Is the address dead?
by Graham Rhind.
27 Jul 2012: As postal volumes fall and direct marketing becomes a smaller part of a wider range of marketing avenues, is the address dead?
Not at all! Whilst organisations require richer data above and beyond names, addresses and demographics, such as latitude and longitude, electronic contact data and social media activities, the address remains the basis of the information pile. It is one of the more stable pieces of information you acquire about the customer, it shows their location (an increasingly important piece of information of most marketing and sales activities) and it continues to be needed for most database processes – identification, linking, merging and de-duplication, to name but a few. And naturally, once you’ve made the sale, you need to deliver the goods!
When it comes to addresses, national is no longer good enough. Few organisations of a certain size can permit themselves to have only customers within the domestic market. Globalisation, the Internet, trading blocks and currency unions all dictate the need to look at international markets. But whilst the trading globe gets smaller, addressing isn’t getting more standardised. On a globe with around 250 countries and territories, 6000 plus languages are spoken and written in tens of different scripts, addresses may be written in one of over 130 different formats, these addresses containing a mixture of some 140 different components. Postal code formats vary widely, and around 50 countries and territories still do not use one.
With such complexity, many organisations find it easier to live in ignorance than to apply the same stringent quality expectations to international address data as they do to national addresses. Web forms are placed online for an international audience with unsuitable fields, layouts and field lengths, and data collected is often poor and largely unusable. It need not be so. A whole range of tools now exist from a number of suppliers to improve the quality of data collection for almost all countries many fold. Perhaps surprisingly for a nation with a reputation for insularity, British companies are well represented amongst these suppliers. Though there are still far too many companies which do not validate incoming data in the UK, growth in the domestic market for address validation software is no longer sufficient.
From an address viewpoint, also, it is also no surprise that British companies have produced successful solutions for foreign addresses. British addresses can be very long, with many elements, varied formats and include descriptive elements; and British consumers have never been good at using the same standardised address form in all cases. When faced with one of the world’s most complex address structures, British companies have found innovative and creative ways of identifying, parsing and validating addresses; and once you can do that for a British address, those of most of the rest of the world are a cinch!
The address will remain an essential component of any customer data profile for many years to come, and it remains important to validate that data at source to the highest possible degree, national or international!
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12 Feb 2013: It’s a tragedy to see Jessops and HMV disappear but it's a pointed reminder that bricks-and-mortar retailers need to think hard about how they maintain relationships with their customers, says Dan Brassington.
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13 Nov 12: Postcode Anywhere’s Guy Mucklow has praised Lord Heseltine’s report No stone unturned in pursuit of growth, and has highlighted the importance of trade associations, civil servants and channelling government expenditure towards SMEs, to foster economic growth.
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3 Oct 2012: There is a burgeoning romance between smart marketers and data scientists – and without a doubt, this relationship has the potential to become ‘something serious’, says Lisa Arthur.
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14 Aug 2012: It’s hard to get your head around just how disruptive the Olympic Games will be for many database marketers this year, says Dwain McDonald.
14 Aug 2012: While an instinctive inclination to cut costs in tough economic times is understable, doing so by scrimping on data quality management is a completely false economy, argues Graham Rhind.
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