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Address Verification MS 03

Unlike other data types, address data poses a rare challenge – it is hard to verify and validate, posing a real threat to businesses. For example, postal a confidential bank letter to the wrong address can result in a potential legal suit -or – sending multiple marketing brochures to a person who no longer resides at the given address is a negative cost to the business!

Businesses, therefore, need help with address data cleaning – a process that involves identifying, cleansing, and standardizing address information. In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of address cleansing and how you can achieve that by using WinPure’s unique address cleaning module.

ADDRESS DATA CLEANSING – A DETAILED PROCESS BREAKDOWN

As the term implies, address cleansing essentially refers to verifying and updating mailing addresses stored in a database. Though it sounds simplistic, address data cleansing involves a significant amount of work. Not only do you have to clean and standardize the data, but you also need to match, verify, and validate the data against government databases such as the USPS or the UK Royal Mail – with the goal of ensuring that the address is up-to-date and accurate so it can be used for tasks like marketing campaigns, customer service, risk management, fraud prevention, etc.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the process:

Data Audit: The first step in address data cleaning is to conduct a data audit. This involves examining the existing address data to identify any issues or inconsistencies. The data audit can be done manually, or using software tools to scan the data for errors and inconsistencies.

Correction of Errors: After identifying errors in the data, the next step is to correct them. This can include fixing typos, misspellings, and other errors. Address data can contain plenty of errors, such as periods, commas, and odd numbers. Because it may often be filled manually, it is often one of the most complex data sets to deal with.

Standardization: Standardization involves ensuring that the address data is in a consistent format. This can include converting abbreviations to their full form, changing formats to match the postal service’s guidelines, and standardizing capitalization. The goal is to ensure that all addresses are in a standardized format that is easily understood and recognized by postal services. For example, if you follow UPPERCASE for all letters in a Zip Code, then it cannot be in lower case. 

Validation: Address validation involves verifying that an address is deliverable and can be reached by the postal service. This typically involves checking the address against a reference database to ensure that it is accurate and complete. Validation may also include geocoding, which involves determining the latitude and longitude of the address, which can be used to ensure that the address is in a valid location.

De-duplication: You may have multiple addresses for an individual or multiple variations (same block but different flat number, or same street but different block, etc) of the same address. This causes a high level of duplication and may result in poor outcomes for businesses that are trying to use address data to meet business objectives.

Data Enrichment: Data enrichment involves adding additional data to the address records to provide more context and information. This may include appending zip codes, postal codes, geocodes, or other data that may be useful for analysis.

Maintenance: Finally, ongoing maintenance is essential to ensure that the address data remains accurate and up-to-date. This may involve regular data cleansing, updating records based on changes to the postal service guidelines, and ensuring that data is continuously verified and validated.

While businesses can get away with deprioritizing cleaning other data attributes such as emails or phone numbers, they cannot get away with poor address data. The implications are damaging – from losing trust to reputation, money to credibility, and customer loyalty, there is a lot to lose if address data quality is not prioritized.

WHAT KIND OF ADDRESS RELATED ERRORS ARE THERE?

There can be a variety of errors including:

  • Typos: When it comes to addresses, you need to be exact. Even a single mistake can create havoc. Imagine, you have to send a parcel to house no 676 and you end up sending it to house number 667. A small mistake will cause major issues for the company, hence it is important to be careful.
  • Incomplete Address: It is not very uncommon for people to leave incomplete addresses. If you have studied about logistic issues in Dubai, you must know how problematic it can be to deliver parcels in the emirate.

The same can happen in your case if you or your respondents do not enter complete details. These typically include:

  • House number
  • Street name or number
  • Town or locality
  • City
  • State
  • ZIP code

Also, the address may differ based on where the respondent lives. For example, there may be information regarding the floor number or block if the person lives in an apartment building.

  • Filing Errors: Filing errors occur when you file the wrong information from one document to another. These include putting the wrong information in the wrong section and not copying all the details.

The best way to reduce the risk of address-related problems is to improve the data collection process, and to use an address cleaning tool with verification capabilities that ensure you’ve got the correct address.

WHY DO ADDRESSES MATTER IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Technically speaking, all kinds of companies need addresses. Here’s why:

  • Companies Need Supplier Information: Almost all companies have to deal with vendors. Restaurants, for example, need to be in touch with vegetable suppliers, meat providers, etc.
    They may not always need to send an employee to the given address, but they must have it in the record book in case there is an emergency. They also have to mention it on the invoices and other relevant documents.

Other than this, you may need the address to mail documents.

  • Businesses Need Employee Contact Details: This is very important because you do not know when an accident might occur at work. In such a scenario, it becomes your responsibility to ensure the employee reaches home safe and sound. Knowing the employee’s address can be very helpful in this regard. You may even need the address to mail documents, including salary slips, legal notices, etc.
  • Customer Details Are Essential: Now, here comes the most important part. Almost every business needs customer addresses
  • To deliver goods – this one is a no-brainer. If you are in a goods-producing business, you will need customer addresses to fulfill orders.
  • To create customer profiles – Ever read about a business making a niche in a specific market? How do you think businesses can identify their best markets? It’s by creating customer profiles. These profiles tell them everything about a customer, including their city or town. Once a business has all such information, it can gauge where they are most popular. Such information can be very helpful in coming up with the right marketing plan.
  • to send marketing materials – we still live in the era of ‘mail’. Businesses regularly send physical mail, newsletters, and other documents to subscribers and customers. These documents are specially written according to the target audience and are sent to specific addresses so the business can enjoy a high return on investment. For example, a business offering ‘newborn formula’ would send brochures to a house with at least one toddler. The brochure will not generate leads if it reaches a home with no children.
  • For Better Planning: Businesses need complete addresses to plan appropriately. Think about FedEx. The company can deliver thousands of parcels in a day because it has complete addresses. It sorts ‘em out according to the area and then delivers each parcel on time. The job would have been nearly impossible without the correct addresses.
  • For Invoice Purposes: In some parts of the world, invoices are not valid if they do not contain full and correct addresses of both the seller and the buyer. This is why businesses must have access to complete addresses to issue valid invoices. Otherwise, they may have to face trouble when it comes to taxes.

As defined here, the importance, scope, and purpose of address data affects every aspect of your organization and has a real-time impact if it is inaccurate or flawed. If it is managed well, it can improve your business’s efficiency and productive outcomes as discussed in the case study given below.

THE IMPACT OF ADDRESSES – A CASE STUDY

Some US states were recently in the news for introducing a new system to reduce the cost of transportation. They changed routes and as a result, there were fewer trips and less traffic on the road.

The authorities achieved such amazing results because they had access to complete addresses. This allowed them to select appropriate routes, change pick-up and drop-off timings, and recommend other changes.

They would have never been able to do so without access to complete and correct addresses.

But, addresses benefit not only schools and government but other organizations as well.

Here are some advantages:

  • Reduced Cost: As seen in the example above, correct addresses can help businesses save cost. Let’s say a business spends $2 on delivering a parcel but it bounces back due to an incorrect address. Now, the business has to resend the parcel, hence bearing an additional cost of $2, which will be reduced from the profit.
  • Saved Time: When you have the correct address, you will have more time in hand. There will be no failed deliveries to take care of. Your employees will be able to devote time to other jobs and your business will flourish.
  • Better Efficiency: All businesses want to be efficient and this is possible only when they use their given resources in the best possible manner. Having access to correct information can be of help in this regard.
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Customers trust companies that meet deadlines and deliver products on time. They are also more likely to reuse and refer companies that respect their deadlines.
  • Increase Loyalty: Believe it or not, the right address can help improve loyalty among consumers and workers.

Employees take great pride in working for a company that does not make ‘errors’, thus improving loyalty. The same goes for clients as they love to work with reliable companies.

ADDRESS DATA & GDPR REQUIREMENTS

Address data is considered personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation in the European Union (EU) that sets out rules for protecting personal data. The GDPR requires that organizations processing personal data, including address data, comply with a range of data protection principles, which include:

Lawfulness, fairness and transparency: Personal data must be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner.

Purpose limitation: Personal data must be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.

Data minimization: Personal data must be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed.

Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.

Storage limitation: Personal data must be kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed.

Integrity and confidentiality: Personal data must be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.

GDPR compliance can be complex, but with the right planning and approach, organizations can improve their address data to meet GDPR requirements. Some steps to take include:

Improve address data accuracy and completeness: One of the GDPR’s data protection principles is accuracy, meaning that personal data must be accurate and kept up to date. Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of address data can be a challenge for organizations, especially when data is collected from multiple sources or is subject to change.

Consent and data subject rights: GDPR requires organizations to obtain consent from individuals before collecting and processing their personal data, and to respect the data subject’s rights, such as the right to access, rectify, or erase their personal data. Address data may be subject to these requirements, particularly when it is used for marketing or other purposes that require consent. This means companies must be able to match the consent of their customers with their data to avoid violating GDPR rules.

Security and protection: The GDPR requires organizations to ensure appropriate security of personal data, including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage. Address data may be particularly vulnerable to data breaches and other security threats, as it can be used to identify individuals and may be subject to misuse if not adequately protected.

While some organizations may still be struggling to meet these requirements, others may have already implemented robust processes and controls to manage address data in compliance with GDPR. Part of this includes using the right tool with address verification and validation options to help you keep your data updated and accurate.

CONSEQUENCES OF POOR ADDRESS DATA – SOME REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES

Poor address data negatively impact businesses, including increased costs, lost sales, reduced customer satisfaction, and decreased efficiency. We’ve obtained some examples from working with customers across 40+ verticals.

Shipping and Delivery Problems: One of the most common consequences of poor address data is shipping and delivery problems. If the address data is inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated, packages and shipments may be delayed, lost, or delivered to the wrong address. This can lead to dissatisfied customers, increased shipping costs, and lost revenue for businesses.

For example, in 2019, the United States Postal Service reported that it processed over 97 billion pieces of mail, but more than 6 billion pieces were undeliverable as addressed. This can be attributed to issues such as inaccurate or incomplete address data.

Marketing and Customer Outreach Inefficiencies: Poor address data can also affect marketing and customer outreach efforts. If the address data is incorrect, businesses may end up sending marketing materials to the wrong address, resulting in wasted resources and ineffective outreach. It can also lead to negative customer experiences if they receive irrelevant or repetitive materials.

For example, a 2019 survey conducted by Experian Data Quality found that 25% of businesses experienced difficulty reaching customers due to incorrect contact data. This can result in missed sales opportunities and decreased customer engagement.

Compliance and Regulatory Issues: Poor address data can also lead to compliance and regulatory issues. For example, if a business is required to maintain accurate and up-to-date address data for regulatory purposes, such as for tax or legal filings, inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to legal or financial penalties.

For example, in 2019, a healthcare organization in the United States was fined $2.3 million for failing to maintain accurate and complete address data for patient records, which violated regulatory requirements.

Overall, insufficient address data can have a wide range of negative consequences for businesses, including shipping and delivery problems, marketing and customer outreach inefficiencies, and compliance and regulatory issues. By addressing these issues through address data cleaning, businesses can avoid these consequences and ensure that their address data is accurate, complete, and up-to-date.

USING WINPURE FOR A COMPLETE ADDRESS DATA CLEANING PROCESS

Traditionally, IT managers, database managers, and data analysts have used various methods to verify and validate address data and overcome the associated challenges. Some of these methods included:

  1. Using Excel to clean addresses
  2. Using Python and R to create custom scripts
  3. Using complicated database management tools to store, then clean addresses
  4. Using a combination of tools to standardize, match, verify, and update data

The problem?

These methods take up a massive amount of time, create redundant work processes that employees are not motivated to take on, and overall harms the accuracy and reliability of the data.

The solution? A tool that lets you do it all without having to switch between systems, sheets, or files.

Being a data cleaning solution, WinPure offers a range of tools and features for cleaning and validating address data. Here are some ways that WinPure can help with the complete address data cleaning process.

Data Parsing: Want to review your address data by components? WinPure lets you break down the address data into its components, such as street name, city, state, title, and zip code. This makes it easier to standardize the format and correct errors.

Data Cleansing: Detect and correct errors in the address data, such as typos, misspellings, and incorrect formatting. This helps to ensure that the data is accurate and up-to-date.

Data Deduplication: Match attributes using fuzzy, numeric, and exact data to identify and remove duplicates.

International Address Data Validation: One of WinPure’s unique features is its international address data validation feature. This feature uses a reference database to verify the accuracy and completeness of international addresses, including those in over 240 countries. It can identify missing or incorrect components of the address, such as postal codes, and provide suggestions for correcting them.

Geocoding: WinPure also offers geocoding capabilities, which can help to identify the latitude and longitude of an address. This can be useful for verifying that the address is in a valid location, and for identifying nearby landmarks or points of interest.

All of this in a no-code/code-free, user-friendly interface that even your business team can use to clean up their employee, vendor, or supplier data!

CASE STUDY – COST SAVING WITH ADDRESS VERIFICATION FOR GOVERNING SPORTS BODY

England Hockey is the national governing body for field hockey within England, and is responsible for organizing initiatives that range from grassroots to elite events. They maintain a large database, spanning over 10 years, consisting of over 162K entries, filled by both employees and customers. The data was always manually treated using Excel, which proved to be a hindrance when they wanted to consolidate their data to fulfill a business purpose.

Using WinPure’s address data cleaning and verification module, they were able to:

— Increase staff confidence in the system

— Reduce the time and effort involved in identifying and merging duplicates manually

— Improve the quality of data, leading to less returns on mailings

— Meet GDPR requirements with accurate and up-to-date data

Download the case study to know more!

Written by Farah Kim

Farah Kim is a human-centric product marketer and specializes in simplifying complex information into actionable insights for the WinPure audience. She holds a BS degree in Computer Science, followed by two post-grad degrees specializing in Linguistics and Media Communications. She works with the WinPure team to create awareness on a no-code solution for solving complex tasks like data matching, data deduplication, and MDM.

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