What is Global Address Complete?
Service Objects, Inc. has just welcomed our latest service DOTS Global Address Complete into our suite of services! This service suggests addresses in a type-ahead setting (such as a shopping cart web form) to help users quickly and conveniently arrive at the correct desired address. It can help populate other important address data fields to improve efficiency and reduce the likelihood of cart abandonment. It works for 250 countries and territories, providing up to unit/apt level resolution for many countries.
One of our recent blog articles Introducing Global Address Complete describes the capabilities and benefits of the service in more detail. It explains how these capabilities work, together with an overview of how they can be implemented. This blog, meanwhile, is intended to be a bit of a deeper dive on some of the things Service Objects is adding for US type-ahead addresses – and in particular, how to ensure that these type-ahead addresses are as accurate as possible. Let’s jump in.
What problems do autocomplete solutions present?
Most type-ahead or autocomplete solutions are designed to merely suggest addresses for the purpose of helping populate key data fields and quickly move a user through the purchasing or sign-up procedure. This does work in most cases, because the user knows their address and knows what they have selected is correct, and wants to move through the process quickly. This in turn helps the company offering the type-ahead service because their goal is to get the user’s information tied into their business. But what happens after that?
Many services are not necessarily built on authoritative datasets. For the purposes of populating a web form and moving a user through the process, this is fine, as long as the user can find the address they know is good. Where it gets tricky is that a service might know all the street names but only have ranges it knows are good: for example, 100-199 Main St is a known street range, but perhaps 110 Main St is a good address and 111 Main St is a bad address, but the type-ahead happily accepts both cases.
Normally this is not a problem, because the user should not pick 111 Main St, right? But what if the user makes a simple mistake and doesn’t notice it, or someone else filling in information on the user’s behalf mishears part of the address, or the user is delivering the package to someone else’s location and makes a mistake. Even deeper, many autocomplete services do not have suite or apartment information. Again, that might be fine in the short term for the primary goal, but a missing suite number could lead to a number of issues including the user being unreachable by mail.
In general, the suggested addresses you see in a autocomplete service are not standardized according to any postal standards. This might be fine when pushing a user through the system but it could lead to issues – for instance, the company tracking the new user might later find data issues with leads improperly placed into a CRM or other system. This is true of any of the issues described above – bad data being introduced at any point in the process can lead to bad data in your systems and reduced efficiency.
So what can we do about that?
The best address validation engine
Why did we decide to marry Global Address Complete and DOTS Address Validation – US? Because we are really, really good at validating addresses in the United States. We have decided to offer this validation at no extra charge in the Global Address Complete service. As stated before, many type-ahead solutions do not have the most authoritative data sources. They need massive amounts of data and need to know as many street names, localities and other data points as possible, so they can serve their purpose of moving a prospect through a web form and into their system. But they do not need to be 100% accurate.
However, your end needs might be slightly different, and storing data points with inaccuracies in your CRM system might lead to headaches down the road. What if you need to do deliveries and find that the United States Postal Service thinks the address you have collected and stored isn’t good enough? For example, one prospect told us about an address they delivered a very expensive package to. The address looked perfectly fine but was in fact lacking suite information for an office complex that had hundreds of businesses in it. The package was rejected and sent back at great cost to the company.
Our Address Validation – US service would report this address as part of a large firm or office and that it was missing the suite information. That should be a large red flag for a company sending out something by mail. Most type-ahead solutions will happily take in this address information without the critical detail of the missing suite information and essentially corrupt your CRM, causing you future headaches.
Adding validation allows for proper standardization of the address, making sure the postal codes are correct and the correct city is chosen, among other things. Many type-ahead solutions do not have great postal code data and some none at all. In testing with our own type-ahead data, we found that proper validation cleaned up about 7% of the postal codes. Not having proper standardization can lead to data entering into your CRM or other databases incorrectly. Moreover, the parsed-out address fragments from our response should be very flexible for pretty much any data or lead-storing system.
More data points
Autocomplete systems are generally pretty simple in their delivery: they serve the purpose of suggesting an address and perhaps pre-populating a few fields to make a user more likely to convert. For this purpose, a bunch of extra data points is not really necessary. But as we mentioned earlier, when storing contact information in a database or CRM, companies might want to track additional data points or fill out a record with items that may not be regularly available via a standard autocomplete system. For US addresses, we are appending many of the additional fields available in our Address Validation – US service. More information about those fields can be found here for the main operation:
and here for additional notes that will be returned with the result:
In addition to better-parsed address fragments, some additional data points of interest include delivery point status, bar code digits, carrier routes for mailings, county information and a wide variety of interesting informational notes about the address in question. These informational notes may contain important details such as whether the address is a military base, if the address is vacant, if the address is an office or apartment complex, and so much more.
How does Global Address Complete fit in with other Service Objects APIs?
Global Address Complete serves the specific purpose of providing complete and validated addresses for type-ahead situations, but there are many use cases where a type-ahead solution is not needed – for example, to cleanse lists of addresses loaded into a database or CRM, or a CRM needs a data refresh, or a form doesn’t require type-ahead functionality. Companies looking at Service Objects for a type-ahead need might find that they want normal validation built into other processes as well.
Global Address Complete is a good supplementary need for a vast array of validation needs and plays well with our other services like Address Validation – US and Address Validation – International. The close tie of Global Address Complete and Address Validation – US makes using these services both together and in separate processes a breeze. Clients wanting a bit of extra validation on internationally-suggested addresses will find working with Address Validation – International a breeze as well. Want to learn more? Contact our friendly product experts anytime!