How Pendo’s growth team used Session Replay to increase retention and drive higher quality installs

Published Nov 13, 2023
As any product manager will tell you, understanding user behavior and trends is key to knowing what to build and prioritize.

Customer feedback (surveys, forums, and support/sales channels) is a great place to start to find clues, helping to formalize a hypothesis/question you’d like to investigate further. Product analytics (such as track events, page views, and feature clicks) brings you to the next step—with observed behavior at scale that helps you to find trends and patterns to formulate conclusions. 

While both of these channels are great for investigating user behavior, they can’t explain why users are behaving a certain way. Analytical data will tell us if a user clicked a button. But why? What were they trying to accomplish, and what were they experiencing within the app that motivated them to click? A page view might give us some clues at a broad level, but not the details. Conducting a customer interview will get you some of the way there, but this often comes with biases around what the customer can remember or is willing to tell you. 

So, how can you get an unbiased understanding of how users are actually engaging with your product? Enter: Session Replay


What is Session Replay?

Session Replay allows you to watch video playbacks of users as they navigate your app—following their mouse movements, clicks, and text field engagement. Session Replay captures all user behavior* and scenarios of interest, so you can better refine your conclusions about the data you receive from Pendo within Analytics and In-app Guides.

*Note: Pendo Session Replay offers three, out-of-the-box privacy settings ranging from max coverage (all text and data is masked) to minimal coverage (masking only critical PII such as passwords, names, etc.). These settings are also fully customizable so you can guarantee that your customer’s information remains as private as you need it to be.

Traditional session replay software has been around for a while, but has historically been cumbersome to use. Most solutions require you to watch countless hours of recordings in the hopes of catching a user in a scenario related to the question you’re investigating. 

But with Pendo Session Replay, you get the power of Pendo’s platform to focus and accelerate your analysis. Specifically, you can filter recordings by any data in Pendo including:

  • Page viewed
  • Feature clicked
  • Track Event
  • Segment
  • Guide seen
  • Poll answer chosen

By filtering with Pendo’s data, you get a curated list of replays, specific to the users and moments of interest. Pair that with data analysis tools in Pendo such as Data Explorer, and get a complete picture to answer your question—without ever leaving Pendo.

Let’s take a closer look at a recent example of how my team leveraged the power of Session Replay, here at Pendo. 


Using Session Replay to optimize our freemium installation process

As a growth product manager, I work primarily on Pendo’s freemium audience. I focus on optimizing the end user experience to improve time to value from registration to retention and, eventually, product-led conversions. Since the freemium audience has limited access to human-led interactions from our sales and support teams, it can be difficult for me to get consistent qualitative data from this audience. 

The challenge

One major hurdle we face in freemium is getting users to install. This probably sounds very familiar to anyone responsible for products that require installation—because installation requires a customer to commit time and energy before realizing its full value. That’s asking a lot of prospects! While installing Pendo is not exceptionally difficult for most use cases, any installation process has nuances that can potentially cause frustration. Though strong documentation can ease self-serve installation, delivering the right document at the right time can be a challenge.

How we used Session Replay

To investigate this problem, we turned to Session Replay. Using Session Replay’s powerful filtering capabilities, it was really easy for us to find replays of users who:

  • Visited our main install page—which users are routed to very early in the onboarding flow 
  • Were in the freemium segment

Hint: Short on time? Use the event log, which timestamps every event captured within the replay, so you can jump to the moments that matter most. You can also set replays to play at up to 4x speed and automatically skip idle moments, so you’re able to scale your understanding of how users engage with your app. 

We observed a few things:

  • Most users seemed to want to explore Pendo’s value before committing to an installation. These users skipped the install screen to explore Pendo features and upgrade options.
  • With Session Replay, we could see where users hovered their mouse as they explored. This gave us hints about where their eyes were focused in our main navigation, telling us which features they seemed most interested in even—if they ultimately decided not to click into those features.
  • When viewing upgrade options and the plan comparison table, we saw which rows attracted the most mouse activity, as users highlighted specific rows of interest. Users visiting upgrade options implies that they need to see their future with Pendo before committing. While Pendo Free provides a lot of value on its own, users want to know what their graduation paths might look like when it comes time to upgrade.
  • Those that spent time with installation were seen highlighting and re-highlighting content. They also switched back and forth between documents rapidly. This seems to imply that our documentation might not be organized well, and too many resources are provided at once, leading the user to become overwhelmed.

The changes we made, thanks to insights from Session Replay

Given our observations, we made some key changes to the freemium installation process:

  • We removed the install page block, allowing users to explore Pendo freely. At the same time, we created an onboarding homepage, emphasizing the importance of installing whenever users are ready.
  • We created a flow where users could see upgrade options immediately upon registration—especially if they already showed a propensity to buy while on our marketing website.
  • We reorganized our documentation to only show one overview page, which then linked out to more detailed documents based on where the user was in their installation journey. 


The business value of Session Replay

With these changes, we saw a significant increase in 2-week retention and higher-quality installs. While installing allows users to see the full value of Pendo—helping them realize value before installation seemed to resonate even better. 

Additionally, giving users the ability to install later (when they are more ready to commit), increases their likelihood of staying post-installation. Without Session Replay, we would have spent a lot of time and effort uncovering all these insights in the pursuit of delivering better user experiences and PLG outcomes. Thankfully, Session Replay gave us a stronger understanding of how our users prefer to spend their time, which in turn gave us the direction we needed to change the product experience to deliver real impact.


Want to see what you can uncover about your user behavior with Session Replay? Get in touch for your personalized demo.