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The definitive guide to session replay tools

Digital transformation means that business as usual is over. Studies have found that mobile now represents at least 65 percent of digital media time. Consumers pick up their mobile phones 150 to 200 times a day, and switch between devices up to 27 times per hour. Alongside this mobile explosion, there has been considerable advancement in customer analytics, which now leverages session replay recording, machine learning, and predictive analytics.

Quantitative analytics vs deep analytics

With Google Analytics, you get valuable insights into the numbers and metrics–quantitative data–like the numbers of page views, unique visits, conversion rates, and ROI. It would be more impactful to understand why the customer got stuck or abandoned the shopping cart. But web analytics doesn’t tell you how customers are using your site.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just see a “video” of what happened? From the moment the customer entered their password, where did their fingers move on the phone screen? What did they actually see on the screen? At what point did they give up and leave the app? What was their journey to check out?

This is all deep qualitative analytics, driven by incredibly rich data capture, which you don’t get from quantitative data analytics. Website and app session recording allows you to see what numbers don’t and a session replay app or session replay software is indispensable for capturing every moment of each customer interaction.

Qualitative analytics, combined with rich website session replay tools and app session recording, gives you the picture behind the numbers and the ability to visualize digital–online and mobile–journeys in real time.

So what is user session replay?

According to Wikipedia, session replay is “the ability to replay a visitor’s journey on a website or within a web application.” This includes what the user sees, what they do, like keyboard and mouse inputs, and even logs of network events or console logs.

At Glassbox, we explain website and app session recording simply as the recording of every session on an organization’s website or native app, exactly as seen by the customer, regardless of the device (laptop, tablet, mobile) or browser used to access the channel. You see exactly what the customer is seeing or doing on your site.

Right now, there is no industry-wide accepted name for the website recording and replay of every session exactly as seen at the time by the customer or visitor. There are many other terms used to describe the collection of customer data via website recordings, such as:

  • Customer Experience Analytics or In-Page Web Analytics.
  • Mouse Recording Tools
  • Session Recording, Session Replay Analytics
  • User Replay, User Session Replay, User Experience Replay
  • Visitor Session Replay, Visitor Replay, Visitor Recordings, Visitor Playbacks
  • Visitor Behavior Analytics
  • Visual Session Recording, Visual Analytics
  • Website Session Replay, Website Video Replay

How can session replay help me?

Customer experience analytics software

According to McKinsey research, two-thirds of the decisions customers make are informed by the quality of their experiences when interacting with your brand. Session replay informs customer experience analytics software features like automated customer journey mapping which produces a visual map that shows a journey from beginning to end.

In addition, conversion funnels and click maps can help answer questions like:

  • Where does my traffic come from?
  • Which design elements are attracting clicks?
  • How many rows of products do visitors scroll down to see?
  • How do they use the site’s navigation and menu bar?
  • How do customers interact with banners, forms, or CTAs?
  • How far are visitors scrolling down the page?
  • When and why are they abandoning a transaction?

This data should not only be accessible to IT professionals. It must be exportable to everyone that needs a digital question answered. The metadata or batch data can help all realms of management – from marketing to distribution – to get a 360-degree profile of the customer.

Customer support optimization

Call center reps are often on the receiving end of bad customer experiences from a self-service website. But they usually don’t have a clue about what happened to you online before you called customer support. With real-time replay analysis (with Glassbox it’s available with just a three second delay), the agent can view the recording of a website session exactly as you saw it on the site and quickly guide you to a successful resolution. If a problem keeps coming up, call center agents can share that trend with the IT department to get a long-term fix to the problem.

At the end of the day, the organization benefits from:

  • Reduced average handling time of complaints
  • Increased first call resolution
  • More knowledgeable call center agents
  • Improved customer experience
  • Risk management & compliance

Session replay and GDPR compliance

In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into effect for any organization doing business in Europe. As a result, many industries have been forced to capture and archive web and mobile sessions in a tamper-proof, source-proof and time-stamped manner. With some industries having to archive and make available up to seven years of data, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of data has become much larger.

Apart from being always ready for an investigation or audit, businesses have to be able to find all the sessions for a customer who wants to exercise their right to be forgotten or the right to obtain all of their stored personal data.

Read more about session replay and GDPR compliance.

Performance analytics

With 40% of consumers abandoning a website if a page takes more than three seconds to load, IT needs to test every element of a site before it goes live. On an ongoing basis IT needs to check site usability and to troubleshoot problems. In order to prioritize which issues to solve first, they need to be able to understand which performance and availability glitches have the most impact on customer experience and revenues.

This can be solved through the use of a session replay app or other session replay software which can help answer the following questions:

  • Are visitors clicking on non-clickable items?
  • Are visitors abandoning the shopping cart because there’s a technical issue with the checkout page?
  • How long does the site take to load on an old phone?
  • Why does the app keep crashing?

To diagnose errors, IT professionals need to be able to reproduce what actually happened. Immediate access to a session replay combined with its entire metadata eliminates the need for error reproduction. By flagging digital performance issues, digital channel performance can be continuously monitored and improved.

Glassbox’s approach to session replay

To optimize the customer experience, Glassbox provides a comprehensive out-of-the box solution which lets you:

  • Monitor all digital channels – website, mobile site, mobile app — on a single platform
  • Reduce impact on channels’ performance while still capturing data
  • Share access with business users across the organization, removing dependency on IT or business analysts
  • Visually map all customer journeys, build funnels, and drill down to individual sessions
  • Easily search across the entire data to retrieve sessions and conduct replay analysis
  • Accommodate any application changes in real time with no need for pre-configuration or tagging
  • Create ad hoc or regular reports and alerts, based on free-text search
  • Source-proof, time-stamp and encrypt records so they are tamper-proof
  • Store and compress records so they can be kept as long as required by your industry or regulations
  • Meet the highest security industry standards
  • Assign role-based access to functionalities and data
  • Mask or omit sensitive or confidential data (e.g. PII)
  • Compress high volumes of data to minimize total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Import/export data to break down silos
  • Implement in a matter of weeks for quick time to value

The future of session replay and big data analytics

Embedded analytics are being incorporated into applications to make insights accessible to non-technical business users. In the next seven years, 90 percent of business users will interact with analytics at least once per day but only 15 percent will realize they are doing so.

In 2020, Gartner analysts predict that through the use of intelligent business analytics (such as user session replay analysis), information will be used to reinvent, digitalize, or eliminate 80% of business processes.

At Glassbox, we predict the major trends for the coming decade to be the cross-departmental use of big data by analyzing digital channels from the point of view of the customer and the emergence of automatic insights. With a session replay app or session replay software letting you replay the digital journey, you can gain an insight into the customer experience and the customer’s needs and expectations.

Originally published February 2017. Updated May 8 2020.

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