Data quality is one of the biggest issues affecting businesses in the modern, digital world. With firms looking to use their data as an asset, ensuring its hygiene has become a top priority. In fact, data quality has become fundamental to competitiveness and cannot be ignored. Clean data is a must have to drive customer loyalty and a memorable experience with a brand.

Whilst data quality is often associated with emerging technology and artificial intelligence (AI) applications, it is still as important as ever amongst traditional marketing and logistics methods. One of those methods is direct mail and delivery. Whatever happens with e-commerce, people will always need to have items delivered to their door. That is a fact. Given this is the case, address cleansing is a crucial part of any strategy or implementation.

What is address cleansing?

When we talk about cleansing, it simple terms it means performing transformations on data to improve or maintain its quality. Address cleansing standardizes, corrects and then validates postal addresses. Whilst there are technologies that use scripts or algorithms to clean addresses, sometimes, there will be manual work to ensure everything is structured in a postal format. For example, to match an address to the USPS database (official address database in the United States), the data being fed in needs to be in the same format.

  • Address standardization is the editing of components to the version accepted by the postal service for a region to match records
  • Address parsing is the process of dividing an address into its own individual parts, before it can be standardized. For example, this could be splitting an address into House Number, Street Name, City, State and Zip Code
  • Address correction would involve matching the parsed and standardized address inputs to the postal database for verification.

Following the address cleansing process will be some form of augmentation or enrichment of data. This would include adding derived information such as name or gender (where relevant) to the address details. There are many open sources that can append useful data to addresses once they have been validated and standardized.

Direct mail

Having accurate address data is imperative to any direct mail campaign. Firstly, sending mail to incorrect addresses is costly once you have paid for design and postage costs. This is before the fact that if the mail gets returned, an agent may need to call the customer to cleanse the address at an additional cost.

As well as the cost, mail that doesn’t reach the customer could create a bad experience if it is something they have been expecting. If by some chance that mail does find its way to the customers and they note the incorrect address, it can still create a poor impression where details haven’t been kept up-to-date.

Removing duplicates and fixed data problems like misspellings, poor formatting and incorrect addresses help to offer a complete and trustworthy service.

Delivery and supply chain

E-commerce has grown exponentially over the last few years and the trend for online shopping is not stopping. As large enterprises like Amazon and eBay step up their game through product recommendations, personalization and intelligence, smaller businesses are looking to follow suit. However, whilst it is not as exciting as the technology, it is very easy to forget the need for a strong supply chain to ensure success. In most cases, this needs to start with address cleansing. Taking Amazon as an example, each time a customer orders a product, they go through address verification. This is a great way of address cleansing as it puts ownership onto the customer and reduces the cost of incorrect data or returns.

Many e-commerce sites will deploy address verification software such as an automatic postcode lookup to guarantee the integrity of data. With failed deliveries costing as much as $5 per item for some retailers, having an address cleansing process is a key driver of success.

Keeping data clean is one of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses and investments must be made across all channels to maintain a competitive advantage.

While installing address verification software is one of the ways to ensure high data quality, cleansing historical addresses by address verification or standardization can be the first step of addressing the problem of bad data quality. Outsourcing your address standardization and verification services to a company like StrategicDB can help save time and money.