What is Session Replay?

Published: 10th August, 2012

Session Replay

Session replay is a relatively new term in the language of digital marketing and one that we use often to describe one of the major features of our SessionCam product.

Wikipedia first defined the term session replay in 2009 as “the ability to replay a visitor’s journey on a web site which can include mouse movements, clicks and form entry”.

This is a very useful start point but for us, session replay, is so much more than this.

“Must” not “can”

For a start, session replay absolutely must include mouse movements, clicks and form entry to be of any use. It also needs to show page scrolling and form entry must show individual character by character field-level data entry.

Layout, design and content

Session replay needs to clearly show the layout, design and content of the web page being replayed. Furthermore, at a time when sites are personalised so uniquely to the individual visitor, the replay must be the actual layout, design and content seen by the visitor at the time of their visit.

Speed of replay

Next, session replay needs to show a visitor’s journey at the speed at which the visitor interacted with the web site. If you are using session replay to understand customer behaviour on a web site, you absolutely have to see exactly how long it takes a customer to interact with each component of your web site to truly identify the struggle points.

Cross-domain and https

Today, many companies build web sites that involve visitor journeys crossing different domains and moving between normal http and encrypted https web pages. With this in mind, session replay should include the visitor’s entire visit or session on a web site regardless of any change in domain or page encryption.

Dynamic content

Lastly, many of today’s web sites make extensive use of Ajax to deliver more dynamic elements to the visitor’s interaction without continual re-loading of web pages. Often these dynamic elements represent a fundamental part of the visitor’s experience of using a web site. As a consequence, session replay must be able to accurately replay dynamic, Ajax content.

Other terms for Session Replay

In our travels, we’ve encountered a number of other terms that are used as well as session replay. Some of the other terms we’ve heard include:

  • Web site video replay
  • Record and replay
  • Digital experience replay
  • Visitor recordings.

For the purpose of trying to establish a common definition, we believe all of these terms effectively refer to session replay.

Our definition of session replay

So, considering all of this, we would define session replay as:

The ability to replay a visitor’s complete journey on a web site which includes all mouse movements, mouse clicks, character-by-character data entry in form fields and page scrolling. The replay of the visitor’s experience is shown against the web page content, layout and design seen at the time of use with all dynamic interaction created as a part of the visitor’s interaction. The replay of a session shows the real-life speed at which the visitor interacted with the web site.