What challenges do businesses face going digital in Europe, and how can they be overcome? 

By Helen Sutton of DocuSign. Helen is a driving force behind DocuSign's 'Invest for Europe' policy.

Businesses need to remember that expansion into Europe can’t always be done with the same approach – a ‘one size fits all’ mentality will be a significant barrier to growth in the region.

Europe is culturally diverse and is defined by a broad range of national laws. Even European law may have distinct local applications, so when working in different countries, recognising these differences will be key to successful expansion.

eIDAS is a recent case in point. The European Commission felt that the previous e-Signatures Directive from 1999 was hampering digital growth in Europe, and limiting the potential for a Digital Single Market. So the European Commission developed the new eIDAS regulation to establish a more predictable regulatory framework for electronic transactions, and to boost cross-border e-commerce.

However, even with this new regulation, the need to respect national law is still necessary. For example, the regulation does not standardise what form of signature is necessary for valid execution of an electronic contract. It provides that a qualified electronic signature has the equivalent effect of a handwritten signature but otherwise leaves it to national law to define the legal effect of electronic signatures. So whilst the regulation actively enhances the Digital Single Market and the ability to sign contracts electronically, national laws still play a significant role.

Overcoming these challenges means recognising these differences and embracing the diversity that is Europe.

Helen Sutton will be speaking about Global Expansion Strategies at the Global Expansion Summit in 2017.