In today’s “want it now” culture, typified by same-day delivery and no-touch automation, customers have high demands. The vast majority of their expectations can be realised digitally, often exclusively so.

Customers can access secure bank accounts, update documents in the cloud and order taxis from their smartphones, day or night. It makes sense that people anticipate being able to sign and purchase from their devices too, and not be subject to the printing and posting of paper documents.

Recent research from DocuSign and Sapio Research shows that more than half (51 percent) of consumers in Europe think the use of paper makes companies look outdated. Moving with the times is vital to retain a competitive edge, whatever your industry. Failing to meet customer’s digital expectations could soon leave your business in freefall. Here’s why.

Customers expect to sign digitally

87 percent of consumers expect organisations to provide digital methods of signing and purchasing products. That is a huge proportion of people who will be customers of businesses across a range of industries, from retail right through to banking. More than half (58 percent) of Europeans would choose to deal with an organisation that provides options for completing transactions digitally in favour of a company that doesn’t.

43 percent of those surveyed feel that digital methods of signing and purchasing are more convenient, while 44% expect these methods to be in place to do business today. Overall, people are not just hoping that the businesses they deal with offer digital options as a bonus; they expect it as standard practice.

Customers expect a commitment to the environment

75 percent of consumers agree that organisations have an environmental responsibility to reduce paper use. The environmental impact of paper is significant, its production causing deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and worsening air pollution. That’s because to produce one ton of paper, it is estimated that 253 gallons of petrol is used. In turn, to make just one piece of A4 paper requires 10 litres of water.

Over 80 percent of consumers value sustainability. Seeing a company use paper and physical documents in its processes, rather than tablets or email, for example, would make almost a third (29 percent) question its commitment to the environment. DocuSign customers have saved about 1 million square feet of forest by going paperless. You can learn more about how going paperless can positively affect the environment in our new eBook [link].

Customers expect things to happen now  

31 percent of people believe that paper forms slow processes down, with 35 percent believing that the user of paper will cause delays. When almost anything can be achieved digitally in a few clicks anywhere, at any time, it’s understandable that businesses that still rely on paper processes have cause for alarm.

The Netherlands provides a useful picture of the perception of paper in business. In this region, almost two-thirds (62 percent) have had problems completing a transaction due to paper processes this year and, in acknowledgment, 48 percent of Dutch business leaders cite increased speed as a key motivator for going digital.

Across Europe, digitising processes can dramatically speed things up. With DocuSign, T Systems Ltd now completes procurement tasks 50 times faster, for example, while Virgin Holidays has cut signing time for customers from two weeks to two days. Despite cultural nuances, the desire to do business digitally is a constant across Europe. Learn more about how your business can move as quickly as the demands of your customers by reading the customer insights.