What is Reverse Geocoding?

At A Glance

Every point on Earth has a latitude and longitude coordinate, specified by satellites that orbit the planet. Constant streams of data are transmitted to Earth, and this data is received by smartphones and other devices. The position of a device from satellites is measured by trilateration, and allows access to global local information, such as road directions.

Addresses are necessary for humans to interpret geographic coordinates in a way that’s useful — to send mail or locate a destination, for instance.

Reverse Geocoding Overview

Why It Matters

Companies have a variety of reasons for keeping track of physical addresses. But storing this information according to the unique postal standards of countries around the world may be impractical. Enter geocodes.

Geocodes are a universal standard for identifying a location, anywhere in the world. Using latitudes and longitudes, geocodes have applications for developing third-party apps, enabling site-to-store features within eCommerce experiences, and planning logistics. With so many people relying on smartphones, geolocation tech helps people get to their destination safely, efficiently, and without hassle.

Geocoding also has implications for disaster prep, particularly in regions that may be experiencing weather-related disruptions. Latitude and longitude data can also assist with detecting challenges to public health. In some parts of the world where address systems are not present, geocoding is the only way to identify or describe a location.

Reverse geocoding identifies locations nearest to a latitude and longitude coordinate, enabling increased reliability of the location data. Even when addresses are unavailable, reverse geocoding software can provide corresponding addresses, based on nearby landmarks, for geolocation queries. Reverse geocoding use cases include:

  • Delivery updates - Customers searching for a missing or late purchase can receive real-time location updates that improve customer service and reliability.
  • Emergency response – in cases of emergency, accurately pinpointing the location of the caller can lead to faster deployment and arrival of emergency responders.
  • Device tracking – devices that capture real-time locations GPS coordinates such as smartphones can be tracked to help marketers determine the locations, habits and behaviors of potential consumers.
  • Payment processing - During an online, international purchase, retailers with a reverse geocoding API can pinpoint a customer's location and convert product prices to the shopper’s local currency

When combining reverse geocoding with other applications, we find many potential uses that span industries like retail, insurance, healthcare, and more.

Reverse geocoding from Loqate

How It Works

The reverse geocoding process takes place using an application programming interface (API). User-friendly software will also include a visualization layer. 

Behind the scenes, algorithms run and make judgments about the right address to append to a latitude and longitude coordinate. For instance, the closest address to a geocoded location may be a building across the street.

There are several different levels of accuracy that are possible with geocoding and reverse geocoding.

  • Rooftop geocoding provides the highest level of accuracy, with the latitude and longitude coordinates corresponding to a building with a physical address. Reverse geocoding will correspond to this same specific address.
  • Parcel centroid geocoding locates the center of a property, which could be a commercial office complex. With reverse geocoding, the lookup process will return the address assigned to that specific latitude and longitude
  • Thoroughfare geocoding will return one or multiple nearby locations, but the address is not possible to verify. Reverse geocoding results will be imprecise as well.
  • Administrative area geocoding provides the lowest level of geocoding accuracy to connect an area with a location such as a state or province. It is not possible to connect state or provincial level coordinates to a specific address.

Companion Technology

Address Validation

An important step in the reverse geocoding process is to validate addresses

Address validation, also known as address verification, is a technical process for confirming the accuracy of postal information based on official datasets. Address verification APIs are used to improve data quality, minimize errors, and reduce failed deliveries.

Geocoding and reverse geocoding software is often a counterpart to an address verification solution, which can help ensure that information is accurate.

To provide a seamless end-user experience, the address validation API needs to deliver results in real-time. From the customer’s perspective, this process should be taking place instantaneously and behind the scenes. There should be no delays, glitches, or bugs.

With accurate information in real-time, businesses can improve the efficiency of their customer support, marketing, and logistics operations.


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Choosing Address Technology

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing address verification, geocoding, and reverse geocoding software:

  • High quality international data 
  • Where and how data is obtained
  • What types of data is available with the API
  • What transactional volume the API service can support
  • What types of integrations are possible with other software in a technology stack
  • What security and compliance features are available 
  • Whether there are service interruptions and how often
  • What types of businesses rely on the service
  • What levels of customer support are available

The address validation API, geocoding or reverse geocoding solution should be straightforward to implement, easy to use and able to support the fast pace of global commerce.

Loqate helps businesses around the world verify customer addresses by combining our global datasets with best in class technology. Our easy to integrate API helps our customers verify customer data at the point of capture. Find out more about how Loqate address verification solutions can help your business.