Make a good Impression with an e-signing solution designed for South African businesses

Impression Signatures achieves exponential growth during COVID-19, helping customers maintain business momentum remotely with its 100% compliant e-signature tool.

South Africa’s COVID-19-related lockdowns forced local businesses into allowing and enabling their employees to work from home. The technology to support such a shift has been around for some time. But many companies, particularly those with hesitant executives content in their comfort-zones, had not yet implemented the necessary tools. This immediately put them on the backfoot.

“Almost overnight, South African companies that relied on in-person processes such as pen-and-paper document signing were thrown into turmoil,” says Andy Papastefanou, founder of Impression Signatures, an iOCO company.

That might sound surprising, given that e-signature technologies are not new to the South African market. But before lockdown, there was simply not enough of a real need, let alone the will, for many businesses to throw out the pens.

This all changed in March 2020 when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide shutdown to combat the virus’s spread. Companies were suddenly faced with a growing backlog of documents waiting for signatures and had to act fast or fall far behind. They investigated their options, and many reached out to Impression for its ability to allow customers to sign on any device using the web, USSD, and WhatsApp.

Built for South African businesses by South Africans

Within a week, Impression had onboarded big-name customers who were able to keep their businesses going during lockdown with the South African-designed e-signature solution.

Apart from not needing to use – or share – a pen, Impression offers essential features for the local market.

Fully ECT Act compliant

Interestingly, South Africa’s e-signature legislation is quite robust compared to the United States or even Europe. Impression not only complies with South Africa’s specific legislative requirements as set out in the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act, but also contributes as a technical member of the Cloud Signature Consortium working towards a global cloud signature standard.

While the guiding legislation is in place, e-signature case law is rare – although the recent digital shove, thanks to more people working from home, has called attention to the issue. Given that the instances of people or companies questioning the validity of an electronically signed document are historically few and far between, most South African businesses don’t double-check the document signing solution they choose.

It might be ok to ask employees to sign a leave form using an e-signature tool that’s not compliant. But when it comes to, say, e-signing medical prescriptions, non-compliance becomes increasingly risky business. There’s no need for companies to employ different solutions for different departments when Impression can do it all in one – and in line with the law.

Inclusive technology designed for everyone

As a self-funded South African start-up competing with global e-signature brands, Impression wins in terms of local relevance. Its e-signature solution is designed for customers who navigate technology challenges specific to South Africa. Not everyone has a smartphone, for example, and not everyone has unlimited or even reliable Internet access.

“We knew we had to be inclusive with our technology and make sure that everyone could join our e-signing ecosystem,” says Papastefanou.

A popular feature of Impression is the ability to sign documents on a feature phone via a USSD message that doesn’t require data.

Build your own customer experiences with white-labelling

Impression’s customers own the digital document signing process with their customers. In other words, end-users don’t have to register with Impression to benefit. Its architecture is different from other e-signature solutions in that it operates as a pass-through mechanism for its customers.

“A large bank uses our technology throughout its business and loves that when they push signature requests out to their customers, the entire customer experience and user journey is bank-branded, bank-owned, and bank-determined. At no point,” says Papastefanou, “does the Impression brand interfere with the end-users’ experience with their bank.”

Priced in South African Rands – not US Dollars

Impression is a South African product priced in South African Rands. Given that the Rand is one of the world’s most undervalued currencies, this makes Impression an extremely competitive contender against global e-signature brands priced in US Dollars.

“Many of our customers gripe to us about their costly experiences with other e-signature solutions,” says Papastefanou. “As far as we’re concerned, the whole point of implementing new technology is to save costs, not increase them.”

Bottomline benefits that go beyond expectations

A South African hospital group replaced all paper prescriptions in its hospitals with Impression’s electronic scripting tool. This has helped the organisation save costs, but that’s not all. The introduction of e-signatures has opened up a whole new value chain for the group that will drive medicine sales within its own pharmacies. Patient care is also improved as they no longer need to wait in queues to collect their medicine.

“It’s transformational in that it benefits both the patients and the doctors,” says Papastefanou. “Based on the concept of closed-loop medication, which tracks script fulfilment, the hospital can oversee the medicine journey from prescription to the moment it lands in the patient’s body. By digitising its prescription process, our customer has re-engineered its entire approach to patient and medicine management, which helps doctors stay on top of their patients’ health remotely.”

Given that hospitals never sleep, Impression needs to provide its customers with a 24/7/365 service. Thanks to Impression’s choice of Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, its e-signature tool is supported by a solid cloud provider that keeps in-step with the company’s growing needs.

Long-standing customer of AWS

Impression and AWS go way back. In need of an app to take its digital tablet signing ecosystem into the world of intelligent devices, Impression turned to the AWS Mobile Hub. As a start-up and one of the earliest adopters of cloud, Impression needed specific infrastructure support, and Amazon understood these needs perfectly. Impression was able to build its first app in less than ten clicks. What’s more, AWS waived its fee for the first year.

“Choosing AWS was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” says Papastefanou. “Not only was our app up and running quickly, but since then, AWS has continued to support our growth, offering new pre-built services that match 80% to 90% of our requirements.”

This support has been particularly crucial over the past year. Impression’s growth surge during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was exponential. Since March 2020, the company’s document signatures have increased 400x and its user base 600x. And yet it hasn’t had to hire new people, adjust its architecture, or tweak its product to cater for that growth. In fact, the company didn’t have to change a thing, because it’s built on the Amazon platform and configured in AWS’s serverless architecture, which automatically scales.

“All we have to do is focus on delivering the functionality to our customers,” says Papastefanou. “And as more people use our e-signature tool, the cheaper it becomes for everyone on the platform to use it. It’s crazy how that model works when you go cloud-native from the get-go. The fact that we built on Amazon not only benefits Impression, but it also benefits our end customers.”

It’s been a year since the outbreak of COVID in South Africa, and a post-pandemic world beckons. Given the new normal, it’s unlikely that businesses will revert to their pre-lockdown laggard ways. In fact, those that have adopted Impression have made e-signatures their standard document signing process. And new customers are signing up every week.

Impression Signatures is a Certified Regional Partner of GlobalSign and is one of the first African Cloud Signature Consortium members.