How to Win at Roadmap Optimization: Combining Product Analytics with Session Recordings

How to Win at Roadmap Optimization: Combining Product Analytics with Session Recordings

Elena Doynova

Oct 3, 2023 • 7 min read

How to Win at Roadmap Optimization: Combining Product Analytics with Session Recordings

Product managers often see their roadmaps go straight into oblivion the moment a shiny new thing comes into sight. Even if you take the shiny new thing out of the equation, it can be extremely difficult to hold the reigns of an ambitious product plan tight enough to see it to fruition. And so, desperate PMs across the globe have learned one thing – the more data you have to back your roadmap decisions, the better. The problem is that data collection is often chaotic, and instead of helping you make better decisions, it leads to even more frustration. To tackle this, we propose an ingenious duet of tools to help you stay on track: product analytics and user session recordings.

What’s the role of analytics in product development?

In this crazy digital age that we live in, data plays a central role in understanding user behavior and product performance. To make data as accessible as humanly possible, web and product analytics tools collect, measure, and analyze various types of information related to user interactions, website visits, app usage, and more. 

Ways to capture product usage data 

Analytics tools such as Google Analytics, SessionStack, Mixpanel, or Amplitude enable product teams to track various metrics, including user demographics, behavior flow, bounce rates, conversion rates, and feature usage. These metrics provide a comprehensive understanding of how users interact with your web page or mobile app, which features are popular, and where potential bottlenecks or drop-offs occur.

In the product development lifecycle, decisions need to be based on solid evidence rather than gut feelings. The above-mentioned tools can give you and your team quantifiable data that can support or challenge assumptions about user needs and preferences. 

The result? You can prioritize features based on their impact and alignment with user expectations, leading to more effective product roadmaps with efforts that are focused on addressing the most pressing user needs and pain points.

These quantitative insights are not enough, though. While you can certainly base some of your assumptions on them, you need further validation. And let’s face it – not every product team has the resources to invest in controlled usability testing or the time needed to capture user sentiment via interviews or questionnaires. 

This is where qualitative insights like website session recordings come into play – this unique technology can literally show you where users are stumbling, what elements of the user journey they find frustrating, and where you have untapped potential for quick wins. Let’s see how this magic unfolds…

Take a peek inside the user journey with session recordings

Recording sessions on desktop and mobile apps, when done respectfully, is a clever and unobtrusive way to observe how real users interact with your website. Unlike traditional analytics that provide aggregated data, session recordings put you in the shoes of your users and let you watch individual user journeys, screen interactions, and navigation paths. These recordings capture the essence of how users engage with the product, providing an unfiltered and unbiased perspective of their experiences.

How does session recording work?

Most user session recording tools use a simple code snippet that can be integrated into the product. It captures user actions such as clicks, scrolls, hovers, and interactions with various elements of the interface – along with the whole environment in which these interactions occur. Then, it’s popcorn time! All of the captured user events can be reproduced in a movie-like experience that allows you and your team to dive deep into the why and how of each interaction. This level of granularity helps developers, UX experts, customer success agents, and other stakeholders identify areas of confusion, elements of interest, and potential usability issues.

How does this help you optimize your roadmap, you ask?

The trick with roadmaps is that they tend to wind and sometimes take unexpected turns. To be able to continuously monitor your product’s performance, you need a set of tools that give you visibility inside every corner – from infrastructure to the last user interaction, so you can make data-driven decisions on the fly. After all, the product roadmap you’re building and executing is not a set of rigid features, right?

And there are indeed many offerings for this – a myriad of quantitative analytics products aimed at providing you with a same-but-different set of tools that feed you data, data, and more data. Some of them go the extra mile to digest that data for you in the form of visual dashboards or graphs but is this enough? 

Let’s face it, a time-strapped product manager is unlikely to spend a lot of time staring blankly at dashboards (or, God forbid, spreadsheets), trying to figure out how this translates into the user experience. We know that it becomes part of the process at some point, but what if there was an easier way?

The missing link between quantitative data and actionable user experience insights is called session recording. With traditional analytics tools, you can have the first part of the process – the funnels, the segments, the error-tracking notifications. With session recording tools you can finish off with a real-life scenario and literally see where user frustrations arise.

And that’s how you get to the Aha! moments.

To sum it up, augmenting quantitative data (traditional analytics) with qualitative data (session recordings and session replays) leads to:

  • Seeing and understanding how different UI elements are used: filling out form fields, tracking every mouse movement, scrolling, interacting with dynamic elements such as pop-ups and drop-down menus, etc.
  • Easily understanding user intent that may remain hidden behind stats and graphs
  • Gaining insights into unexpected product usage patterns, pain points, conversion rate optimization efforts, etc.
  • Identifying bugs and friction points with precision instead of assumptions
  • Validating each product iteration with visual data to fuel the next step on the roadmap
  • Enhancing usability testing and QA in-house
Quantitative and qualitative insights

How do you implement session recordings into your product management routine?

We mentioned it before, and we’ll say it again – even the largest dataset will be useless if you can’t spot the gold nuggets within. In a reasonable amount of time, that is. We bet you already have a mile-high stack of analytics (kudos if you’ve kept it lean, though). But which are the ones you use most often? 

Some use out-of-the-box solutions like Amplitude, Pendo, or Mixpanel. Others prefer in-house solutions. But at some point in a product’s development, analytics becomes a hot topic because no one solution is perfect. So you have to split your attention – and we all know that this isn’t a best-case scenario because it’s more time-consuming and there’s always the risk of compromising data integrity when combining several data sources.

We created SessionStack to tackle exactly this issue – how to combine all the necessary data points you might need for your product team on a daily basis. Starting from a developer-oriented session recording software, SessionStack progressed to also cover the basic analytics needs of product managers (and even beyond).

Granular segmentation, in-depth funnels, frustration signals, and website trends charts are cleverly combined to help you do the first part of the analytics process and nail down the problems along with specific problematic sessions. Then, with the help of a pixel-perfect session replay, you can verify your findings with context. To top it off, our built-in AI capability will give you hot insights and tips on how to improve the user journey. That’s it – you now have everything you need to get stakeholder buy-in and build a roadmap that moves your product forward.

How to overcome roadblocks with session recording

Tackling development roadblocks efficiently can make or break a product in the long run. This means not only overcoming the roadblock at any cost but doing it cost-effectively, without putting a rod in other cogs and wheels. 

Session recording can help you…

  • refine your roadmap
  • prioritize features based on their impact on user experience and business goals
  • improve time-to-market and product success
  • improve the product continuously with data-backed iterations

Cross-functional collaboration: help everyone stay on the same road

Lack of clear communication between stakeholders is one of the key reasons roadmaps fail, so collaborative decision-making is pivotal in product development. Not only because it’s better to back every step of the roadmap with hard cold facts, but because you have to move fast. Real-time analytics is your best friend, and what’s better than a mix of real-time quantitative and qualitative data? 

Truth is, qualitative data like NPS surveys take time to build up so session recordings come to the rescue – it’s one of the few qualitative data sources that can be used right out of the box. Some session recording solutions even allow you to view sessions as they’re happening (SessionStack also allows you to step in and assist the user in real time!). 

But one of the most important tasks in product management that can be augmented by session recording is communication. Recordings can be shared with various stakeholders within the company to assist in a myriad of tasks – bug resolution, customer support and success, sales, marketing, and many more. Product managers who value cross-functional collaboration (we hope all do!) will find that a simple session replay can not only answer complex product usage questions but also assist in getting buy-in from the C-level suite when designing new steps for the roadmap.

Product Analytics Tools Use Cases

Session recordings serve as visual evidence of user experiences, making it easier for you to communicate findings to stakeholders. These recordings offer a shared perspective in the context of the living product that fosters collaboration among designers, developers, and other team members. And

To put it in a nutshell…

Session recordings bring an unparalleled depth of understanding to user behavior and experiences. By complementing traditional analytics and research methods, they empower product teams to identify pain points, uncover user intent, and validate assumptions. The insights from session recordings enable product teams to make well-informed decisions, optimize their roadmap, and create exceptional user experiences that increase conversion – directly impacting the business’ bottom line.

See what SessionStackAI can do for your business