It’s true that the customer calls the shots. So if your customers were telling you something that could give your business a boost, you’d sit up and listen, wouldn’t you?

The findings of a recent study from Sapio Research provided important insights for small businesses. They asked 1000 UK consumers about their expectations and attitudes when it comes to the ‘paper vs digital’ debate, and the findings were crystal clear. It’s digitise… or die.

Consumers adapted to the digital age years ago. Online banking – and more recently mobile banking – is the norm now. Booking flights and checking in via an app happens every day. We order our morning coffee via our phones; we get our evening take-away collected by a person on a bike connected to another app. More and more, digitally-astute consumers expect that all business services are going digital.

Indeed, a massive 88% of consumers now expect to complete agreements digitally. Our nineteenth-century dependence on paper is waning fast.

The fact that larger organisations are statistically more likely to prioritise going digital should sound alarm bells for smaller businesses – which previously had an advantage over their larger adversaries for the speed in which they could respond to customers’ needs. Consumers don’t care how big or small you are – they just want good service. And if their definition of good service has ‘digital’ in it, then you need to respond.

Paper is a pain

A clear message coming out of the research is that paper is a real pain-point for consumers. If your business relies on paperwork – like application forms, contracts, invoicing and more – then it’s time to ditch the notion of ‘paperwork’.

More than half (59 percent) of consumers believe that the use of paper forms makes a business appear outdated. This is how consumers feel about a company that makes them fill in paper forms:

  • Makes me worry the process will be delayed (36%)
  • Makes me question the company’s commitment to the environment (26%)
  • The company is inconveniencing my normal process (25%)
  • It can prompt me to look for an alternative provider (15%)

Filling out paperwork is, quite simply, a waste of consumers’ precious time. And the solution for small business is deceptively simple. Ditch the paperwork.

It is easier than ever to convert paperwork to seamless digital transactions. But, when you’re an ultra-busy small business owner, simple tasks often get put aside due to the demands of day-to-day operations. To spur yourself into action, think of the statistic mentioned above – 88% of consumers expect digital transactions. That’s 8.8 in every 10 of your customers. Would your business survive if these customers left you in favour of a competitor?

The bottom line

Customers today expect to engage with you in a digital way and, if you don’t give them what they want, your reputation is on the line and you may lose customers. So, even though small businesses have many balls in the air, digitisation is not one that can afford to be dropped.

The good news is companies of all sizes are embracing a more effective, paperless way of working. From sales agreements, invoicing, and event registrations to every other kind of business document. And electronic signatures are enabling those companies to clear desks and remove paper shredders, pushing the envelope towards innovation rather than the mailman.

Read DocuSign’s newest eBook to see how the paperless office can contribute significantly towards saving time, money and the environment too.