The ultimate guide to electronic signatures in 2024

How To
September 14, 2023
Electronic signatures enable businesses to close deals faster and more efficiently. 

This post covers everything you need to know, from what electronic signature software is to the features and providers to look out for in 2024. 

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is the use of a digital impression, markup, or element to signify that the person adding their signature agrees to the terms in the contract they’re signing.

It’s different from a ‘wet signature’ where parties are required to physically make a mark on a paper contract with a pen. Instead, electronic signatures are created on devices such as desktops, tablets, and mobiles. 

This modern approach to contract signing has been adopted right across the world, and electronic signatures can be used to sign all types of documents in 2024.

What is the purpose of an electronic signature?

The main purpose of an electronic signature is to empower individuals and businesses to sign documents online in a legal, secure and efficient way.

Electronic signatures enable signatories to close deals, form new relationships and set terms without having to meet in-person. Instead, they can sign documents digitally on any device and in an environment that suits them.

What is accepted as an electronic signature?

Any electronic process that confirms and communicates an individual's agreement to certain terms can constitute an eSignature. 

This means it needs to be clear that the signatory actually intended to sign the agreement. This can be achieved by inserting a signature in the digital document, usually in a signature box. 

Certain jurisdictions will have more specific requirements about what makes an eSignature valid, though. That’s why it’s always important to check where eSignatures are accepted before using them. 

Benefits of electronic signatures

1. Parties can sign contracts from anywhere 

Signing contracts electronically removes the need for parties to be in the same room to close a deal or sign a contract. The ability to sign contracts online enables parties to sign contracts remotely and collaborate on contracts from anywhere in the world. 

Contracts can be signed over email, via mobile technology, or in-browser using a contract management solution like Juro. This flexibility makes it quicker and easier for businesses to get agreements signed, wherever they are. 

2. More secure than wet ink signatures 

Electronic signatures also offer an extra layer of security compared to traditional wet ink signatures. 

You can ask someone to witness a wet ink signature being added to a contract, but there are usually no records of the signature beyond that.

But when you sign a contract electronically through a platform like Juro, an immutable document record is created by default. This record captures: 

  • The signer’s identity 
  • The signer’s IP address
  • What device was used to sign the contract
  • The date and time of signing

Juro also captures when counterparties have viewed a contract, along with all of the different versions of a contract as they move through the contract lifecycle.

Who uses electronic signatures?

Electronic signatures are used widely across businesses, with most departments using eSignatures to get contracts over the line. 

Sales reps typically sign MSAs and SOWs electronically, for example. This is because it enables them to close deals without needing to be in the room with the prospect. 

Talent teams can often add eSignatures to employment contracts and offer letters when they want to make a new hire, too. 

Signing contracts online enables teams like yours to sign contracts faster and with more flexibility around where and when they do so. 

Are eSignatures legal?

Electronic signatures are widely regarded as legally binding. However, different jurisdictions have different laws on the legality of eSignature. 

They have been regarded as legally binding since 2000 when the Electronic Communication Act was introduced in the UK. 

They are also deemed legally binding within the EU, so long as certain conditions have been met. This is outlined within the eIDAS regulation, which was introduced in 2016. 

Under the ESIGN Act, electronic signatures are also allowed in all 50 US states where federal law is applicable. This means that eSignatures carry legal validity across most of the US. 

How to create an electronic signature

The most common and professional way to create an electronic signature is by using a specialist eSignature tool.

This is because eSignature software is designed specifically for signing contracts, and this is reflected in their rich feature set.

For example, businesses that sign contracts using a tool like Juro or DocuSign can sign contracts in bulk, send customizable signing requests, and benefit from stringent security and validation measures.

However, not all businesses create electronic signatures in this way. Some businesses will rely on different tools to sign their contracts, and their chosen method typically depends on where they manage their contracts, and what format these contracts take. 

To find out exactly how to create an electronic signature in different platforms, check out the guides below:

But if you want to find out more about the advanced electronic signature features that are available when you use an electronic signature solution like Juro or DocuSign, keep reading.

Electronic signature features to look out for 

1. Bulk signing 

Bulk signing functionality is one of the best electronic signature features for growing businesses. Rather than signing contracts one by one, bulk signing enables you to sign all of your contracts at once with just a few clicks. 

This is great for senior stakeholders that need to sign lots of standard contracts. They rarely need to read each of these from start to finish, and bulk singing enables them to quickly and efficiently push these contracts over the line. 

“We completed two weeks of work in a day, thanks to Juro’s mass signing feature" - Luke Hextall, People Operations, Gopuff

To find out more about Juro’s bulk signing feature, get in touch to book a demo

2. Sequential signatories 

Also known as signing orders, sequential signing workflows are another great feature to look out for in eSigning solutions. 

This feature is available in Juro and it enables contract owners to not only send contracts to multiple signatories, but also customize the order they’re asked to sign the contract in. 

This helps businesses make sure that their contracts are shared with the right people for approval at the right time. 

3. Detailed document records

As we mentioned earlier in this post, eSignature solutions that offer detailed audit trails can enhance the security of a signature and make it easier to verify. 

These records enable organizations to verify signers’ identities and capture important information about the electronic signature. This information can be relied on in court if a contractual dispute arises.

4. Automated signing reminders 

If you want to get contracts signed faster, automated signing reminders are a great feature to have.

Instead of waiting around for counterparties and internal stakeholders to sign a contract, you can set up automated signing reminders to notify parties when a contract requires their input. 

These reminders are fully customizable, enabling organizations to set reminders on their own terms.

"Instead of waiting four days for legal follow-ups, the sales team often get same-day approval on contracts" - Victoria Sörving, Chief Legal Officer, Funnel

Book a personalized demo to find out how Juro’s flexible, automated contract signing reminders can save time and reduce admin for your business.

5. Contract reporting and analytics

Electronic signature tools with contract reporting and contract analytics are also useful for businesses that sign a lot of contracts. 

For example, Juro users can access detailed contract data on how long it takes for their contracts to progress to signing on average, along with other insights into how efficient their contract signing processes are. 

These actionable insights help them to identify bottlenecks in the contract workflow -  and fix them. 

“We can accurately measure how long it takes to reach signature - Juro delivers insights on the end-to-end process, so we can identify bottlenecks” - Karolina Plaskaty, People team, Curve

Find out which signing data your business can track in Juro by booking a personalized demo today. 

Electronic signature software: which is best?

1. Juro 

Juro’s secure and native eSignature enables businesses to sign contracts securely on any device, without switching tools to agree terms. 

Juro's advanced electronic signature (AdES) standard complies with eIDAS, E-SIGN and UETA acts, meaning it meets stringent security standards around the world. 

Juro’s eSigning functionality also enables teams to set up signing waterfalls and sequential signatories - with no coding required. This makes Juro a great solution for businesses that need to set up flexible eSigning workflows. 

Juro delivers value beyond eSignature, too. Juro’s all-in-one platform enables your team to agree and manage contracts in one unified workspace. 

“We saved $8000 a year having cancelled our subscription to the eSigning platform - Juro has a native eSignature, and covers the pre and post-signature stages. That’s the biggest return on investment” - Ulrika Leikvang, Head of Legal, Tibber

This means that users can manage their entire contract workflow in Juro, rather than having to jump back and forth between different tools

To find out more about how Juro enables businesses to get to revenue faster by streamlining collaboration and signing, hit the button below to book a personalized demo. 

Want to save 90% of time on contracts?

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2. DocuSign 

DocuSign is the leading solution for eSignatures, with almost 80 per cent of the market share. It’s rated 4.5 out of 5 on G2 overall, with over a million customers in over 180 countries.

DocuSign offers all of the features we just described, and more. However, it doesn’t offer functionality beyond eSigning. This means it won’t be as useful as Juro for businesses that want to streamline contract management from start to finish.  

You can discover more DocuSign alternatives and compare DocuSign to other eSigning providers using the guides below: 

3. Adobe Sign 

Adobe Sign is just one of the many tools offered by Adobe and it pairs well with their PDF editor functionality. The eSignature provider is rated 4.4 out of 5 on G2 and it offers key eSigning features like bulk signatures, basic document editing and even signing reminders. 

It’s a great option if you want to sign PDFs electronically. However, like DocuSign (and many other eSigning solutions), it doesn’t offer the rich features needed to make the entire contract process more efficient. 

Want to compare Adobe Sign to the other electronic signature providers? Check out these comparison guides:

4. HelloSign 

HelloSign (now Dropbox Sign) is another popular eSignature platform. It’s owned by Dropbox and offers a more limited set of eSigning features, but at a more affordable price. 

This makes it a firm favourite among small businesses that need to add signatures to documents and nothing more.

Want to compare HelloSign to other eSigning tools? Check out these comparison guides:

5. Eversign 

Eversign (now Xodo Sign) is another basic but affordable eSignature solution for small businesses.

Despite its minimalistic features, eversign is actually rated higher than DocuSign and Adobe Sign overall on G2 with a score of 4.8 out of 5. This suggests that the tool’s simplicity makes it just right for users that only need basic eSignature functionality.

Want to compare eversign to the market-leading eSignature solutions? Check out these comparison guides:

6. SignNow

SignNow is another popular eSigning solution for small businesses, with a rating of 4.6 out of 5 on G2. SignNow users have access to legally binding eSignatures, automated reminders, bulk actions and more. 

You can find out more about how signNow compares to other eSigning solutions using the guides below: 

eSigning software vs contract management software: which is best in 2024?

When deciding between eSignature software and contract management software, you need to consider what problem you’re trying to solve

If you need a way to sign a handful of contracts online, an eSignature solution will usually provide the functionality you need. But if you’re experiencing pain throughout the contract lifecycle, you’ll receive more value from an all-in-one contract platform like Juro.

Simple eSignature providers will enable teams to sign contracts. But Juro’s collaborative contract management solution enables businesses to bring all of their contracts into one collaborative workspace. 

This means that they have access to all of the eSigning features we just described and more. 

Juro users can:

  • Create contracts in just a few clicks in Juro’s browser-native template editor
  • Set rules around who can change what in a contract and which changes trigger the need for approvals 
  • Run real-time, dynamic reports into your contracts

To find out how Juro’s collaborative and data-rich contract platform can improve efficiency for your business, book a demo.

Frequently asked questions

What is meant by electronic signature?

Electronic signatures are another way to provide consent or approval for contracts and other documents, without needing to provide a wet ink signature. 

It’s the use of a digital markup or impression to signify that the individual creating it has agreed to the terms of an agreement, much like an ordinary signature but in a digital form.

Is DocuSign considered an electronic signature?

Yes. DocuSign is one example of an electronic signature provider. However, there are lots of DocuSign alternatives available if you’re looking for a cheaper or more rounded solution.

Are electronic signatures admissible in court?

Yes. Electronic signatures can be admissible in court just like wet ink signatures, so long as they meet the individual requirements set out by the governing jurisdiction. 

Do electronic signatures require a witness?

Under English law and in many jurisdictions, most contracts will not need any signature to be witnessed, regardless of whether it occurs in wet ink or electronically. 

However, there are still some circumstances where legal documents do need to be witnessed when signed, such as for land transfers, security documents, and other types of deed, including but not limited to shareholder agreements, loan documents, and the transfer of assets. 

It’s also possible that parties will request for eSignatures to be witnessed for added security in other cases. Fortunately, like ordinary signatures, electronic signatures can still be witnessed to ensure these agreements are legally binding.

Is a PDF signature an electronic signature?

It is possible for a signature on a PDF to constitute an electronic signature. 

What are the differences between digital signatures and electronic signatures?

Contrary to what most think, digital signatures and electronic signatures are different features that achieve different purposes.

Read more on our digital signature vs electronic signature comparison page. 

Do electronic signatures need to be certified?

According to the European Commission, you must have a valid digital certificate in order to create an electronic signature that constitutes either an advanced or qualified eSignature.

Can you just type your name for an electronic signature?

Yes, electronic signatures can be created by typing your name into a contract, electronically pasting your signature, or by making a different type of markup that satisfies the regulations. 

Can electronic signatures be forged?

Electronic signatures are actually less likely to be forged than wet signatures are. This is because wet signatures are easier to forge and tamper with, whereas electronic signatures are often accompanied by certain security measures, like digital signatures. 

How can you verify an electronic signature?

An electronic signature can be verified by checking that the contract's eSignature was signed by the authorized signatory and that this signatory can be identified.

Juro enables users to see the exact email of the person signing, as well as their IP address and the exact time and date when they signed the contract.

Can you create electronic signatures at scale?

Yes. Juro’s native eSignature functionality enables business and legal teams to sign contracts electronically in bulk. Check out our guide to bulk actions to find out more.

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