Replacing Wet Signatures with Electronic Signatures

Does your organization spend too much time waiting for completed contracts and signed agreements? If you rely solely on wet signatures, the answer is yes. Here is a quick tip on how companies can save time and money by replacing wet signatures with electronic signatures

What is a wet signature?

When a person uses a pen or seal to sign their name on a physical paper document, they have endorsed it with a wet signature. For hundreds of years a wet signature represented a binding contract and was used to prevent fraud. Today, electronic signatures and records can carry the same weight and legal effect as traditional handwritten signatures and paper documents in most cases.

Switching to electronic signatures can accelerate business processes— up to 82% of DocuSign agreements are completed in one day— and generate significant savings—  on average $36 per document. 

What are the downsides to collecting a wet signature?

Companies have faced several challenges when collecting wet signatures:

  • Turnaround time: Electronic signatures reduce turnaround time by an average of nine days. Electronic documents can be received, reviewed, signed, and returned on practically any device 24/7. When collecting wet signatures, companies are at the mercy of delivery services, couriers, business days, and holiday schedules. 
  • Cost: It's not only the cost of the ink, the paper, and the overnight delivery service that you have to consider. You also have to factor in the cost of lost revenue when it takes over a week to receive a signed contract. A delay in the arrival of your sales contract could give time for a potential client to explore other options from your competitors. 
  • Recipients: Will they be eager to sign your document once they receive it, even if there is a delay? Will they run into any barriers, such as not being able to print the document or not being able to reach their courier's drop off before the weekend. They will likely appreciate the speed and simplicity of reviewing and signing a document online versus printing, signing, and mailing it offline. 
  • Record keeping and retrieval: Documents signed with a wet signature and returned to your company have to be scanned and filed away. If you or the signer needs to refer to the physical document in the future, it will take longer to retrieve it from filing cabinets or boxes in storage versus pulling it up on your computer. 
  • Social responsibility: Companies using the DocuSign platform can feel good about helping to save the forests as well. Since 2003, DocuSign customers have saved 20 billion sheets of paper and the 2.5 billion gallons of water needed to make that much paper. This significant reduction of physical paper usage saved 2.5 million trees and spared the earth from the production of 140 million pounds of waste and 2 billion pounds of additional CO₂.

When can an electronic signature replace a wet signature?

With a few exceptions discussed in the next section, electronic signatures can replace wet signatures in a wide variety of use cases.  

In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, electronic signatures and records can carry the same weight and legal effect as traditional handwritten signatures and paper documents. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) in the United States, the Electronic Identification and Trust Services Regulation (eIDAS) in the European Union and other similar laws throughout the world were enacted to recognize the enforceability of e-signatures.

That said, like anything in life, there are some exceptions to these laws.

When should you use a wet signature?

There are a few occasions when you must collect a wet signature to make a document legally binding. In the United States, a wet signature may be required when a Notary Public must verify the identification of the document signer(s). 

Wet signatures are also required for certain documents pertaining to wills, trusts, adoptions, divorce proceedings, court orders, evictions, and insurance benefits. 

You should also allow a wet signature when the document recipient insists upon it. Even if you consider it old-fashioned, some people still consider it the only way to formally endorse a document. 

Can you use DocuSign for a wet signature?

DocuSign is primarily used to manage electronic and digital signatures in the cloud. In addition, it can help accelerate the collection process of wet signatures too. 

Let’s say that you are working with someone who insists on signing their agreement on paper. You can still use DocuSign to send the agreement. This allows you to get your document to the recipient immediately. 

From there, your recipient can fill out any additional information before printing the agreement out to sign. Once they have endorsed it with their wet signature, they can scan the document and upload it to the DocuSign platform. 

When collecting wet signatures, 24/7 deliverability speeds up the overall turnaround time. Digital delivery of your documents reduces any chance of your documents getting lost in transit. 

While electronic signatures are legally binding, there are some cases where a wet signature may be required. In these circumstances, you can still use DocuSign to handle your documents to expedite initial delivery and manage your documents for future reference. 

If you’re not required to collect wet signatures, learn more about the ways that DocuSign can improve your company’s processes, from contract lifecycle management to integration with the business tools you use now. 

Yasamin Yousefi
E-Signature Expert