8 Session Replay Best Practices to Quickly Find Poor User Experiences

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
July 27, 2020

To some web analysts or optimizers, using session replay may seem rather obvious at first glance. You’re just watching back user sessions from your website or app, right?

Not exactly. At the enterprise scale, with millions of sessions to watch back per month, it’s more complicated than that.

While 95% of practitioners rate session replay quite to highly effective, you can’t just haphazardly watch back any user session and find the user experience (UX) issue derailing journeys and sabotaging conversions. It takes a nuanced understanding of this tool to find poor experiences accurately and quickly.

So, let’s cut to the chase and dive into the eight best practices every end-user should learn to get the most out of their session replay solution:

1. Don’t watch random sessions, review key sessions and timestamps

Plain and simple, you can’t watch back millions of monthly user sessions to find UX issues impacting your website or app. And you’d probably go crazy if you tried.

Founder of ConversionMax Theresa Baiocco Farr believes, “The worst thing you could do when getting started with session replay is to try to watch all the videos, or even choose sessions at random. You’ll never manually find any patterns in user behavior and you’ll waste a ton of time.”

What’s your best way around this productivity obstacle? Rely on session replay powered by AI. In fact, AI technology is projected to boost labor productivity by up to 40%.

With automatic analysis of every session replay across your site, you’ll be notified of poor experiences, bottlenecks, and user frustrations with timestamped videos. Now, you only need to watch back user sessions that actually matter.

2. Contextualize analysis and investigate broader user experience problems

Like a detective, you should gather all your facts, evidence, and leads before diving into an investigation with session replay. Without context, this tool simply won’t show you ‘culprit’ behind UX friction.

Conversion Strategist Hans Hoogenboom emphasizes that, “Watching session replays and analyzing what exactly is going on can be a very time-consuming task, especially when you have bulk replays and you don’t know where to begin. It’s very important that you have clear focus and use your session replays strategically.”

Establish exactly what you and your team want to investigate with session replay. It could be a checkout process with rising abandonment, product and landing pages with high user frustration, or a login page with a high failed completion rate.

Session replay works best when you dive deep into known website or app issues, so use your web analytics and voice of customer (VoC) data to gain that must-have context.

3. Establish repeatable and practical note-taking systems for collaboration

Your web optimization efforts likely span across multiple teams, right? Well, you’re not alone. 80% of companies say their digital transformation efforts involve multiple business units or the entire company.

Collaboration between UX teams, digital marketers, web analysts, and others places a high importance on visibility and communication. But how does that fit into session replay?

CRO expert Dustin Drees underscores the importance of keeping notes, he says “In my experience the most essential way to control for this is tagging your videos. Establish some baseline tags for the videos that you can apply while watching them, because it can take a while for patterns to emerge in the replays.”

Using commenting and tagging features in session replay, like Decibel’s own solution, will allow you and your teams to share insights instantly without any confusion.

4. Pinpoint areas of user drop-off and friction with journey funnels

Journey funnels are a tried-and-true tool for gaining a bird’s eye view of the user journey. If you notice unexpected drop-off, you know there’s an issue. From here many teams guess and test until they can’t, but with session replay you eliminate that inefficient process.

Theresa Baiocco Farr recommends using your web analytics to “identify the worst leaks in the funnel for a certain user segment, then session replay can provide more insight into what those people are actually doing on each page.”

Combining journey funnels with session replay allows you to determine poor user experiences and actually pinpoint the specific problems causing drop-off, like a broken call-to-action button or slow loading landing page.

From here web optimization becomes straightforward without the blind guessing games.

5. Leverage behavior detection to narrow in on key sessions to analyze

It’s true, actions do speak louder than words – at least when it comes to analyzing your website or app.

While VoC data and direct customer insight provide context, CX thought-leader Kerry Bodine suggests “an understanding of customer feedback doesn’t tell you all you need to know about your customers’ experiences. To get the full picture, you also need to understand actual customer behavior.”

Knowing this, it’s a common best practice to watch back session replays and look for digital body language cues like multi-click, bird’s nests, device rotation, and more. While scouring over session replays looking for user behaviors will undoubtedly surface insights for web optimization, there’s a more efficient way to do it now.

Integrating session replay with behavior detection technology completely automates this tedious task. With AI scanning sessions and timestamping key interactions, like multi-clicks over a broken ‘Buy Now’ button, you can instantly review those instances without any manual labor on your end.

6. Step back by using heatmaps to find compelling patterns worth diving into replays

Watching dozens of session replays, it can be easy to become swept up in the details of every user session and miss larger user journey trends.

It’s time you take a step back and look at the big picture – literally.

Using heatmaps, which visualize aggregated user behaviors on any given webpage, you can detect areas where loads of users run into the same issue or engage with the same content. From here, you can investigate those areas further with session replay and understand the triggers behind these user behaviors.

Maybe you notice that fewer users are engaging with a summer clothing collection menu and dive deeper to discover broken links interrupting journeys. Or it could be that you find more users are clicking on your ‘Sign Up’ button after a homepage redesign.

These two tools combined are a match made in web optimization heaven.

7. Watch back replays demonstrating experiences behind form analytics data

No way around it, users dread filling out forms. Any minor inconvenience or experience issue will likely derail the user journey.

To truly fine-tune and transform your forms into conversion gateways, use session replay to uncover the source of poor experiences reflected by your form analytics. Focus in on key data like completion rate, validation errors, time taken, and abandonment rate to understand user journeys worth investigating.

For example, using session replay you can review sessions linked to high abandonment rates and you may discover your form appears below the fold for mobile users or that your forms requests too much user information.

Finally, you can build forms that truly move the needle on conversion.

8. Use segmentation to narrow analysis for hyper targeted investigations

It’s time to start filtering out the noise. Seriously, the best way to get more from session replay comes from using segmentation to create highly granular UX investigations.

With a specific focus in mind – whether it’s reducing homepage bounce rates or reducing checkout friction – you need to narrow in on the sessions that actually impact those areas. Segmentation allows you to toggle between a bunch of the features and technology listed above including, behaviors, journeys, funnels, form analytics, website or VoC data, and heatmaps.

With access to a wide range of filters, you can work through investigations at a much faster pace with greater detail. This is the key to streamlined web optimization at the enterprise level.

Maximize Your Insights with the Advanced Session Replay Technology

Congrats! You’ve got the basics of session replay down. You can now confidently work through session replays and nail the user experiences issues plaguing your website or app.

But before dive into your investigations, know that not every session replay tool is built the same. Some may lack time-saving AI, while others may lack key integrations.

To glean the best possible insights and maximize your session replay investment, you’ll want to completely understand the nuances behind this tool. To become an expert in all things session replay, use Session Replay and Session Recording in 2020: The Ultimate Guide, and Latest Functionality for Enterprise.

In this end-to-end guide, you’ll learn about:

  • The basics of using session replay in 2020
  • Session replay’s biggest strengths and weaknesses
  • The must-have features of modern session replay
  • What’s in store for the future of session replay
Topics: Digital Body Language, Product, Session Replay, User experience
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