What is an e-signature and how can it help your business?

Written by Timothy Ware

An e-signature is a secure digital imprint used to agree to the terms of a digital contract. Much like your standard “wet” signature, it is used in many different situations for many different reasons. The answer to “what is an e-signature” changes depending on the business or department, but ultimately the answer boils down to “a better way to do business.”

In a business, signatures are necessary for many different basic documents, including documents like NDAs or equipment loaning agreements, and these can take up substantial resources to deal with. e-signatures can simplify your business, reduce costs, and improve productivity.

To see how SignTime’s e-signature and digital contract service will improve your business, sign up for a free trial now.

What is an e-signature?

In many cases, an e-signature is an inserted symbol (or inserted image of your actual signature, a stylized font, a seal, etc.) that is used to enter into legal agreements digitally. Because most countries around the world view them as legally binding, you can do business internationally using e-signatures.

This makes things much easier (and cheaper) than needing to courier documents, have them signed, and then getting them back for approval—or worse the print-sign-scan-send cycle.

SignTime is ready to simplify your business.

How can e-signatures help your business?

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is an e-signature,” the next thing to talk about is how e-signatures can help your business. Many companies can be nervous about changing the way that they operate. However, there is a fine line between being cautious and being left behind, and not changing the way you do business while the world does is just as risky as trying something new. Here, I’ll go over several ways that e-signatures will positively affect your business.

If you want more information on what e-signatures mean for your business, we have an informative article on the subject.

In a nutshell, e-signatures are one of the simplest digital solutions to achieve a more efficient and effective company. Because they have such far reaching impacts, they can improve multiple departments in very different ways.

They’re legally binding

The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA), passed in the USA in 1999, provides the necessary legal framework for the use of e-signatures. The next year, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act was passed. These two laws made e-signatures legally valid and enforceable and created acceptance of their use.

Many countries around the world have also implemented similar frameworks, making e-signatures a simple, reliable, and enforceable way of doing business globally.

The ability to ensure that your contracts are valid when doing business internationally, but without needing to worry about expensive international courier services to send paper contracts around the world, has greatly simplified how we do business overseas.

 

e-signatures lead to better customer service

People want good and reliable service. They also want efficiency and a quick turnaround. Using a high-quality e-signature service solution will simplify the entire signing process, from drafting to storage.

Because documents can be changed and updated on the fly, documents won’t fall into a “black hole” and be forgotten. Remember that unhappy customers can have a disproportionate negative impact on your business, and telling a customer “we forgot about your contract” is never going to make them happy.

These digital contracts can be easily tracked, and you can use powerful e-signature tools to set reminders and updates.

Clients can also provide feedback about a contract immediately so that the contract can be updated and signed in minutes instead of the weeks it might take to redraft a paper contract and then send it to another country.

Customers who have a pleasant and efficient experience are more likely to continue to do business with a company in the future.

e-signatures shorten the sales cycle

Without the need to sign, scan, mail, print, or wait for documents to be delivered, your sales team is empowered to close deals faster and more effectively. Your team can make corrections and changes to documents in the moment, without the need to find a printer or a scanner.

With SignTime’s services, adding dates and names, initialing, and agreeing to the terms of a contract is as simple as tapping your smartphone’s screen. 

Customers appreciate not needing to wait for a long time to receive files. When they receive a document only to need to print it, sign it, and then scan it again to return it, it increases the likelihood that they’ll put off the task. Say goodbye to the tedious print-sign-scan-send cycle, and your sales team will thank you.

When your sales team can spend more time closing sales and less time chasing documents, you will empower them to increase their sales.

They make HR jobs easier

The HR department is responsible for a lot of different jobs in your business.

Many of the jobs they do require coordination between different departments and getting documents signed. NDAs require signatures from new employees, and finalizing contracts may require signatures from several different parties.

e-signatures present a valuable opportunity to streamline several processes. With a couple of clicks, you can send documents that need to be signed to hundreds of employees at a time, track them, and get them back moments later. This would have been impossible a few years ago with pen-and-paper documents.

This efficiency will let your HR team focus on other more important projects.

e-signatures can improve your operations

The ability to digitize, simplify, and automate many elements of your business operation achieves two major goals. The first is that they remove the barriers caused by analog systems. Before, you might have needed to print a document, mail it for a signature, wait for it to be returned, get it checked, and then store it in a filing cabinet. Now, the whole process can be done more safely in a couple of hours.

The ability to tag your files digitally means that you can always find what you’re looking for right away. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at your desk or going into a client’s office. The files are always at your fingertips.

e-signatures are environmentally friendly

As companies position themselves to be more environmentally friendly, e-signatures can help. e-signature services allow you to digitize your files and to remove paper waste.

Paper documents generate a great deal of waste. Imagine printing off 100 copies of a 30-page document that has mistakes in it. Using SignTime’s services makes correcting files on the fly easy, and you’ll never need to reprint the same file because of a spelling mistake.

No paper. No ink. No waste.

Your company will be more environmentally friendly from the first day that you start using an e-signature service. They can be your company’s cornerstone to establishing a more sustainable and green business practice.

This is becoming increasingly important to businesses. You don’t want to lose a major sales deal because you are seen as inefficient.

They will save you money

The bottom line is that a company can only really survive if it generates profit. Part of how you can generate greater profit is by reducing your costs.

These costs come in many different forms, and they can include things like supplies ( ink, paper, printers, scanners, filing cabinets, staples, paperclips, etc.) and time (how long your salesperson needs to wait for a document, the time it takes to print off 50 copies of a file, etc.). An e-signature service can easily help to reduce both of these significantly.

With less wasted time, your sales team can close more sales. With less supplies needed, your company spends less money purchasing equipment and goods. Your company can see savings in many different departments, from HR to legal to sales, and these can add up to very significant savings—thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year for a medium-sized company.

e-signatures vs digital contracts: are they the same thing?

Both e-signatures and digital contracts are complementary parts of the same process. The digital contract is a contract that has been drafted, signed, and stored digitally, while the e-signature is the way in which you confirm that you agree to the terms of the digital contract. In many ways, they are the evolution of the traditional “pen-and-paper” agreement.

Because of modern legislation, e-signatures and digital contracts usually have the same legal standing as traditional contracts so using your e-signature to sign a document is just as valid as a “wet” signature.

e-signatures vs digital signatures: what’s the difference?

Sometimes products have similar names but aren’t the same. In many cases, when people use “e-signatures” and “digital signatures” they are referring to the same thing—signing a contract in a digital way.

However, they are technically referring to different things. e-signatures are used to affirm agreement to a document. While there are laws stating their equivalence to handwritten signatures, each e-signing doesn’t require any certification.

A digital signature, conversely, is a security code implanted in a document to prevent counterfeiting. True digital signatures require registration and certification. These kinds of signatures are usually an embedded “fingerprint” of sorts that allows verification of the authenticity of the document.

A common form of e-signature that you have probably already used is the “agree” button on the terms of service of a product.

An important thing to remember is that many people and companies will use these terms interchangeably, so it is very important to ensure that you have a clear and transparent explanation of what a service offers. SignTime uses the term e-signature to reduce the chance of confusion.

Scanned digital signatures vs e-signatures

Some people want to use their own handwritten signature in online documents. This can be done by putting your signature on a piece of paper and then saving it in a digital format (PDFs are quite common). Creating this scanned signature allows you to use your own signature instead of one that is stylized or provided.

These scanned digital signatures are a type of e-signature that can be used to quickly sign agreements, NDAs, or employment agreements.

While using SignTime these signatures can have embedded security added, simply copying and pasting the e-signature into pdf files might not be as secure. It’ll also prevent a lot of the added features of a digital contract service. For example, there is no confirmation email generated that the contract has been signed, and there is no tagging function to allow finding the document quickly at a later date

Online contracts vs digital contracts: are they the same?

Unlike the differences that can exist with e-signatures and digital contracts, very little difference exists with the online contracts vs digital contracts question.

The difference between the two terms is generally about a point of view. The term online contract focuses more on the fact that these contracts are handled on the Internet, whereas the term digital contract emphasizes the paperless nature of the contract.

In SignTime’s case, we opt to use the term “digital contract” and we view signing documents as only one part of the full contract lifecycle. Templating, mass sending, and the easy to search contract repository are all just as valuable as the e-signature function.

Things that you need to know about signing digital contracts

First, the most important thing to know is that there are lots of different kinds of services that can help you accomplish your goals. Some of these services only allow you to place an e-signature on a document, while others like SignTime are more of a full digital contract solution. To learn more about digital contracts and how they can impact your business, we go into greater detail on this in another article.

Having transparent services and pricing is important

Another thing that is important to know is just how radically e-signatures and digital contract services can impact your business. By automating tasks and greatly increasing the speed at which they can be finished, digital contracts can save your company money while freeing up your staff so that they can focus on other important issues.

Digital contracts make signing easy

While simple contracts like NDAs and equipment loan forms can take up a lot of time, they don’t have to. e-signatures make finalizing these documents a snap, and the turnaround time can be mere moments.

Digital documents can remove a lot of complications from the signing process. With the ability to control fields on a contract, you can make changes to the date, initial, sign, etc. fields in seconds. With so much flexibility, you’ll never waste time needing to redraft and print out whole contracts because of an incorrect name or the wrong date.

Who benefits from digital contracts anyways?

While you might feel like only the signatories benefit from digital contracts, this isn’t really the case. Because of how many different parties need to use contracts (from legal departments, to HR departments, sales teams, and customers), the benefits from digital contracts can be felt far and wide.

Here are a few examples of parties that benefit:

  • Authorized signatories
  • Sales departments
  • Counterparties
  • New employees in your company
  • And many more

Take a look at what a Japanese HR management consulting firm had to say about SignTime’s e-signature services.

The bottom line

Incorporating powerful tools like e-signatures and digital contract services into your business can address existing issues affecting your business. We go into further details on how e-signatures can impact your business in another article, but we provide a brief summary of it here.

 

Contracts that used to take weeks to finalize can be done in hours

Contracts needing to be updated, reprinted, and sent out can be fixed with a few taps of your smartphone or a couple of mouse clicks.

The money that you spend on paper, couriers and ink will stay in your pocket

When you give your staff the tools they need to close deals more effectively, you increase customer retention and happiness. An e-signature tool is one of the easiest ways to improve your company’s conversion rate and is a great way to make things easier for your departments as a whole.

To see one way that e-signatures can save you money, read this article about reducing FedEx costs. You might be surprised to see how quickly those dollars and cents can add up to thousands of dollars of potential savings.

SignTime can help guide your company into the future and there has never been a better time to take the first step and sign up for a free trial.