6 CRO Experts on Why Session Replay is Essential to Improving Digital Experiences
This is part one of a series in which we look at how to get the most out of session replays. By the end of this series, we hope you’ll have gained three things: a logical process for session replay analysis, steps to cut down on the number of sessions you have to watch, and techniques for watching a balance of sessions to ensure you investigate your project from all angles.
To kick off the series, we ask customer experience and conversion optimization experts why session replay is becoming so important to improving digital experiences.
Session replay enables you to watch back accurate recordings of real, anonymized users interacting with your website. At its best, it combines the qualitative insights of user testing – minus the acquiescence bias – with the at scale trends of quantitative analysis.
But what role do session replays have in day-to-day optimization projects?
We reached out to web analysts and conversion optimization experts – the tips and advice of whom feature throughout this series – to get their views on the vitally important part session replays have in optimization programs, as well as how digital teams can glean the most insight from them.
“Session replays are unique for providing a window into the raw user experience. Site visitors are not being influenced by tasks that you have provided them or changing their behaviour. They’re doing exactly what they’d usually do.
“Session replays take out the bias from website evaluation, removing how you believe a website visitor will behave from the equation.”
“The result? Session replays take out the bias from website evaluation, removing how you believe a website visitor will behave from the equation. None of our other conversion rate optimization tools can provide this in such a direct way.”
“Session recordings can provide incredibly in-depth insights when used effectively. In fact, they often offer the easiest, and most cost-efficient way to get into the minds of your customers.
“Session recordings can provide incredibly in-depth insights when used effectively.”
“Session recordings allow you to get a lot more granular; they tell you parts of the story that heat maps and scroll maps may be missing.”
“Any business running a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program without using session replay analytics is going to have a tough time. For the best results, a robust, data-driven CRO program should be coupled with behavioral analysis as closely as possible: the unison of the two is critical, and hugely underappreciated.
“Session replays provide answers to both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind website performance and user behavior.”
“Session replays provide answers to both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind website performance and user behavior. The value for CRO lies in discovering the ‘why’ – this is where the best ideas for improvement come from: the ones that will make the most money, and generate the most interest within a business.”
“The difficulty in CRO programs is to actually find out what a user wants and needs. Because users are not experts in digital, asking them what they want, or where they struggle on a site is a very difficult question. People are also likely to be biased in some way so asking their opinions is rarely the best way to find out how they interact with a website.
“Session replays can show you what users do, how they do it, where they struggle and what blocks them from converting.”
“Session replays can show you what users do, how they do it, where they struggle and what blocks them from converting. Although session replays require some analysis, they can show you very vital information that a user can’t always voice. You can also see the behaviors of many users, making it an efficient method of research.
“Session replays shows your actual audience and are therefore vital for understanding your users’ behavior – which will give you the insight you need for your CRO program.”
Theresa Baiocco Farr is founder of ConversionMax. She specializes in helping mid-sized businesses increase their online revenues with conversion rate optimization (CRO). She’s a repeat speaker at conferences such as Conversion Conference and Pubcon, and is regularly featured on Unbounce, the Wall Street Journal and Marketing Day:
“When used effectively, session replay tools offer specific qualitative insight into user behavior, which highlights conversion problems. This is essential for formulating meaningful hypotheses that will have a real impact on the bottom line, rather than just testing button colors, for example.
“[Session replays are] essential for formulating meaningful hypotheses that will have a real impact on the bottom line”
“Successful CRO practitioners rely on various types of tools for gathering qualitative and quantitative data in order to identify and prioritize a site’s biggest problems. For example, Google Analytics identifies WHAT the problems are, but not WHY. To understand that, we need to gather qualitative data from polls, user testing, click/scroll maps, and session replays.
“Polls and user testing are useful for finding answers to specific questions, but sometimes people will tell us one thing, and then do the opposite. For that reason, click/scroll maps and session replay tools are valuable for discovering how your site’s visitors actually behave.”
Johann Van Tonder is the COO at AWA digital, a leading international Conversion Rate Optimisation agency specialising in ecommerce, and co-author of E-commerce Website Optimization, the world’s first how-to business book specifically for ecommerce websites:
“The success of CRO programs is dependent on the quality of research. The better your insights, the sharper your findings. Multiple sources of evidence pointing to a particular area can assist with prioritisation. It’s best to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, and also to have a balance of behavioural and attitudinal information. Session replay occupies a unique position on the intersection between qualitative and behavioural data.
“People aren’t good at predicting their own behaviour; it’s best to observe them.”
“People aren’t good at predicting their own behaviour; it’s best to observe them. The difference between session recordings and usability testing, another method of observation, is that it’s unannounced and therefore raw and real without any potential bias. It’s a great tool for uncovering issues. For example, by monitoring session replays we noticed that a key button was being hidden by CSS. This one insight, worth thousands of pounds, was not identified in any other research other than a few user comments that couldn’t pin point the issue.”
Now we’ve established session replay’s importance, next up we’ll be looking at the steps you should take to prepare for session replays: i.e., what you should do before you start watching back sessions.