At A Glance
Address standardization is the process of recording addresses correctly and converting information into a country’s official requirements. This capability improves shipping and delivery processes. Companies can standardize addresses using software, which parses through text to extract and assemble relevant information for billing and shipping.
To provide full global coverage, a high-quality address standardization solution will maintain a consistent and reliable single-best record, which comes from aggregating reference data from hundreds of data sources from all over the world. This behind-the-scenes technology takes the legwork and guesswork out of converting addresses into their needed formats, which reduces customer service complexity.
When an “address is standardized,” it means that the relevant details (i.e. street number, apartment number, street name, city, state, and postal code) are in the correct formats.
Address Standardization Overview
Why It Matters
Poor address data quality is a multi-billion dollar challenge for businesses and postal carriers around the world. The goal of address standardization is to prevent these problems while also improving the speed and delivery of service for end users.
It’s common for the following issues to arise when customers share their billing and delivery information:
- Incomplete information - Missing street names, block numbers, or zip codes
- Invalid information - Fake addresses and zip codes
- Incorrect information - Typos, misspellings, formatting of abbreviations (i.e. CAL instead of CA for California)
- Inaccurate information - Wrong addresses or house numbers
These errors create difficulties for delivering parcels and may result in returned packages due to postal carriers being unable to locate a destination. Customers experience shipping delays and businesses must absorb the costs of these errors, as a result.
Address standardization also helps businesses keep up with population growth, urbanization, and new construction taking place, as a result. In the United States, as an example, the Postal Service (USPS) adds 4,221 addresses to its delivery network every day. By standardizing addresses, businesses can ensure that information — regarding site to store pickup instructions, for instance — remain accurate.
International Address Standardization
Beyond ensuring data quality, address standardization is necessary for businesses that are expanding their customer bases into new countries and territories.
Address standardization technology formats international addresses to meet local rules. In Japan, people start their address by entering their postal code. If the company is in France, they will ask for the building number before the street name, while German forms will ask for the street name first, along with the recipient’s academic title, as it is an essential part of the address there.
Keeping this context in mind, address standardization can help maintain an optimal buyer experience. End users need to see form fields presented in the order that is most familiar to them. To create a geographically relevant end-user experience, address standardization software will help automate the following steps:
- Identifying the website visitor — by connecting established customers to their user accounts and pinpointing the locations of new website visitors
- Showing that person a customized browsing and checkout experience, based on his or her location
- Ensuring that the billing and delivery address fields are correct for that individual’s region
- Validating the address that the customer shares, to ensure that the information is accurate and matches official postal records
With these protocols in place, a retailer in the United Kingdom can seamlessly deliver products to customers in the United States — or anywhere else — without the risk of error.
Address Standardization In Practice
In the United States, where the mail service relies on automation, address standardization creates a systematic and consistent basis for record-keeping across the country. The United States Postal Service (USPS) defines a complete address as one that has an exact match with the following requirements, using postal service standard abbreviations:
This exact match makes it possible to look up ZIP+4 and delivery point codes for delivery addresses. Software can help standardize an address that a user inputs into the USPS official format.
While the USPS maintains rules for standardization, it will still accept some address formats that are not in the preferred format. For instance, the USPS recommends that punctuation be omitted but will accept an address with punctuation.
Similarly, uppercase letters are not a USPS requirement even though they are acceptable. There are also multiple abbreviations for street suffixes that the USPS will recognize, even though the official standard is best for ensuring deliverability — there’s a risk of mail with an incorrect suffix failing to reach its recipient.
Further details regarding address standardization in the United States are available on the USPS Postal Explorer website. Address standardization software will have these rules and considerations built into their technology.
Address standardization is necessary to help companies maintain good data hygiene, both in real-time and over the long-term. It can help companies:
- Ensure parcel delivery. Once an address is in its correct format, you can use software to validate the information. Address validation, also known as address verification is a separate process from address standardization; however, both are necessary for confirming the accuracy of postal information. Address verification is a process for checking the accuracy of location data. Its use cases are applicable to organizations across industries ranging from eCommerce to gaming, financial services, healthcare, education, insurance, banking, and logistics. Learn more about address verification.
- Updating company records. Over time, databases tend to deteriorate in quality. Businesses need to actively maintain the health of their systems of record — especially since addresses are always changing. Both address verification and standardization can help ensure that your databases are in optimal condition, which will be helpful for personalizing marketing campaigns, creating loyalty programs, and identifying locations for future stores.
Address standardization and verification are important components to any businesses serving an international audience.
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.