Contract signing is one of the most important processes in contract management. Today’s electronic signature technologies revolutionized that process. Electronic signature capabilities are essential for an efficient contract management solution.
While electronic signature technologies have been on the market for a while, implementing them can be challenging for contract management teams. Shifting from conventional ways to a digital alternative is a transition worth understanding.
A report published by FinancesOnline (Jay, 2021)presents major growth in the electronic signature market. In 2019, North America was the largest market of electronic signature, valued at $440 million. In 2020, the global electronic signature market reached $2.8 billion. Electronic signature transactions grew from $489 million to $754 million in just five years. The market is projected to grow.
You might be asking yourself the following questions: What are the intricate details of electronic signatures? Are there legal differences for electronic signatures based on the country? How does it all work? The answers to these questions and the top ten electronic signature providers are discussed below.
Electronic Signature Defined
An electronic signature, or e-signature, is a digital alternative to receiving approval, consent, or signatures on digital documents. An e-signature has the same legal standing as a physical signature. In the US and EU, laws ensure a legal ground for e-signatures.
E-Signature vs. Digital Signature
A common misconception is that e-signatures and digital signatures are the same. The difference between them is that digital signatures function as a mathematical algorithm that ensures the integrity and authenticity of a message or an e-signature. For example, when an e-signature is used, a digital signature will then formulate a unique virtual fingerprint for the signer to authenticate it. This virtual fingerprint provided by the digital signature is used to identify users and to protect documents.
Legality of E-signature
E-signature has the same legal standing as its physical counterpart. Specific laws in various countries ensure that legal standing. Let us take a closer look at these laws and how they define e-signatures.
The UETA and the ESIGN Act in the US
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) of 1999 and the Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) of 2000 ensure the legal standing of e-signature in the US. According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute (2000), the electronic signature is defined as:
“The term ‘electronic signature’ means an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record or executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
The eIDAS Regulation in the EU
In the EU, the eIDAS (electronic Identification Authentication and trust services) regulation functions to oversee and ensure the legal status for electronic signature and related activities. Article 3 of the eIDAS Regulation by The European Parliament and the Council (2018) defines the term “electronic signature” as follows:
“‘Electronic signature’ means data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign.”
Your country might have specific rules and regulations that work to validate and ensure the legal status of electronic signatures.
How does E-signature work?
An e-signature, like a handwritten signature, is unique to each user. Digital signatures provide authenticity, integrity, and non-repudiation to the e-signature. E-signatures are generated and verified based on a standardized framework known as Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA). This algorithm is comprised of four operations: (1) key generation, (2) key distribution, (3) signing, and (4) signature verification.
An e-signature system will generate two keys for the user: a private key and a public key. The private key is unique and should be kept confidential. This key is used for signing documents. After signing a document, the public key is used to validate the signature.
Once a user uses their private key to sign the document, the mathematical algorithm encrypts that data to create data called a “hash”. This encrypted data can only be deciphered or validated by using the matching public key. When the deciphering occurs, it creates another hash value. If the encrypted hash value and decrypted hash value match, the signature is valid. This method ensures that no one can forge a signature without having access to the private key.
Most e-signature providers adhere to public key infrastructure (PKI) for the creation of the keys. The public key infrastructure is a set of requirements to be followed in the creation and management of public-key encryption. The PKI requires a certificate authority (CA) in the creation and in the secure storage of the keys. Certificate authorities function as a trusted and reliable third party; trusted in providing e-signature capabilities and reliable in ensuring the key security. The signer and the document recipient should mutually agree to use the services of a reliable CA.
Many Businesses and Industries Use E-Signature Technology
Today, e-signatures are used for official documents by businesses and industry-leaders from small-businesses, to dominant Fortune 500 companies. Some of these businesses and industries include:
- Credit unions
- Education institutions
- Government institutions
- Non-profit organizations
- Freelance businesses
- Consulting professionals
- The banking industry
- The healthcare industry
- The insurance industry
The e-signature market is projected to grow substantially within a few years. P&S Market Research (Report Buyer, 2017) reports that the global e-signature market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 34.7% during the forecast period, to reach $9073.1 million by 2023. This growth can be attributed to the change in the workplace, where there is an increased demand to minimize paper and maximize time by reducing physical interactions.
Where are e-signatures used?
E-signatures can be used in many professional documents. Examples of these documents include:
- Contracts (Sales proposals, purchase agreements, employee onboarding, non-disclosure agreements, etc.)
- Tax documents
- Bank documents
- Insurance documents
Why should you adopt an e-signature?
Adopting an e-signature provides several benefits that serve to streamline and increase efficiency for any business or industry. Such benefits include:
- Faster signing process than traditional methods.
- According to a report by Datawitness (Datawitness, 2009), e-signature increases the speed and efficiency of the signing process.
- Paperless method is cost-efficient.
- A Fortune article presents this item, mentioning that studies have shown that by reducing 1% of paper waste, companies could save $1 billion (Groden, 2021).
- Reduces signature forging and other fraudulent activity.
Implementing an E-signature Provider
The first step is to digitize your entire document repository. A centralized document repository or a collaboration platform is required to implement e-signature. The documents in this repository should be in a file format like .docx or PDF.
Now, e-signature can be implemented into this document repository and the business or organization is able to send the document to signers. The signer can create a digital signature in the e-signature provider. Most providers allow you to create an image of a handwritten signature. The signer can attach this to the document using their unique private key. Once that is complete, the document can be verified for signature authenticity, completing the process.
Understanding E-Signature Providers
There are several e-signature providers on the market. Consider the following before selecting one:
- Carefully study your requirements.
- Choose an e-signature solution that is compatible with your existing document repository or any other collaboration solutions.
- Understand their pricing and plans. Most e-signature providers have pricing that depends on the number of users.
- Compare and research available options.
We can make that last step easy for you. Take a look below at the top 10 e-signature providers, where we have provided details regarding their features, pricing, plans, and more.
Top 10 Electronic Signature Providers
In one of our previous blogs, we outlined the top 5 e-signature providers in 2021. Here is a top 10 list including those previous suggestions.
1. DocuSign: DocuSign is one of the best e-signature providers on the market currently. Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant for Contract Lifecycle Management named DocuSign as a Leader (Connaughton et al., 2021).
Remote signing, status visibility, and multi-language capabilities are some of DocuSign’s useful features.
There are four pricing plans available: Personal, Standard, Business Pro, and Advanced Solutions.
The Personal plan is for individual use only, priced at $120 annually ($10/month) or $15 if you choose a monthly scheme. It includes basic features and allows you to send 5 documents per month for e-signature.
The Standard plan is for a maximum of 5 users. It costs $300 annually ($25 per user/month), or $40 per user, per month if you prefer the monthly scheme. It includes basic features from the Personal plan, with the addition of alerts, custom branding, and comments.
The Business Pro plan is also for a maximum of 5 users. It costs $480 annually ($40 per user/month), or $60 per user, per month if you choose the monthly scheme. In addition to the Standard features, you will have access to collect payments, advanced fields, signer attachments, and bulk send.
Advanced Solutions is for companies or businesses that require more than 5 users. You can contact their customer care to get more information. In addition to the Business Pro features, you will receive features that are required on an enterprise-level, such as integrations, single sign-on (SSO), industry modules, enterprise-level support, and more (#1 in Electronic Signature and Agreement Cloud 2020).2. HelloSign: This is one of the easiest platforms to send receive and manage your e-signatures. The HelloSign e-signature platform is used by millions of customers worldwide.
HelloSign’s highlighted features include transparent audit trails, cloud storage integrations, and templates.
HelloSign has four pricing plans: a free subscription plan, Essential, Standard, and Premium.
The free subscription plan is for an individual user. It allows the user to send 3 signature requests per month. It also has some basic features including an audit trail, automatic alerts, and signer fields.
The Essentials plan is also for a single user, costing $180 annually ($15/month) or $20 in the monthly scheme. Inclusive of the free subscription plan’s features, the Essentials plan has additional features including: unlimited signature requests, 5 templates, data validation, multiple languages, and template links.
The Standard plan is for 2-5 users. This plan is $600 annually, making it $25 per user, per month. It has all the features from the Essentials plan, with the addition of features including 15 templates, custom branding, bulk send, and Salesforce integration.
The Premium plan is for enterprise-level needs or more than 5 users. To know more about the plan, we recommend you inquire with HelloSign customer care. Premium’s additional features include unlimited template creation, multi-team capability, and single sign-on (SSO) (HelloSign, Legally Binding Electronic Signatures).3. Sertifi: Sertifi offers one secure platform for all your agreements and payment finalization documents. Sertifi serves thousands of customers worldwide.
Sertifi has several highlighted features, including flexible workflows, real-time notifications, user management, and secure storage.
Sertifi e-signatures are billed annually at $150/month. Five users are allowed in this starting plan. Additional users can be added at $30 per user per month.
With a Sertifi eSignatures plan, you can send unlimited documents for e-signature, have access to integrations with Dock 365 Contract Management Solution, Salesforce, Conga, Zuora, etc., and use properties such as customized user permission levels, collaboration features, custom branding, a document library, customer support, and a dedicated customer success manager (Sertifi).
4. signNow: SignNow has an intuitive user interface (UI) that offers the best ROI for SBM and mid-market. SignNow has thousands of customers globally.
Highlighted features of signNow include remote signing and cross-platform signing.
SignNow offers multiple pricing plans.
The Business plan is $8 per user/month annually. If you prefer to pay monthly, signNow is $20 per user/month. You can add up to 10 users to this subscription, and its features include sending documents for signing, basic fields, a mobile app, and unlimited templates.
The Business Premium plan is $15 per user/month annually. If you prefer to pay monthly, the service is $30 per user/month. You can add up to 10 users to this subscription. The features include automatic alerts, branding, bulk sending, and signing links.
The free trial is available for the Business Premium plan.
The Enterprise plan is $30 per user/month. If you prefer to pay monthly, the service is $50 per user/month. You can add up to 10 users to this subscription and its features include conditional documents, calculated fields, conditional fields, request payments, and signer attachments.
The airSlate Business Cloud is a plan for businesses that require enterprise capabilities and more than 10 users (signNow, What is an electronic signature?).
5. eversign: Eversign is a solution suitable for companies of all sizes at an affordable price.
Two highlighted features of eversign are easy integrations and document automation.
Eversign offers five subscription plans. Unlike other providers, eversign’s pricing is not based on per user, per month. With eversign, each plan has a specified number of allowed team members.
The free subscription plan allows 5 documents per month and 3 API documents.
The Basic plan costs $7.99 yearly or $9.99 monthly. Eversign recommends this plan for small businesses. The Basic plan allows unlimited documents, 3 templates, 10 API documents, 1 team member, app integrations, and premium support.
Their most popular pricing plan is the Professional plan, costing $31.99 yearly or $39.99 per month. It includes in-person signing and allows 10 templates, 25 API documents, and 5 team members.
The Professional Plus plan is $63.99 yearly or $79.99 if billed monthly. This plan allows 15 team members, 50 API documents, 25 templates, and offers custom branding.
We suggest contacting eversign for additional information regarding an Enterprise plan. The Enterprise plan option enables complete customization. With this plan, eversign builds custom solutions for your needs and has dedicated customer support (Eversign, Legally binding electronic signatures at work, at home or on the go.).
6. signRequest: SignRequest is a fast and secure online e-signature platform. SignRequest has over 300,000 customers in more than 26 countries.
SignRequest’s highlighted features include the ability to sign-on on any device, Google app integration, and custom landing pages.
SignRequest offers four pricing plans, including a free plan.
The free plan allows you to send 10 documents per month. This plan includes features such as sign and send on any device, Google integrations, secure audit trail, and support of 17 languages (SignRequest).
The Professional plan is €7 per month/user yearly, or €9 per month/user when billed monthly. The additional features of this plan include unlimited documents, support for 1 team, 5 templates, Slack and Zapier integration, and custom branding.
The business plan is €12 per month/user yearly, or €15 per month/user when billed monthly. Additional features included in this plan are unlimited teams, unlimited templates, signRequest API, and Bulk send.
If these plans do not fit your needs, you can contact SignRequest for information about their Enterprise plan, providing you the most customization.
SignRequest stands for a good cause. For every new e-signature license sale, SignRequest plants 1 tree in partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects (SignRequest, For every license we plant a tree).
7. Formstack sign: Formstack is a multi-platform e-signature provider that ensures a fast and efficient process. Formstack serves over 27,000 users worldwide.
Formstack’s highlighted features include mobile signing, drag-and-drop signature fields, and auto-reminders.
Formstack offers three Sign Plans: Starter, Pro, and Enterprise.
The Starter plan is $16 per user/month yearly or $20 per user/month when billed monthly. This plan offers 1 user unlimited signature, documents, templates, and other basic features.
The Pro plan is their most popular plan. This plan is $26 per user/month yearly or $32 per user/month when billed monthly. The additional features in this plan include text/SMS alerts, advanced branding, and Gmail/Outlook contact integrations.
If you are interested in a customized plan, we suggest contacting Formstack’s customer care team. An Enterprise plan will include advanced integrations, custom data retention, and SSO support (Formstack, Workplace Productivity & Automation Tools).
8. pdfFiller: PdfFiller is an online solution to edit, create, and manage PDF documents. Over 45 million people globally use pdfFiller.
PdfFiller offers unique capabilities including QR code document access, real signature with a photo, and mobile signing.
PdfFiller offers three pricing plans: Basic, Premium, and airSlate Business Cloud. The Basic plan is for document management purposes. The e-signature capabilities are available the in premium and airSlate Business Cloud plans only.
The Premium plan allows up to 5 users and costs $15 per user/month yearly or $40 per user/month when billed monthly. This plan grants access to the USLegal Forms Library and gives users features such as reusable templates, advanced workflows, and instant chat customer support, etc.
The airSlate Business Cloud plan is the best option for a minimum of 10 users. This plan starts at $50 per user/month yearly. It includes enterprise-level features and support for your custom needs (pdfFiller, Edit, create, and manage PDF documents and forms online).9. SignEasy: SignEasy is an online e-signature provider that concentrates on simplifying business workflows. SignEasy has over 35,000 customers worldwide.
SignEasy’s highlighted features include e-signature solutions for SMB’s, mobile signing, and integrations.
SignEasy offers four pricing plans. Two of which are for individual use, and two for teams and companies.
The Essential plan is $8/month ($96 billed annually) or $15/month when billed monthly. This single-user plan allows you to sign an unlimited number of documents and request signatures from others (5/month). This plan has a digital audit trail, supporting mobile apps, and email support.
The Pro plan is $15/month ($180 billed annually) or $25/month when billed monthly. Additional features in this plan include unlimited signature requests, in-person signature via mobile, 3 templates, alerts, and Google Workspace, Office 365, and Zapier integrations.
The Business plan for teams and companies can be used for more than 3 users. This plan costs $20/user/month ($240/user billed annually) for 3 users or $30/user/month when billed monthly. You can add additional users at $20 or $30/user/month. Additional features in this plan include unlimited templates, advanced fields, admin dashboard, branding, email, chat, and phone support.
If you are interested in an Enterprise plan for more customization, we recommend talking with SignEasy (SignEasy, Electronic Signature Mobile App & Desktop).
10. PandaDoc: PandaDoc provides an all-in-one document automation software that allows you to create, approve, and e-sign proposals, quotes, and contracts. PandaDoc has over 18,000 trusted customers worldwide.
Highlighted features include template creation, custom branding, and analytic capabilities.
PandaDoc offers four pricing plans, including a free subscription plan.
The free subscription allows unlimited document upload and e-signature capabilities. This plan also has a payment feature and mobile app.
The Essentials plan is $19 per user/month. Monthly, this plan is $29 per user/month. It has all the features of the free subscription, plus template creation, rich document editor, pricing table, document analytics, and 24/7 customer support.
The Business plan costs $49 per user/month. Monthly, this plan is $59 per user/month. In addition to the features of the Essential plan, it includes features such as CRM & Zapier integration, content library, custom branding, approval workflows, forms, and bulk send.The Enterprise plan is for larger teams that need more capabilities. If you are interested in Enterprise, we suggest reaching out to sales at PandaDoc. In addition to the Business plan’s features, the Enterprise plan provides SSO support and custom user roles, an unlimited number of team workspaces, Salesforce integration, user performance and content reporting, and API (Create, Approve, Track & eSign Docs 30% Faster 2021).
The signing process is one of the most important, and yet one of the slowest processes in the traditional contract management process. With a dedicated contract management system and an e-signature provider, you can streamline the signing process. A process that traditional requires multiple days to complete can now be completed within minutes. The e-signature method offers increased security in carrying out this process.
Individuals and organizations worldwide are making the switch to e-signature. Not only because of the new working norms, but also because of the efficiency and security that e-signature provides. Adopting an e-signature provider to aid in your contract management processes will greatly benefit you or your organization.
#1 in Electronic Signature and Agreement Cloud. DocuSign. (2020, January 29). https://www.docusign.com/.
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Cornell Legal Information Institute. (2000). 15 U.S. Code § 7006 - Definitions. Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/7006.
Create, Approve, Track & eSign Docs 30% Faster. PandaDoc. (2021, May 14). https://www.pandadoc.com/.
Datawitness. (n.d.). Electronic Signature: Increasing the Speed and Efficiency of Commercial Transactions. Datawitness Online Witnessing and Archiving. https://www.datawitness.com/assets/whitepapers/Datawitness-SignOff-Whitepaper.pdf.
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Edit, create, and manage PDF documents and forms online. pdfFiller. On-line PDF form Filler, Editor, Type on PDF, Fill, Print, Email, Fax and Export. (n.d.). https://www.pdffiller.com/?mode=view.
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The European Parliament and the Council. (n.d.). eIDAS Regulation. eIDAS. https://www.eid.as/#article3.
Eversign. (n.d.). Legally binding electronic signatures at work, at home or on the go. eversign. https://eversign.com/.
For every license we plant a tree. SignRequest. (n.d.). https://signrequest.com/en/for-every-license-we-plant-a-tree.
Groden, C. (2021, April 24). U.S. Companies Would Save Almost $1 Billion if They Reduced Paper Waste by 1%. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2016/02/18/commerce-circular-economy/.
Jay, A. (2021, March 25). 57 Essential e-Signature Statistics: 2020/2021 Market Share Analysis & Data. Financesonline.com. https://financesonline.com/25-essential-e-signature-statistics-analysis-of-trends-data-and-market-share/#:~:text=Market%20Growth%20Statistics,-The%20electronic%20signature&text=In%202020%2C%20the%20global%20digital,(MarketsandMarkets%2C%202020)&text=e%2DSignature%20transactions%20have%20ballooned,million%20in%20just%20five%20years.
Legally Binding Electronic Signatures. HelloSign. (n.d.). https://www.hellosign.com/?_ga=2.241633984.376664283.1621943783-1500720131.1619020342&_gac=1.152232651.1619020795.CjwKCAjwmv-DBhAMEiwA7xYrd3apZ0b7Rmn0P9hEx8NwGv5aJS96ajapjMmQ6Qgo0K3bIG6n79NG-RoCxqEQAvD_BwE.
Report Buyer. (2017). Global E-Signature Market Size, Share, Development, Growth and Demand Forecast to 2023 - Industry Insights By Type, By Deployment, By Use-Case. https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/5038449/global-e-signature-market-size-share-development-growth-and-demand-forecast-to-2023-industry-insights-by-type-by-deployment-by-use-case.html.
Sertifi. (n.d.). https://corp.sertifi.com/.
SignRequest. (n.d.). SignRequest. https://signrequest.com/#/.
What is an electronic signature? signNow. (n.d.). https://www.signnow.com/.
Workplace Productivity & Automation Tools. Formstack. (n.d.). https://www.formstack.com/.
Written by Adarsh Dorai
Adarsh is a SharePoint expert with hands-on experience developing various SharePoint and Office 365 solutions.