What’s the best address verification method?

Zip-code or Partial Verification

Zip-code verification means that when customers enter their ZIP-code, the city and state fields are populated automatically. However, they still need to manually enter the rest of the address data, which is why this is a partial verification.

While most consumers are familiar with this experience, it does little to support international address data or user-experience as most people don’t write their address with the zip code first.

SUMMARY: If you only have U.S. operations, this method will marginally improve the speed of digital form completion by removing the requirement to enter a city or state code, but otherwise does little to improve the experience or accuracy of online data collection.

Post-Entry Verification

Post-entry verification is one of the most popular forms of address verification available but does little to improve the user experience.

Post-entry verification means that the customer has to manually enter their address, and when they have finished a pop-up appears, showing possible alternatives before they can proceed. The customer must then confirm or re-select the correct address to complete the checkout or registration flow. Still a lot of effort. Especially on mobile devices, where ‘fat fingers’ combined with small screens can often be a problem.

While this method is popular among top online retailers including Amazon and WB Mason, a recent consumer study indicated that this method made customers feel like they’ve made a mistake, which worried them. They tended to view the pop-up as a tool to help the retailer internally versus a customer experience feature. Many noted that selecting the correct address from the pop-up was an extra step, and in most cases, a complete waste of time.

SUMMARY: While it is important to always check entries against a verified source before they enter your system, it’s best to use a front-end friendly solution that will also help the customer input their address correctly the first time.

Predictive Type-Ahead Verification

Predictive address verification, also known as address auto-complete, automatically suggests a list of valid local addresses as a user types, mimicking an intuitive search engine experience.

With type-ahead verification, the shopper simply starts typing their address into a single field, and as they type, increasingly accurate addresses are suggested. By clicking on one of the suggested addresses, the entire form is auto-populated. This saves the customer a massive amount of typing, and it requires them to focus on just one field. Type-ahead with fuzzy matching capabilities also recognizes typos, abbreviations and missing information, meaning that accurate data is significantly increased.

This method also adapts to international address lookups, allowing you to collect global addresses with a single interface. Usability tests indicate that this improves both speed, and accuracy of entry, while also inspiring a more positive brand experience, especially on mobile devices. 

SUMMARY: Research shows that 84% of users prefer a type-ahead experiencewhich reduces keystrokes and increases the quality of data entered into your system. Users like its accuracy, the speed it got them through the checkout and the fact that it minimizes the issue of ‘fat fingers’ on small devices. Which makes it all the more surprising that type-ahead verification is only being used by just a small percentage of the savviest retailers.  

So, which one is the best address verification method? 

Ultimately, there’s no single right or wrong approach except no address verification at all. Amazingly, 4% of the 100 top US etailers still don’t use any address verification, meaning that customers are expected to type their entire address manually into address forms. This is time consuming and frustrating, especially when you consider that most shoppers are time-strapped and just want to get through the checkout quickly. 

Which method would be best for you depends on your customers, the context in which they provide an address, and individual success metrics. Convenience, simplicity, speed and accuracy are all important factors to consider, and without covering each of these points, customers will inevitably leave your process before converting.