WhatsApp Web: how to use WhatsApp on a desktop

WhatsApp Web enables you to chat with customers and colleagues on a web browser. We explain its features and benefits, and describe the set up process.

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Messaging apps are integral to the smooth operation of a company, and using WhatsApp for business purposes has become increasingly popular.

While WhatsApp makes it simple for businesses to connect directly with customers, it can be fiddly to centre this connection around using a smartphone – and that’s where WhatsApp Web comes into play.

This article will look at what WhatsApp Web is, how it is beneficial for businesses, and how to set it up and use it on your desktop devices.

What is WhatsApp Web?

WhatsApp Web is a version of WhatsApp that runs on a browser, offering the features of the mobile app – like sending and receiving messages, photos, videos and documents – all via a computer.

WhatsApp Web works by syncing with WhatsApp on your mobile device, meaning messages and other assets can be viewed on both devices. Importantly, chat history is synced across both devices, meaning it’s easy to switch devices in the middle of a conversation.

As with WhatsApp’s mobile app, all conversations on WhatsApp Web are end-to-end encrypted.

Is WhatsApp Web the same as WhatsApp’s Desktop app?

Whatsapp Web is different to the WhatsApp Desktop app. WhatsApp Web is run on a browser, while the desktop app is downloaded to your computer.

The WhatsApp Desktop app has a few extra features that WhatsApp Web doesn’t – most notably voice calls.

Not all small businesses offer customer service calls via WhatsApp, instead focusing on typed messages to communicate – but if voice calls are integral to your operation, then the WhatsApp Desktop app would be a better fit for you.

What are WhatsApp Web’s key features?

When interacting with customers, it can be fiddly to dip in and out of multiple conversations when working solely from a smartphone. WhatsApp Web allows businesses to use the messaging app on a bigger screen, offering clearer navigation for customer service teams.

WhatsApp Web offers almost all of the same features as the mobile app, including:

  • Sending and receiving messages, files, videos, and images up to 100MB
  • Creating groups with a maximum of 256 people
  • Privacy control and reporting capabilities – like if you receive inappropriate messages
  • End-to-end encryption

The features the browser version of WhatsApp doesn’t have are voice calls, desktop notifications, voice note capability, and the ability to change themes or turn on dark mode.

Read more: best practice for using WhatsApp in the workplace

What are the benefits of using WhatsApp Web?

You can set up WhatsApp Web to use with your WhatsApp Business account. WhatsApp Web allows you to use up to four linked devices and one phone at a time, while a WhatsApp Business API account has unlimited connections.

The former could be a good fit for small businesses but, as your operation grows, it could be worth looking into WhatsApp Business API to alleviate customer service responsibilities from just a handful of employees.

Other key benefits of WhatsApp Web include:

  • Larger screen visibility than on a smartphone
  • Prevents employees from using expensive data via their smartphones
  • Conversations sync across your devices, meaning you don’t have to pick up your phone as often (and get distracted)
  • Quick access and easier multi-tasking within a browser
  • Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are especially useful for businesses that receive lots of customer messages – they enable fast and efficient replying, ensuring your customer isn’t waiting too long to hear back from you.

Here are a few to note:

Keyboard shortcutFunctionality
Ctrl + ESearch contacts
Ctrl + NCreate a new chat
Ctrl + Shift + ]Next chat
Ctrl + Shift + [Previous chat
Did you know?

WhatsApp Business API allows customer service teams to manage multiple communication platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

How do I set up WhatsApp Web?

It’s really simple to set up WhatsApp Web. Here are the five easy steps to follow:

  1. Open WhatsApp Web on the device you want to link, such as your laptop or desktop computer
  2. Open WhatsApp on your smartphone
  3. Go to the settings on your smartphone app and tap ‘Link a device’
  4. Unlock your smartphone to verify that it’s you
  5. Using your smartphone, scan the QR code displayed on the device you are linking

Occasionally, your devices may unlink – if this happens, simply follow the above steps again.

For optimal WhatsApp security, you can add a password to WhatsApp Web. This is an easy additional step that will keep your customer data that extra bit safe.

Here’s how to add a password:

  1. In WhatsApp Web, select the three-dot menu and tap ‘Settings’
  2. Then select ‘Privacy’ and then scroll down to tap ‘Screen Lock’
  3. When prompted enter and confirm your chosen password, and click ‘OK’

Final thoughts

Quick communication is the key to customers’ hearts, and utilising platforms like WhatsApp Web is a simple and efficient way of doing this. With larger screens to navigate between conversations and multi-device access, it’s a great springboard for your small business as it builds up a happy and loyal customer base.

Mid shot of Kirstie Pickering freelance journalist.
Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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