Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: A Definitive Comparison [June 2023]

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: A Definitive Comparison [June 2023]

Mihael Cacic

Jul 6, 2023 • 14 min read

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: A Definitive Comparison (July 2023)

Curious to see if there were any distinctions in how Hotjar and Smartlook support businesses in understanding user behavior, I put them to the test. Here’s a breakdown of my findings.

Hotjar’s heatmaps and funnels make it great at providing general insights based on aggregate data from multiple user segments. However, it has basic session replay features and significantly slows down site load speed.

Meanwhile, Smartlook’s heatmaps, funnels, and session replay features work with websites as well as mobile apps but they’re less detailed and give you more of a general overview of user interactions. Nonetheless, its unique funnel anomalies monitoring feature helps with proactively boosting conversion rates.   

But if you want exact user interaction insights, consider SessionStack. It’s equipped with a powerful suite of tools that include pixel-perfect session replays, live co-browsing, sitewide click insights, and error-tracking features. This makes it easy to quickly resolve site errors and address user frustrations — allowing you to consistently improve the customer experience.

Let’s take a closer at the differences between Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack, and see how they stack up in the following areas:

  1. Heatmaps
  2. Customer journey analysis
  3. Session replays (including live sessions, co-browsing, and error tracking) 

Additionally, in the comparison table below, I’ll discuss the site speed impact and integrations for each tool — so you can select the ideal one for your specific requirements.

Hotjar Smartlook SessionStack
Price
⭐⭐
Limited free plan. Starter is $39/mo (~ 3,000 sessions/mo). Business starts at $99/mo, and Scale at $213/mo.
⭐⭐⭐
Limited free plan. Has one paid plan starting at $69/mo (5,000 sessions/mo) and add-ons that come at an extra cost.
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
SessionStack’s pricing is currently in revision.*
Session Replay
⭐⭐⭐
Allows you to view session replays with user segmentation features and a dev console. 
⭐⭐⭐
Session replay interface and features are very similar to Hotjar’s.
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Features in Hotjar and Smartlook + dedicated error tracking page + live co-browsing.
Co-browsing

Doesn’t support live sessions and co-browsing.

Doesn’t support live sessions and co-browsing.
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Fast co-browsing mode with engagement tools like pointer, pen, and control takeover.
AI Integration
⭐⭐⭐⭐
AI-assisted customer survey analysis.

No AI capabilities
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
AI-augmented session replays. Saves time with optimization recommendations and session summaries. 
Heatmaps
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Captures static and dynamic page elements with click, scroll, and move maps + extensive filter options for deeper insights.
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Has click, scroll, and move maps like Hotjar but only captures static page elements, and has fewer filter options.
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tracks static and dynamic elements with the most clicks, dead clicks, and rage clicks across your entire website.
Customer Journey Analysis
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Limited funnel creation features. Has a unique side-by-side funnel comparison feature for analyzing multiple user groups. 
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Everything in Hotjar + unique anomalies monitoring feature for actively tracking deviations from original funnels.
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Extensive funnel creation features with linked user sessions for better insights into user friction points.
Site Speed Impact

Average page speed impact of 1128ms across the web. Heavily impacts main thread execution
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Average page speed impact of 117ms. Has a very minimal impact on main thread execution
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Extremely lightweight JavaScript. Doesn’t block main thread execution.
Integrations
⭐⭐⭐⭐
10 native integrations + Hotjar API + Zapier
🏆
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
30 native integrations + Smartlook API + Zapier
⭐⭐⭐
14 native integrations + SessionStack API 
G2 Reviews
292 user reviews with 4.3 Rating 864 user reviews with 4.6 Rating 63 user reviews with 4.9 Rating
Trusted By
Adobe, Nintendo, PayKickstart, Keto Chow, Cube Digital Alza, Kiwi.com, AstroPay, Livestorm, Papa John’s Pizza Kraken, Bazaarvoice, Imagine.ai, Mend, Texas.gov
Best For
Understanding how different user groups navigate your site and move through funnels. Understanding general user behavior on websites and mobile apps. Quickly identifying and resolving user experience issues on web apps with granular behavior insights.
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Try free forever
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Book a demo

SessionStack is being reshaped to meet the growing demands of its existing and future customers. The team is laser-focused on helping e-commerce businesses streamline their conversion rate optimization efforts for faster revenue growth. This is done through an industry-first AI capability – SessionStackAI, which is based on the rich session data the platform is already built to collect.

 

As part of the ongoing change, SessionStackAI is currently offered only as a paid pilot service with a 21-day free trial. To find out how SessionStackAI can help optimize your e-store with no effort, book a demo today 👉

What is Hotjar?
“Leap over conversion obstacles” 🚧🏃‍♂️

Former conversion optimization expert, David Darmanin, needed a comprehensive user analytics tool that captured all aspects of user behavior. So, in 2014, he assembled a team of like-minded individuals to create one — Hotjar was the result.

Hotjar has gradually evolved into one of the best tools with visual heatmaps that capture both static and dynamic elements (such as pop-ups, menus, and other interactive features) on site pages. You can access click, scroll, and move heatmaps and filter the results to analyze how specific user groups interact with different elements on your site. Similarly, you can filter funnel results across multiple user groups and even display the funnels side-by-side to gain better insights into user navigation trends.

While Hotjar’s heatmaps and funnel insights help you make targeted improvements to your site structure and funnels, it lacks live sessions and co-browsing features for interacting directly with your customers and offering real-time support.

What is Smartlook?
“A 360-degree view of your customer’s journey” 🌍👀 

In 2016, Petr Janošík, Dušan Kmeť, Vladimír Šandera, and Ondřej Machek joined forces to build Smartlook. Their mission: to help businesses gain better insights into customer behavior across their websites and mobile apps.

Fast forward to today, Smartlook has established itself as a prominent player in the behavioral analytics space. With a comprehensive set of tools including session replays, heatmaps, and funnels, Smartlook offers everything you need to gain a deep understanding of user interactions and behavior patterns. It stands out as the only tool that is fully compatible with mobile apps, allowing you to seamlessly analyze user behavior across multiple platforms. Plus, it allows you to set thresholds and track deviations from funnel parameters.

Smartlook’s suite of tools makes it best for users who want to track web analytics as well as mobile analytics and adopt a proactive approach to funnel tracking and optimization. However, it lacks live co-browsing features and extensive error-tracking tools for pinpointing site errors and user frustrations.

What is SessionStack?
“Become the hero of seamless user experience” 🦸‍♂️💫

Alexander Zlatkov, a former software engineer, recognized the need for a tool to understand how users interact with websites and online apps. This led to the creation of SessionStack in 2016.

SessionStack strikes a perfect balance between simplicity and advanced session replay features, propelling it to the top position of G2’s “Session Replay” category for 2023. It perfectly captures and stores every user session and also registers online users — allowing you to watch their live sessions with super low latency (<1 second). You can switch on the co-browsing mode during live sessions to interact directly with a user’s screen. When you combine these features with SessionStack’s dev console, dedicated error-tracking page, and sitewide click maps, you have a powerful toolkit that ensures no site error or user frustration slips through the cracks.

SessionStack caters to the unique needs of various teams, including product, customer support, developers, and engineering. By providing deep insights into user interactions, facilitating quick issue resolution, and enabling real-time support, it guarantees that websites and online apps consistently deliver an optimal user experience.

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: Session Replay

Hotjar only has core replay features, Smartlook is similar but offers more segmentation options, while SessionStack takes the cake with live sessions, co-browsing, and dedicated error-tracking

Hotjar Smartlook SessionStack
⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Session Replay is a feature that records and plays back user interactions on your website. It captures everything from mouse movements and clicks to scrolling and pageviews. In this section, we’ll dive into each tool’s session replay capabilities and compare them in four key areas.

  1. UI design,
  2. User segmentation,
  3. Live sessions & Co-browsing,
  4. Error logs.

Hotjar vs Smartlook: Session Replay UI

Hotjar is visually appealing, Smartlook feels quite busy, and SessionStack simplifies and speeds up your workflow.

Out of the three tools, SessionStack’s interface is the easiest to navigate. The simple two-column layout and bold icons provide a clear separation between the content area and navigation menu, and make it easy to quickly find any feature you’re looking for. 

As a result, SessionStack has the lowest learning curve for new users, allowing them to quickly become familiar with the platform and start leveraging its insights.

Additionally, SessionStack’s session replay syncs perfectly with the action log (on the left). It also features a well-structured two-column layout that makes navigation feel more intuitive. This speeds up your workflow because you can quickly jump to specific user actions and resolve issues in no time.

Hotjar’s interface has a more modern, sleek, and colorful design which contributes to its appeal. It also features a two-column layout which makes navigation quite intuitive and a handy note-taking feature for team collaboration.

Smartlook’sinterface is very similar to Hotjar’s but with fewer pops of color and a bit more clutter in the left navigation. This can feel a bit overwhelming for first-time users to navigate and locate specific features quickly. 

AI-Augmented Session Replays
SessionStack’s AI-enhanced session replays come complete with time-saving summaries and improvement suggestions.

In the left-hand toolbar of SessionStack’s session replay tool, you’ll find a “Get AI Summary” button. By tapping on this option, the system’s AI assistant will produce a comprehensive summary of the whole session. 

The summary is divided into three segments:

  • The session summary: Provides a brief rundown of the user’s activities throughout the session.
  • Most significant occurrences: Outlines ten major events that transpired during the session.
  • Suggestions for enhancements: Offers insights on how to refine the user experience, based on the session’s events.
SessionStackAI

Hotjar vs Smartlook: User Segmentation

Each tool lets you segment users but Smartlook stands out with its extensive date filter options.

Watching every single session replay isn’t practical in most cases. So, by segmenting users based on their actions and other data, you can derive insights from a larger database of site interactions, without having to look at each separate user recording.

Creating user segments is a simple and intuitive process across all three tools. In addition, they cover most of the common filter options you’ll need to build these segments — for example, user ID, device, browser, operating system, visited URL, session duration, and referrer URL. Since the differences in the tools’ filter options are minimal, picking one over the other is a matter of personal preference.

For example, SessionStack is the only tool with filters for browser version, pricing plan purchased, active time, and dead clicks. 

Similarly, Hotjar’s unique filters include U-turns, Feedback, and Net Promoter Scores. 

Then there’s Smartlookwith unique filters like landing URL, exit URL, number of pages per visit, and the total number of visits. In addition, it has the most extensive date filter by combining key features from Hotjar (i.e. the pre-made date ranges like last 7 days, last 30 days, etc.) and SessionStack (i.e. setting custom date ranges with specific time stamps). 

Hotjar vs Smartlook: Live Sessions & Co-browsing

SessionStack stands out from the pack because of its live sessions and co-browsing features.

SessionStack has a dedicated page where you can see all the online users on your site at any given time. From here, you can join their live sessions at super low latency (less than 1 second), which essentially lets you track user interactions in real time. Additionally, you can also see if the user is no longer active on your site or has gone offline. 

But that’s not all… SessionStack builds on its low-latency live feature with co-browsing — meaning not only do you get to see real-time interactions on your site, but you can directly interact with users via their screen. And guess what? You don’t need to download any external software to make this work. 

NOTE: Co-browsing is not the same as screen sharing — it doesn’t require any third-party installation to work and it only gives you access to the single browser tab where the user has opened your site. You can learn more about this in our article on screen sharing vs co-browsing.

When you activate the co-browsing mode during a live session, you get access to the following tools:

  • A pointer: Highlight screen elements to draw a user’s attention to it.
  • A pen: Draw on a user’s screen to annotate or illustrate a point. 
  • Control takeover: Gain user consent to carry out actions on their behalf.

The combination of live and co-browsing features is perfect for product managers and customer support teams who want to offer real-time, personalized support to users — quickly resolving user issues and improving their experience.

Hotjar vs Smartlook: Error Logs

Hotjar and Smartlook have basic dev tools in session replays, SessionStack takes it a step further with a dedicated error-tracking page.

Hotjar and Smartlook include dev tools features in their session replays, which log all errors recorded during a session. However, finding the errors isn’t straightforward — imagine how tedious it would be to have to watch individual session replays to find them. 

This is why SessionStack has a dedicated error-tracking page for compiling sitewide errors. And the best part? Each error recorded on this page directly links to the specific timestamp of the session replay where it occurred — no time wasted searching for it. 

So if you choose to watch a session replay, it plays automatically and stops right at the mark where the error occurred. This helps you better understand the specific user action that led to the error. From here, you can open the console to get a better understanding of the error details. 

Winner: SessionStack. It has everything for everyone. For example, product and customer support teams would love its pixel-perfect session replays in addition to the live and co-browsing features. Technical teams like developers and engineers will appreciate its dev console and error tracking page.

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: Heatmaps

Hotjar and Smartlook gather page-specific insights, while SessionStack gives you a comprehensive overview of sitewide performance

Hotjar Smartlook SessionStack
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Heatmaps are a visual and quantitative representation of general user behavior on your site. They can be grouped under three main categories: mouse maps show cursor movement patterns, scroll maps show scrolling behavior, and click maps show areas that attract the most clicks.

Smartlook lets you capture clicks, moves, and scrolls for static page elements, while Hotjar has the added functionality of capturing dynamic elements.

Hotjar and Smartlook have very similar features — they both enable you to view all the heatmap types (click, scroll, and move maps), and filter the heatmaps by device type (desktop, tablet, and mobile) and users (all, new, and returning).

However, Hotjar gives you better insights. Unlike Smartlook, it has more filter options, giving you greater control and granularity for refining your analysis and focusing on specific segments or criteria.

While visual heatmaps are great tools for getting a feel of aggregate user behavior, keep in mind that their accuracy is greatly impacted if you’re dealing with sampled data (as is the case with tools like Hotjar) or when analyzing low-traffic websites.

SessionStack’s unique approach to action maps surfaces site-wide elements that get the most attention and cause the most frustration.

Unlike Hotjar and Smartlook, SessionStack doesn’t have visual heatmaps and, as a result, sidesteps the limitations that come with them. Instead, it scans your entire site and highlights the top elements (static and dynamic) that are either performing well or need attention — and groups them into three categories:

  1. Most clicked elements: Elements with the most clicks.
  2. Dead clicks: “Un-clickable” elements that were at least clicked once.
  3. Rage clicks: Elements that received multiple clicks at a go because they didn’t produce an outcome that users expected. 

Similar to Hotjar and Smartlook, you can filter these elements to display more contextual insights using SessionStack’s extensive filter options.

This feature (+ the error tracking page + dev console) makes SessionStack a powerful tool for a wide range of tech teams (developers, engineers, etc.) to quickly identify site errors and user frustrations — so they can prioritize their optimization efforts and achieve the best user experience. 

Verdict: Smartlook is best for analyzing high-traffic sites with little to no dynamic elements, Hotjar is ideal for analyzing multiple user groups on dynamic sites, and SessionStack’s unique approach is perfect for all sites that benefit from quickly resolving user frustrations and proactively maintaining an optimal user experience.

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: Customer Journey Analysis

Hotjar supports funnel comparisons, Smartlook lets you monitor funnel anomalies, but SessionStack’s funnel features give you the most comprehensive insights.

Hotjar Smartlook SessionStack
⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A customer’s journey is the step-by-step path they take while moving through your site (eg. URL visits, clicks on specific elements, etc.)  — and the funnel feature helps you track, visualize, and analyze those journeys.

SessionStack’s insights cover a wide range of scenarios including form analysis and user frustrations.

SessionStack lets you add an unlimited number of steps to your funnel. For each step, you can specify any of these five event types: 

  1. Visited URL,
  2. Clicked element,
  3. User input,
  4. Dead click, and
  5. Rage click.

These event types give you the flexibility to monitor a wide range of scenarios from cart abandonment and form analysis to friction points and user frustrations.

Another recent addition is the ability to display funnels of different user segments. This effectively lets you A/B test how different user groups behave in your funnels based on their segmentation metrics as shown in the screenshot below.

SessionStack also covers key funnel analysis features — these include conversion and drop-off rates, and their linked session recordings to dive deeper into the “why” behind a user’s conversion or drop-off. This is very helpful for an in-depth understanding of user behavior and fine-tuning your conversion funnels to boost conversion rates.

Hotjar has limited funnel creation features but has a unique feature for monitoring funnel performance across multiple user groups.

Unlike SessionStack, Hotjar has limited funnel creation features — you can only choose from three event types for your funnel (viewed page, clicked element, and event) and have a maximum of ten steps in a funnel. 

However, it has a stand-out side-by-side comparison feature which makes it easy to visualize the performance of up to 5 funnels at a glance. This is very helpful for revealing patterns within specific user groups and making targeted optimizations to enhance their experience.

Smartlook’s funnel setup is quite confusing but has a nifty feature for monitoring funnel anomalies.

Smartlook has the key funnel features in SessionStack however, setting up events is not straightforward and may be confusing, especially for new users.

However, it has a unique “anomalies monitoring” feature that notifies you whenever anomalies are detected in your funnels — for example, if there is a sudden spike in conversions or drop-off rates along your funnel. 

While this proactive approach allows you to closely monitor and optimize the user experience, setting it up requires some level of technical expertise.

Verdict: SessionStack excels at creating detailed funnels and identifying user struggles, Hotjar is best for analyzing specific user groups and making targeted optimizations, and Smartlook helps to stay on top of your user experience with a more proactive approach to funnel monitoring and analysis.

Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack: Pros & Cons

Hotjar ProsHotjar Cons
✅ Modern and colorful interface Most features are locked on the free plan
✅ Visual heatmaps Most expensive pricing plans
✅ Extensive heatmap filter options Fails to record all user sessions
✅ Side-by-side funnel comparison featureLimited funnel creation features
✅ Extensive integrations
(Zapier, Mixpanel, Google Analytics and even e-commerce tools like Shopify)
No live sessions and co-browsing features
✅ Survey and customer feedback widgets
Smartlook ProsSmartlook Cons
✅ Has a free plan with 3,000 monthly sessions❌ Records a max of 10 sessions at a time
✅ Has visual click, scroll, and move heatmaps Heatmaps capture only static elements
✅ Unique funnel “anomalies monitoring” feature Funnel creation can be confusing for new users
✅ Features are compatible with mobile apps (Android, iOS, Harmony OS)❌ Key features come at an extra cost 
✅ Integrates with Zapier Doesn’t support live co-browsing sessions
SessionStack ProsSessionStack Cons
✅ Best free plan with all features unlocked❌ Session replay interface doesn’t feel modern
✅ Most budget-friendly pricing plans❌ No visual heatmaps
✅ Lowest learning curve❌ Has no integration with Zapier
✅ Supports live and co-browsing sessions
✅ Dedicated error tracking page
✅ Has the lowest impact on site performance

Final Verdict: Hotjar vs Smartlook vs SessionStack

HotjarSmartlookSessionStack
Best for:
High-traffic site owners who want to understand general behaviors and patterns across multiple user segments.
Best for:
Mobile app developers looking for mobile-compatible features. Digital marketers and CROs looking to optimize conversion rates.
Best for:
Product, customer support, developer, and engineering teams who want to find and resolve issues in real-time for an optimal user experience.

Hotjar’s heatmaps and funnels have extensive filter options which give you granular insights into how to separate user segments navigate and interact with specific elements on your site. Smartlook’s features are compatible with mobile apps and its unique anomalies feature is a helpful tool for proactively maintaining or boosting conversion rates. Last but not least, SessionStack’s advanced session replay, live sessions, co-browsing, and error-tracking features are best for identifying issues app issues or user frustrations and resolving them in real-time. 

Use Hotjar if:

  • You have a high-traffic site.
  • You have a big budget to unlock some key features. 
  • You are looking to uncover high-level insights across multiple user segments. 

Click here to get started with Hotjar!

Use Smartlook if:

  • You use little to no dynamic elements on your site. 
  • You want a tool whose features are compatible with mobile apps.
  • You want to proactively track, maintain or boost conversion rates.

Click here to get started with Smartlook!

Use SessionStack if:

  • You want to keep a watchful eye on on-site errors and quickly resolve them.
  • You want to pinpoint elements across your site that consistently cause user frustrations. 
  • You want to take your customer support experience to the next level by providing real-time support.

Click here to get started with SessionStack!

Need more info before making a final decision? We compared SessionStack and Hotjar to some other great UX analytics solutions to help you find the one for your specific needs. Check them out:

See what SessionStackAI can do for your business