Blog article

Co-browsing versus screen sharing, what’s the difference?

6 min read
9w ago
Co-browsing versus screen sharing, what’s the difference?

The way businesses engage with customers has changed. Physical experiences have been replaced by virtual equivalents, and traditional “bricks and mortar” environments are disappearing. In-branch banking and high-street shopping are increasingly moving online. Customer service interactions became digitized decades ago, and omnichannel contact centers providing remote support have become the norm. For simple transactional exchanges, this has proven relatively frictionless. However, for more complex engagements there may still be the need for customers and suppliers to communicate and collaborate to achieve the desired outcome.

For sales and support functions, the ability to “see what the customer sees” is incredibly powerful. It elevates every interaction to an experience and delivers a wealth of benefits to customers and agents alike. After all, better communication leads to better outcomes.

Screen-share technology has come a long way, from its origins in the 1980s to the latest generation of collaborative browsing solutions that enable sales and support agents to collaborate with customers in real time. Two of the most prevalent solutions available today are screen sharing and co-browsing, but what is the difference between the two, and what option is the best for customer engagement?

Screen sharing (desktop sharing)

Screen sharing is a technology that allows a user to share their screen with other users in real time. In simple terms, it is a live video stream of the content on your screen. Also known as desktop sharing, screen sharing is used extensively to support remote collaboration, to provide troubleshooting and technical support, for product demonstrations, and in remote learning scenarios. Screen sharing typically requires all parties to have access to a third-party software application to facilitate a session. Popular examples include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, and GoToMeeting. It is technically possible to provide screen sharing without a third party software application, but this faces many of the challenges listed in the table below.

Collaborative browsing (co-browsing)

Co-browsing allows two or more users to navigate and interact within the same web or mobile app. Essentially a shared browser session, co-browsing enables multiple parties to interact with content. Co-browsing is a feature-rich collaboration tool that allows connected parties to simultaneously scroll, click, and type in real time. Co-browsing is used to support a wide range of digital engagements, from real-time guided customer support to e-commerce, online form submission, e-learning, and customer onboarding. It is used extensively by financial services, healthcare, software, online retail, and real estate enterprises to facilitate customer-centric engagements - both in pre-sales and support environments.

Is co-browsing better than screen sharing?

Screen sharing has become increasingly popular for teamwork and collaboration. Both technologies are effective at enhancing customer support engagements, and that’s why you’ll find that top co-browsing solution providers also offer a screen-sharing solution, providing customers with a choice of collaboration tools. However, when it comes to real-time interaction, co-browsing has the edge; enhancing its effectiveness as a sales enablement and customer service tool. Co-browsing comes with a range of value-added features that make it the ideal solution for contact center operators to improve customer experience, enhance agent productivity and deliver secure, compliant services. 

Table 1 below highlights the key benefits of co-browsing over traditional screen sharing.

Feature Co-browsing Screen sharing
Redaction (masking) of sensitive data Yes No
Agent tooling (annotation, highlighting, drawing etc.) Yes Limited
Agent interaction (text type, scroll, button click) Yes No
Seamless integration into existing web and mobile apps Yes No
Flexible session initiation options Yes No
Control over what content is shared Yes Limited
Session takeover (switch between agent and customer) Yes No
Support for sharing third-party websites and content Yes* Yes

*Requires a co-browsing solution with built-in screen share as an option, or “universal co-browsing” which supports 3rd party content whilst maintaining redaction, annotation, and control capabilities.

Co-browsing represents an evolution of the basic functionality provided by screen sharing, elevating the shared experience to something truly interactive, and secure. The addition of agent guidance tools, like annotation, highlighting, and a second cursor, augments vocal guidance and improves customer understanding. For the most challenging cases, co-browsing allows the agent to completely take over the browsing session (with the customer’s permission), scrolling, clicking and typing text where required.

Security is a key point of differentiation for any technology solution, and it is here that co-browsing has a significant advantage over screen sharing. With screen sharing, an agent has access to every piece of information visible on the customer’s screen. There is no option to mask potentially sensitive data, which would also be preserved as part of a session recording. With co-browsing, sensitive data such as financial records or personally identifiable data can be redacted by default, providing a secure and compliant environment. The auditability of session logs in co-browsing also makes dispute resolution straightforward, further aiding compliance.

Better technology, better outcomes

Co-browsing is rapidly becoming the technology of choice for contact center operators that prioritize customer satisfaction and agent performance. The ability to provide real-time human guidance in complex digital scenarios is having a transformative impact on key performance metrics such as first call resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction (CSAT). It is also helping to reduce error rates during online form submission, enhance agent satisfaction and improve sales conversion rates.

The “engage me” nature of co-browsing, rather than a simple “show me” screen share solution also provides longer-term benefits, with improvements in user adoption rates and on-boarding for new products, an increase in product advocacy, a reduction in future support tickets and a positive impact on customer loyalty.

If you would like to see the Cobrowse difference for yourself, you can check out our online demonstration, or contact us to arrange a free trial.


Harness the power of Cobrowse to enable both agents and customers to succeed.