Ready, Set, Replay: Here’s How to Use Mobile App Session Replay for Growth

Ready, Set, Replay: Here’s How to Use Mobile App Session Replay for Growth

Elena Doynova

Oct 9, 2023 • 10 min read

Ready, Set, Replay: How to Use Mobile App Session Replay for Growth

Do you know what people do to enter the “drop-off” bucket in your product funnels? Guesswork doesn’t cut it if you want to address the issue head-on and stop the leak. Well aware of this fact, you frantically begin the guessing game… And waste precious time failing to understand what happened. This is especially true for mobile applications because there are a lot more unknowns when we’re dealing with a mobile context – a desktop environment holds a bit of stability, one might argue. So, how do you make sure you don’t lose people along the way? Session replay is one solution that many companies are currently using to view the entire user journey with pixel-perfect detail – removing (almost) all uncertainties. Let’s discuss what app session replay can do for your business during the activation, engagement, and conversion stages of the product journey.

Mobile App Session Replay: The Basics

Мobile app session replay tools are becoming an indispensable part of the tech stack of various roles: app developers, marketers, and product managers can now easily measure and visualize how users interact with their applications. You can imagine how much this technology can deepen the collaboration between various teams and team members. But how does it work?

This is how it works…

Mobile App Session Replay is the process of recording and replaying user interactions and behaviors within a mobile application. Think of it as a digital record and playback of a user’s journey through the app, showcasing every tap, swipe, scroll, and form filled (sensitive data can be masked). This recording captures not only the visible interactions but also the subtleties like hesitation (that scroll up and down seems strange?), navigation flow (moving from A to Z, backward, or it’s a tangled mess of letters), and the time spent on different screens.

In general, frustration signals such as rage taps and dead taps are no bueno, but there are also other frustrating things you might miss if you don’t watch replays regularly. For example, you can see the ways in which content shift affects the user experience, how smooth your navigation elements are, are there any assets that don’t load fully when the connection/technology is not the best, etc. Things that don’t seem such a big deal on desktop can be nightmarish on mobile devices.

To help you spot these usability issues, session recording goes beyond conventional analytics data such as clicks and pageviews. It offers a broader view of user experience by providing visual, step-by-step insights into the user journey. You can literally see how users navigate through menus, interact with buttons, engage with content, and even encounter errors or interruptions. This level of granularity will give you the power to understand user behavior from a user-centric perspective.

So, let’s ditch the assumptions, shall we?

Future-proof your product strategy… Or suffer the consequences.

In the (very) near future, UX will make or break your product. So you need to start building great experiences today.

The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ holds especially true in the world of mobile app analytics. Traditional data analytics often rely on numerical metrics and charts (quantitative data), which sometimes only skim the surface of product performance. What they lack is context.

Here’s where a mobile app session replay tool comes to the rescue. By visualizing user sessions, you get a qualitative layer of understanding that complements quantitative data. This visualization helps you witness the user journey as if you were peering over the user’s shoulder (we promise it’s not as creepy as it sounds). Such visual context can reveal the ‘why’ behind the numbers, serving you deeper insights into user motivations, pain points, and preferences on a silver platter.

Comprehensive Insights = Enhanced Decision-Making

Mapping the Optimal User Journey with Digital Experience Insights

The fusion of visual and behavioral data provided by a traditional web/product analytics tool (like Google Analytics or Amplitude) and session replays gives you a very substantial stepping stone when making strategic decisions. As mentioned, instead of making assumptions based on abstract data points (industry benchmarks or aggregated research), you can:

  1. start with segmentation and funnel analysis (the quantitative part)…
  2. then witness firsthand how users engage with your newest feature, identify where they drop off or get stuck during checkout, or pinpoint the moments of frustration where rage clicks become missed revenue opportunities.

From refining onboarding processes to optimizing conversion paths, session replay fosters a user-centric mindset, ensuring that your app evolves in alignment with real user needs and expectations. 

Now, let’s explore how mobile app session replay can be used to enhance activation, engagement, adoption, and conversion – the four pivotal stages that define the success of a mobile app (or its demise).

Activation: Making a Strong First Impression

Product launch analytics that drive growth

Activation is the crucial step when an app either captivates its users or lets them slip away. It marks the initiation of user engagement, and app session replays can offer insightful tools to make this crucial interaction better suited to each user. 

But what exactly is activation?

Some think of it as the first contact between a mobile app and its user – think of it as the first open after you’ve downloaded the app. We tend to think of it in a more specific way. To us, activation is the moment when the user first experiences the value of your app. That is when they first interact with your core features to reach their Aha! moment. Time to value is an important metric to track during this stage.

Onboarding Hiccups & How to Avoid Them

The beginning of every app journey often involves an onboarding process, a phase that can either hook up users or make them de-install the app immediately. Watching sessions comes into play (no pun intended), providing an analytical lens through which you and your team can observe what happens – tap by tap. It reveals instances where users get confused, hit roadblocks, or hesitate about moving forward. Noticing these patterns, you can spot the biggest bottlenecks and optimize the onboarding experience.


The first thing you need to do is define your activation event – for us at SessionStack, it’s the implementation of a custom script snippet. For a mobile application, you can use a funnel like the following:

App download/installation > app open > core feature use

Depending on your app’s primary function, you can set a specific set of activation criteria that need to be completed. For example, using the core app feature two days in a row. When your users manage to fulfill the criteria on their own, that’s a sign of a great UX. But sometimes they need a bit of a push, and an onboarding sequence might be in order. You can integrate the onboarding within the product itself as a series of educational screens upon first open, or some subtle cues in the form of tooltips. You can also use an email onboarding sequence (this is the better option if you need to communicate more complex UIs).

Keep the Iterations Flowing

Making a great first impression is a journey, not a one-off endeavor. People change, and so does how they use apps. Session replays can be your backstage pass to see what’s working and what’s not at any given moment, even in real time. Did that last tweak you did lead to smoother sailing? Awesome! If not, it’s a valuable lesson – you’ll see exactly where the new approach fails. This constant fine-tuning not only helps you better greet your new users but also attunes you to their needs in the long run.

Engagement: Get Them to Stick Around

Mobile App User Segmentation Metrics

It’s not just about getting users to download and open the app; it’s about keeping them hooked and coming back for more. In this context, mobile app session replay software can help you dissect user interactions and optimize their experience to boost engagement. But first…

Adoption vs Engagement

Again in the land of “What does the term mean?” discussions, let’s differentiate adoption and engagement. While they are similar in nature, adoption is used to define which features users have engaged with in a specific way (for example – used feature X more than 2 times in the last week). That is, they have found the value in the feature (or the product) and they are now considered to be consistently engaging with it. 

You can define this by setting a framework of product metrics to monitor: stickiness, customer engagement score, and product engagement score to name a few.

User Retention Potion

Engagement isn’t a one-time affair; it’s the art of nurturing a continuous connection between users and your app. It’s what keeps users intrigued, invested, and ultimately leads to their sustained loyalty (which translates to revenue for your business). It’s a key player in the world of user retention – the holy grail for any app aiming to thrive over the long term. A kind of magic potion, so to speak.

Session Replay & Engagement

You can read the data – what are the most used parts of your app (both in terms of engagement time and activity). But do you know what’s the reason behind that? With a simple set of targeted session replays, you can see why users spend so much time on specific features – and it might not be what you think it is. Yes, it might be that they enjoy the specific area and find value in it, but it may also mean they get stuck at some point and spend a lot of time trying to resolve the issue to move forward. Assumptions can be dangerous when you don’t have context. This leads us to…


Perhaps there’s a screen users linger on, or a button they seem unsure about. Then they drop off and never return, becoming a part of the “deleted app” cohort. Knowing what happened exactly before people lost interest in your app (or outright hated it) is crucial, as it helps you address the issues and reduce churn. Every user matters, right?

How to use app session replay to boost engagement?

To sum it up, here are a few ideas…

  1. Identify which features garner the most attention during presentations and demos and strategize to amplify their impact: broaden the scope of specific features, introduce complementary features, improve feature usage by implementing tooltips or other types of guidance.
  2. Measure the retention in a specific period of time (3 days, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, etc.), then delve deeper into the reasons behind the change in the numbers over time. Watching the sessions of users who have been active for the periods you specify can help you understand which features are driving the most engagement, identify complementary features, or identify issues – like errors or glitchy UI elements.
  3. Pinpoint specific moments of disengagement to address the underlying issues and reduce churn: fix the bugs, simplify convoluted UX, enhance navigation, and remove unused features to streamline the experience.


Start with measuring Daily Active Users per feature (or, depending on your app’s specific usage patterns – weekly or monthly active users). This retention metric is a gold standard when it comes to apps, and is widely used to compare performance across industries, so you will be able to get a baseline and compare your app’s rates to it. When available, using Customer Satisfaction Scores by feature will also serve as a good indicator of the performance of specific features. Armed with that granular knowledge, focus on watching segmented session replays to spot the exact moments when users disengage.

Conversion: From Users to Customers

Product Adoption Stage Definition

Ah, conversion. This is the phase where users transition from window shoppers (or free trial users) to paying customers. The world has changed a lot over the past decades, and paying for something on (and with) your smartphone is currently considered standard practice in many countries. But there are some subtle differences between making a purchase or subscribing to a service in a physical store or on your computer and the same act on a phone. User flows differ and pitfalls differ. You can explore these differences to aid your conversion optimization efforts – let’s jump in!

Upgrade Your Conversion Analysis 

Imagine having a backstage pass to see what’s going on in users’ minds right before they hit that Buy Now button (or Subscribe Now, you get the point). Or perhaps you want to see what happened when they didn’g hit it? You’ve already done the tedious work of exploring the necessary user segments and funnels, no what?

Mobile app session replay software is here to help you observe every move leading up (or not) to a conversion. You can see which screens the users visits, what features they interact with, and where they make the crucial decision of whether to convert or not. 

Conversion Roadblocks Be Gone

You’re looking for the tricky spots where users change their minds – maybe they abandon their shopping cart or hesitate on the payment screen? Right, but you need to dive deeper. Hold your breath and follow their moves to pinpoint the exact friction point. Or maybe it wasn’t a single point of failure – but rather a chain of frustrations that led to the final drop-off?

Whatever the case, you will have all the information needed to move forward with your optimization efforts. What’s more, you’ll be able to investigate users in their natural habitat and take a look at all the unexpected ways they reach the conversion goals you set – unexpected behaviors can give you an idea about the overall usability of the product, or even new features that you’re currently missing.


If you find that your users are struggling to convert, first assess your value proposition and whether you’re not giving away too much for free (if you operate with a free trial or freemium plan). You can easily use the metrics in the previous section to measure this – if your users are active and engaged but not converting, they are probably getting enough as is without paying.

If they use the freemium or free trial actively but don’t convert, you need to investigate further. Session recordings can show you what their experience looks like after the trial has ended and where they drop off. To prevent that, you can try to incorporate little reminders across the journey – such as push notifications or in-app notifications prompting them to convert (and even offering an enticing promo).

Now you’re ready to back up your product roadmap with something more than blind hunches. 

To get more ideas about conversion rate optimization, check this guide 👉

Like a Pro: Cross-functional Collaboration

Roles that can use AI analytics

One thing that many PMs would do is watch the replays alone. While sometimes the situation is unambiguous and this will be enough, there may be times when your teammates will have radically different than yours and it will be extremely important to investigate a few different paths and solutions. Sharing session recordings is easy and people from the whole product team can take advantage of inspecting a few now and then. It’s easy to become detached from the actual product usage and this practice can bring you quickly to the ground (and to your real users’ needs). What’s more, executive-level buy-in can be much easier than you think if you are armed with solid visual evidence of the issues that need addressing…

To put it in a nutshell…

Mobile apps are much more than a collection of screens and buttons – they can be a whole universe of customer experiences. And this universe might be full of delights or horrors. To make sure you are in the land of delights, app session replays can guide you to discover how to facilitate activation, boost engagement and ramp up conversions.

Of course, one of the most important parts is to keep trying – for every optimization you make, there are three more waiting to be discovered. So keep watching.

See what SessionStackAI can do for your business