efforts:

  • UX Designers

One of the main merits of a session replay is the malfunction and mispredictions of UX design. One of the groups that can make the most out of a session replay is a UX design team.

  • Marketing Executives

When the lead drop and lead conversion spots are discovered through session replays, it’s the marketing team’s turn to come up with remarketing and experimentation alternatives and do A/B tests to convert the problem parts to power parts and give the conversion a leg up.

  • Customer Service And Support Department

Being in charge of addressing the issues raised by the customers and session replay giving the necessary context and evidence to their complaint points, the customer support team can take full advantage of session replay to enhance the quality of their services.

  • Product Managers

Being in charge of making sure all the teams and elements are working well together to push the product from the idea phase through to the successful sales stage, product managers can reap quite a lot from knowing what product bugs users are facing on the website and proceed to smooth them over without wasting too much time and energy speculating what went wrong and why.

What Parts Of Session Replay Need Configuration?

There are several configurations that need to be made to keep on t f some concerns when it comes to benefiting from the advantages of a session replay and avoiding its possible downsides; here are the concerns and their corresponding configuration:

  • Cost And Time Control

Three measures can be taken to keep the session replay affordable and time-efficient:

1. Number Of Sessions

One of the downsides of session replay is the overwhelming number of session recordings to buy and go through, which can be both expensive and time-consuming, so you need to configure the number of recorded sessions to stay on top of your budget and deadlines.

2. URL Exclusions

You need to configure your session replay tool to exclude the URL of pages you don’t want to be recorded, saving you a lot of expenses and time.

3. Opt-In Mode

You need to change the settings to show what part of a session you want to be recorded. The fewer you choose, the lower the cost and time to go through them.

  • Privacy Control

Several configurations must be made to ensure your user’s privacy in a session replay tool.

1. Disclose Privacy Policy

You need to include an easily visible part on a website to let your users know where and how their activity is being recorded and put an option where they can approve that.

2. Masking

You need to enable masking to Protect user’s confidential data through the following three steps:

  • Turn alphanumeric characters to asterisks

Show meaningful words and numbers indicating sensitive and private information in the form of asterisks instead of alphanumeric characters into characters.

  • Set Some Activities On Zero Record-Replay  

Set some activities not to be recorded, or be recorded but not be replayed on all pages of your website.

  • Limit Recorded And Replayed Sessions On Some Parts Of Your Own Website.

Select specific parts of your website where usually private information is provided by users to not be recorded or replayed in the session replay tool.

  • Function Control

Take the following three steps to make sure your session is recorded and assessed without any hassles.

1. Resource Capture

Enable this part to allow the capture and saving of data sheets during session recording.

2. Access Permission

You need to change the setting to determine who has access to the session replays.

3. Session Replay Prerequisites

There are some technical prerequisites that need to be met to enable session replay to do the recording; make sure they are taken care of so you don’t run into trouble during or after.

How Do You Know A Good Session Replay Tool From A Bad One?

There are a lot of different session replay tools you can pick from. But having options is only good news if you know what to look for to have your purpose met without having to deal with the pitfalls. So, make sure you pay attention to the following when trying to choose your session replay tool:

1. Website Speed Impact

Capturing user session key data in real-time requires the session replay tool to link to your website, which slows down its loading speed considerably, dooming your SEO and defeating the very purpose of conversion rate betterment through website optimization. To prevent that, you want to go for session replay tools with client-side compression features, so they can cut down on the data volume that takes time to be transferred and keep your site’s performance unaffected. 

2. Data Storage Periods

How long your session replay tool holds on to recorded sessions differs from brand to brand. While the minimum is set at 35 days, try to go for ones that keep your data longer than a month and shorter than forever, as you will need longer-term analysis of your traffic’s experience, and you don’t want big storage spaces used up for something from so far back that is irrelevant to your current conversation rates. So, go for a year, a happy in-between still considered impactful to your marketing strategizing and worth occupying precious storage space for.

3. Search Filters For Selecting Session Replays

You cannot afford to spend copious amounts of time watching all the playbacks, so you need a sturdy and smart search filter criteria put in place on your session replay tool so you can pick and choose what sessions to watch to get to the bottom of all the important drawbacks of your website

4. Session Recording Number

Some session replay tools offer quite a limited number of recordable sessions for a lower fee; remember, you need to analyze enough sessions to identify patterns and bugs, and conversion failure points. So, you don’t want to be frugal at the wrong time and at the expense of the wrong feature. 

5. Trouble-Free Compatibility And Integration

Some session replay tools are easily integrated into your website’s current technical structure as it is, but some of them require enough coding and configuration to interfere with your site’s technical integrity and smooth operability. So, make sure you opt for one with the maximum compatibility with the existing state of your platform and can be managed and updated without sacrificing your clean code and ease of operation.

6. Transparent Pricing Plans

Pricing is always a deciding factor. Make sure you are getting value for everything you need for a session replay tool plan, which is priced based on the following two factors:

A. How Many Sessions Recordings And Replays Per Month

You can choose how many sessions you want recorded each month based on your marketing efforts, how much traffic you are getting, and how many separate marketing campaigns and events you have going on. Spend some time comparison-shopping with a couple of them to see what the industry standard prices are like and how the number of sessions is related to price to avoid being overcharged.

B. How Many People Have Access To The Recordings

The number of accounts that can access session recordings in the management, marketing, UX design team, and so on can affect the price directly, so make sure you choose it wisely.

Session Replay Recapped

You can have a software tool called session replay record the three main means of doing an activity on a website, clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements, and display them in a video so that you can pinpoint where your UX and the website design are helping you with conversation rates, and where they are hurting you. You can access the session replays to your marketing, UX design, product manager, and customer support teams to realign their efforts and remarket redesign and re-spot to optimize your website for maximum revenue.