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Location data: Setting a global standard

Without correct and dependable address data, enterprise brands put their relationships at risk: shipments don’t arrive, commitments are delayed, targeting is askew, promises are broken. So, it is critical that location data is standardized and delivered seamlessly into operational and transactional workflows.

Complexities of standardizing address data

Validating and standardizing global addresses is a lot more complex than most businesses realize. There are tremendous challenges even in highly developed geographies. “Everybody thinks since we've got the United States Postal Service, we therefore have all of the addresses, and it should be very easy” said Robert Dickson, Global leader of Loqate’s professional services team, and my co-host for the Loqate TV series, Ask the Experts. “The reality is that the USPS does not deliver mail to every address in the U.S. There are certain communities that don't want the trucks in their yards. There are other places that can receive mail but don't receive it from the USPS.”

The lifespan of customer and address information is short-lived. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people that move every year equates to 14% of the population (or roughly 40 million), and that's only for those to which we have a record. Numerous residents in the US choose to live off the postal grid in communities such as Davidson, NC and Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, where USPS does not deliver mail to home addresses or Colorado mountain towns like Gypsum, who’s post office is currently struggling to keep up with the towns growing population.

The dynamic nature of location information proves that something as simple as the United States, isn't that straightforward.

Data Quality is Hard in Emerging Markets

As we travel across the globe, things get even more difficult. It is safe to assume that every geography is going to have its own standards and nuances when it comes to location and addresses. The complexity grows exponentially in the emerging markets. “For example, in India, an address may be stated in relation to another point of interest,” said Kartik Venkatesh, CTO at Loqate.  “A certain address is ‘around the corner, down the street from the cinema.’ You don't even have a standard addressing format across all the regions. This is a very hard, complex problem to solve, especially when you're trying to provide standard addresses to businesses.”

There is a lot of promise in emerging markets that have recently undergone a massive digital shift and adoption due to the pandemic. Countries located within the Asia-Pacific (APAC) are seeing the most movement with places like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines said to be growing between 20% and 30% annually.

But while there is undoubtedly no lack of global digital customers, there is still considerable difficulty in ensuring address data is accurate enough to reach these consumers. Take the Philippines for examples, 54% of new consumers are from non-metro, hard-to-address areas. In Indonesia, the country has yet to develop national standards on addresses, with vast differences in format seen when comparing rural locales to urban areas.

This lack in standardization and high-quality address data quality across the world has made the creation of one single source of truth, the golden customer record, an expert level task.

It gets even worse in the Metaverse

The development of an immersive digital experience such as the Metaverse will bring new levels of challenge and complexity to the location data management space. “Real” estate is already being sold in the Metaverse. Over $500 million in Metaverse real estate was sold in 2021, and projections are double that in 2022. I am about to put a bid on a few polygons across from Snoop Dogg’s NFT Museum.

All kidding aside, location and location data will play a vital role in the brand experience as the Metaverse becomes more mainstream. “We have some innovation efforts and R&D in this area too,” said Venkatesh. As this new world develops, validating locations and determining addresses will become even more relevant.

Forming the Loqate standard

If, as the old saying goes, “the beauty of standards is there are so many to choose from,” how do you create a global standard across all of them? “We start with our PDH - a persistent data hierarchy,” explained Venkatesh. “We take all of our data from all the various suppliers and build this global hierarchy so that we can zoom in and zoom out from any particular address.”

How PDH works:

  • Consolidates data from multiple sources into a single best record
  • Simplifies and standardizes the naming of address fields for all countries ensuring accuracy of address records and preventing costly errors
  • Automatically removes duplicates from the multiple sources and fills in missing address components, increasing consistency and match-rates of validated addresses
  • Scans all data sources and creates a master version of the global addresses in all 250 countries and territories
  • PDH performs normalization across the UTF8 (Unicode) character sets

This PDH standard is the backbone to the user experience, ensuring that there are rich analytics at every level of addressing. “It allows us to standardize addresses irrespective of the local and global standards that exist,” said Venkatesh. “That's why we call it the Loqate Standard, which is the highest level of addressing standards existing in the world today.”

This type of work takes an enormous amount of time and effort across an ever-changing landscape. “We have built a rich knowledge base of address standardization across the world,” said Venkatesh, “but that only takes us so far.”  It also takes significant investments in data science, artificial intelligence and enterprise data governance.

The task too big for most enterprises brands to manage on their own.  Ironically, the more time most companies spend on managing their own location data, the further they drift from their real core competence. Just because location data is vital to your business doesn’t mean you should be in the location data business!

Find out more

Every technologically-enabled initiative will scale or fail based on data quality. If your enterprise is working on digital transformation in any form, be sure you know where your location data is coming from.

If you’d like to dive deeper in the topic, then check out our first episode of Ask the Experts. My co-host Robert Dickson and I sit down with Loqate CTO Kartik Venkatesh to talk about his efforts to continually establish and refine a global address standard for enterprise customer and platform partners.


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