At Zoho, we're offering an operating system for business that organizations of all sizes can use to run their operations online through tightly integrated apps. We have apps in all major categories, starting with our flagship offerings: Zoho CRM, Zoho Books, Zoho People, Zoho Mail, and many more where the signing of several important business documents take place. To help users modernize and digitize their paperwork directly from their favorite apps, we launched Zoho Sign in July 2017.
Today, Zoho Sign is one of the most trusted digital signature apps, used by tens of thousands of businesses worldwide. In 2022, the app turned five. As we step into our sixth year with the drive to scale even greater heights, we decided to ask a few of our key members about how the Zoho Sign journey has been for them and the challenges they faced in building it from the ground up.
You have a long history with Zoho. Can you tell us why you decided to launch Zoho Sign?
Zoho, as you know, operates end to end, so we look at the entire market to decide where we have the most traction. By the time we started Zoho Sign, Zoho already had several other well-established software suites like CRM, Finance, and HRMS, amongst others. In most cases, people had the need to execute digital transactions and paperwork. That's when we realized a big gap in our offerings as an end-to-end solution for businesses and decided to build our in-house digital signature solution. Our organizational goal has always been to offer complete solutions for all needs that any business would have.
What were the challenges you faced?
At Zoho, all of us here are raised in a product culture. We had already built other software in ManageEngine from the ground up. We were given a two-line description, 'Digital signature solution. Document management." There was a lot to learn and to understand;, there were laws and regulatory compliance which were definitely a challenge. But we are way ahead of where we thought we would be five years ago. There are a lot of integrations happening, a lot of features being built. I want to launch more and more regional integrations each month, and I wish to be launching them even before other competing vendors do.
How do you prioritize feature requests and the product roadmap?
We have to strike a balance. There are a few important things that I consider before finalizing a feature or integration. The foremost is organizational priority, then customer priority, followed by the direction in which the app is going, and finally some cooler, nice-to-have features. As an organization, we want to have contextual integrations with other applications.
We also get a lot of customer requests, and from those we prioritize the ones which would be applicable for a larger part of our customer base. But of course, if there are regional requests which would bring us a lot of traction, we go ahead with that, integrating with Sign with Singpass for Singapore for example. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. It's all part of the game, that's it."
What were the challenges you faced in scaling the app?
While building a legal-tech app, it is essential to be compliant with the various laws and regulations, and to have the relevant certifications. This is tricky, since there is an increasing number of regulations in the electronic signatures and transactions domain across geographies. I needed to be very meticulous when it came to this.
What is your favorite feature, enhancement, or integration that you worked on and why?
I would say it has to be document time stamping. As a concept, it is something I love about our product. Timestamping of digital files, or documents in this case, is not a new concept. However, we didn't realize its relevance, especially culturally in countries like Japan, until our customers reached out asking for it. Although this was initially a region-specific request, we decided to build it for all regions, enabling us to offer it to our other customers before they asked for it.
How do you stay up to date on new legal technologies?
It is true that technology keeps updating, and there are new things to learn every day. I try to stay on top of it as much as I can, mostly by participating in forums with my peers, reading, and listening to podcasts.
Can you tell us how you go about building marketing strategies for Zoho Sign?
I try and understand what I am taking to market and how it addresses the needs of buyers—be it the people who are evaluating the app or those who are already using it—and craft a message around that.
In scenarios where I am trying to target a specific region, I position the app accordingly and decide where all the relevant content needs to go. An example would be how we are using regional ads via targeted platforms on top of organic content marketing to reach folks in tech and legal, both in India and Singapore, to spread the word about our Aadhaar eSign and Sign with Singpass integration capabilities.
What has been the most challenging campaign for you so far?
Probably the features surrounding regional compliance. This is because the audience, both region-wise and use-wise, is narrow and niche, but our organic marketing channels are extensive. So, when we are launching something for people in a specific region and vertical, our content reaches a much larger set of people and may not be useful to all of them. For example, when we launched qualified electronic signatures (QES) for the European Union, our blogs were read by thousands of people across the globe, but the feature was only available in the EU. So we had a tough time driving adoption via organic channels alone.
What do you think is the key difference between marketing a regular tech app and a legal tech app?
Marketing a tech app isn't that difficult, as businesses around the world are currently riding the digital transformation wave and are open to trying various tech apps. But legal tech brings with it a lot of considerations and implications, and of course, laws which change every 1,000 odd kilometers. In most regions, the local traditions and customs are also intertwined with these regulations—such as the use of hanko seals in Japan, which are also being digitized now.
So, when you are marketing a legal tech app, you need to be very culturally aware of how businesses operate in various regional landscapes. We need to be on our toes, as laws can change overnight.
How do you help frustrated customers?
Customers are often irritable when they face persisting issues in any app. The first step is to acknowledge their problems. We try to make them feel heard and understood, and give them the confidence that their issues will be resolved soon.We hear them out completely, let them explain what they're facing without speaking over them, and then give them a resolution based on our understanding.
What are the challenges that you currently face?
One of the biggest challenges that I face now is that Zoho Sign integrates with a lot of other applications—be it other Zoho apps or third-party apps and ecosystems. We are also making sure that we are increasingly compliant with e-signature laws across the globe. The rate at which the app has been building is truly challenging to keep up with.
How do you keep the customers reaching out to you for support happy?
Solving their problems definitely makes them happy, right? At Zoho Sign, we ensure that our customers who reach out to us get speedy responses and the assurance that their issues will be resolved. And offering this confidence is not futile, as we do get them the fixes they need at the earliest. This is the key to the happiness of our customers.
What was your biggest challenge in delivering a mobile-first app like Zoho Sign?
Simplifying the flow of the app's core functionality was the biggest challenge. For example, sending documents for signatures is one of the primary functions of Zoho Sign. It is a major process that includes choosing one or more documents, placing a set of fields, sending them to the right set of email addresses, and giving the option to add optional fields.
On the web, it is alright to have a big form to collect all these details in a single page. But with the limited space in a mobile app, filling in all these details in one big form will be difficult. So, we had to split this into a series of smaller steps to make it friendly on the mobile app.
How do you bridge the gap between the mobile and the web version of the app?
Generally, users do not expect all the features available on the web version of an app to be supported in its mobile version. So, we always focus more on the more mobile-friendly features that are useful on the go and prioritize them.
A stat to support that point would be based on our Apptics report: 70% of Zoho Sign mobile app users use the app only for signing documents, while the remaining 30% also use it to send documents for signatures.
Privacy is a bigger concern when it comes to mobile apps. How do you address this?
We only collect usage statistics and crash logs from our users, using our own in-house analytics framework Apptics, and that's only after obtaining consent from the users. There is an option for our users to share these details with us anonymously, and it can be turned on at any time.
The app also prompts a pop-up for getting consent from the users before accessing their photo gallery and device's files. Bio-metric authentication (Face ID/Touch ID on iOS and fingerprint/facial recognition on Android) is used to ensure secure and authorized access, and we apply a mask to the app screen to make it unreadable when it is active or running in the background. Hardware-level encryption is used to protect the user data and documents stored within the app.
Thank you for being a part of the Zoho Sign community. We'll learn more in the next part of this blog post, where we'll meet other members of the Zoho Sign team.
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