ClickTale has actually been around for awhile. They’ve always had a unique approach to the web analytics tool-space – with their product falling somewhere in the uneasy realm between a classic web analytics tool and a pure Customer Experience Management (CEM) tool like TeaLeaf.
But if their tool has always been a bit hard to classify, it seems to me that they’ve stuck with their vision and concentrated on building out and improving the very features that make their product unique and hard-to-define. The end result is a compelling tool that can usefully serve as an addition and a supplement to the web analytics arsenal.
What makes ClickTale so different?
The key is the approach they take to data collection. Like the vast majority of vendors in the web analytics space, they rely on a tag. But the Clicktale tag is extremely aggressive – it collects everything the client does: every mouse move, hover, scroll and click is tracked. Of course, it doesn’t issue a server call with every mouse move. The tag loads at the end of the page and then starts collecting. It packages up the information and sends it as a set of small, staggered asynchronous calls to ClickTale.
There are three implications to this. First, you’ll lose behavior prior to full page load. Given ClickTale’s functionality, that could be significant and is certainly worth bearing in mind. Second, ClickTale collects a LOT of data. It collects too much data to use (and for them to store) if your site is heavily trafficked. So ClickTale provides an option to sample your site (or the pages it’s deployed on) and track just those sampled sessions. For a pure web analytics package, that would be unacceptable. But as you see the ClickTale product, I think you’ll agree that in the context of their offering it might make perfect sense to aggressively sample your data collection. Finally, all that extra data drives some unique and deeply interesting reporting.
One of the key features of ClickTale is the ability to replay entire sessions. Because the data is captured client-side, you’ll see the session replay in extraordinary detail: where the mouse moved, what it hovered over, and when it clicked.
Here are some screenshots of the replay capability (it’s hard to capture in stills) – the session is shown just like a video:
Does this make ClickTale a much less expensive replacement for TeaLeaf (whose replay capabilities are one of its most important features)? Not really – at least for high-volume sites. ClickTale describe themselves as "Customer Experience Analytics" – and I think that’s a pretty fair way to put it. The product really is a hybrid.
Tealeaf doesn’t provide the level of client-side detail that ClickTale does – but it doesn’t have the limitations, weight and requirements of tagging, and it’s designed to capture and store EVERY session in every case. One of TeaLeaf’s most common use-cases is finding and replaying problem sessions – particularly in a customer support context. That isn’t going to work for you with ClickTale where you’re much more likely to sample.
On the other hand, ClickTale is a much, much easier product to get started with and more suitable to pure analysis. It’s simple and quite inexpensive to implement. So as it’s the kind of product you might get approved to tackle analysis as opposed to CRM or customer-care problems.
When people see session playbacks in TeaLeaf or ClickTale, they tend to be pretty impressed. But when they start to think about how many sessions their site generates, they begin to worry (rightly) about how they are going to use the tool.
ClickTale has implemented some very nice (and some novel) filtering capabilities into the product to make this task a lot more practical:
ClickTale does more than just session replay. They aggregate the user data to create some novel and compelling visualizations. Here’s a mouse move heat map for their own homepage:
The red areas show places where the mouse spent the most time – so you’re not seeing just a click map (though ClickTale provides that as well and the comparison of the two is definitely interesting). The ClickTale folks provided me some studies that tracked eye movement and cursor position. In the studies, there’s a pretty strong correlation in terms of coverage – if the mouse doesn’t travel there, there’s a pretty good chance the eye didn’t either. So in a sense, what you’re seeing with the ClickTale visualizations is an attention map of the user on your page.
But here’s where I think ClickTale has really done something cool. They allow the analyst to filter these heatmaps. The two screens below are the same page sliced for ClickTale Customers (left) and ClickTale Prospects (right):
The customer view is like a thunderstorm hovering over the login button. The Prospect view shows concentrations over the top-nav products and the hero section video – plus a much wider dispersal of eyeballs. If you’ve ever tried to engage customers using a login on a public page this view won’t surprise you – it’s hard to do!
There seem to me to be a host of uses for this type of analysis within the traditional techniques we already use at Semphonic. I presented at eMetrics on Use-Case Analysis – and I think ClickTale’s unique data points might really help us in refining use-cases and analyzing their efficiency. Another common technique we use – real-estate analysis – focuses on how well the page real-estate matches actual use. ClickTale’s heat-map view takes this to a whole other level and answers questions about the relationship between visibility and use in ways that behavioral analysis and simple design heuristics simply won’t.
Another place that I suspect ClickTale’s unique capabilities would be a real asset is common enough that they’ve built an entire module around it – funnel analysis. The screenshot below provides just a taste of what’s a pretty complete and interesting forms analysis.
If you’ve ever used tools like the Omniture Form Abandonment Plug-in, you know that this is an area where traditional web analytics tools don’t excel. We’ve built up a bunch of analytics techniques that ARE appropriate to page-based behavioral Forms analysis (pre-behavior qualification, exit pathing, funnel segmentation) – but aside from aggressive error-tracking we’re often unable to say much interesting about the actual behavior inside the form.
ClickTale’s solution does a pretty nice job of this and the layout of the GUI certainly makes basic funnel analysis a snap. Depending on your interests and volumes, you might even choose to deploy ClickTale ONLY in your form processes.
I’ve always thought the ClickTale product was interesting. But I think the latest version advances the product beyond interesting and toward the neighborhood of compelling. What I’m most impressed by is that ClickTale hasn’t tried to “me-to” their product. They’ve stayed true to their original vision and concentrated on exploiting the advantages their technical approach gives them. They’ve also structured a pricing scheme that makes it fairly painless to try. Since you can control where and how many sessions you collect, you can scale a test to the site areas you’re most interested in and still keep a pretty tight rein on costs.
So this is a tool I’m definitely committed to finding a client for and giving it a try – probably around a lower-volume, high-value site with some funnel or landing page issues. As I said in my last-post on Truviso’s VIA, you never really know how useful a tool is until you try it on a real-world analysis problem. But as with VIA, the latest version of ClickTale makes me think that there should be quite a few companies and quite a few analytics problems where their tool might drive real value.