Posts Tagged ‘Address Validation’

More Than an Address: What is a Delivery Point?

Most people think that they mail or ship things to addresses – and they would be wrong. And the reasons for this might be very important to your bottom line.

First, let’s look at one actual address here in our native Santa Barbara, California: 1540 N. Ontare Road.

 

This address is quite real. (In fact, its property is currently for sale on Realtor.com.) But we wouldn’t recommend shipping a package there – at least not yet – because at the moment it is a vacant 20-acre lot.

Now, let’s look at another address: 350 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY:

 

This is also a valid address: it is the famous Empire State Building, one of the tallest buildings in the United States. We wouldn’t recommend using this address by itself for shipping a package either, because without more detail such as a suite number, there is no way of knowing which of its more than 1000 businesses serves as the destination. (In fact, the address itself isn’t even that important here: this building is large enough to have its own ZIP code, 10118.)

Understanding delivery points

These are both examples of the differences between an address and a delivery point. Addresses simply describe the location of a piece of geography, while delivery points are the lifeblood of physical shipments: they are approved unique locations served by delivery services such as the U.S. Postal Service. Many people think they are shipping to addresses, but they are actually shipping to delivery points.

This underscores the importance of delivery point validation, whether you are doing a direct mail marketing campaign or shipping products to customers. There are several possible points of failure where a delivery point may be invalid or undeliverable:

  • The physical address may be incorrect
  • The physical address may be correct, but undeliverable (such as our vacant lot example above)
  • The physical address alone may be insufficient, such as a multi-tenant building
  • Additional delivery point information may be incorrect or invalid: for example, a fourth-floor suite in a three-story building, or a nonexistent suite number
  • The delivery point information may be completely correct, but correspond to the wrong recipient

So from here, your new mantra should be: is it deliverable?

Address validation: the key to accurate delivery points

This is where our flagship address validation tools come in. Available for US, Canadian and international markets, these services provide real-time verification of deliverability – including flagging of vacancy, returned mail, and general delivery addresses – to ensure accurate contact data at the time of data entry or use.

These tools instantly verify, correct and append delivery addresses, using APIs that integrate with your CRM or marketing automation platforms, cloud connectors, or convenient batch services for cleaning your databases without the need for programming. Whichever approach you use, you will leverage our vast infrastructure of up-to-the-minute data from the USPS, Canada Post and other sources, along with sophisticated and accurate address verification capabilities.

Our DOTS Address Validation – US 3 service, for example, provides near-perfect match accuracy with updates mirroring the USPS, and sub-second response times that allow you to validate live customer input in real time. And our industry-leading GetBestMatches operation combines Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to verify an address is deliverable, Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) to identify residential or business, and SuiteLink (SLK) to add secondary suite information for businesses, all with a single API call to our USPS CASS Certified™ engine.

Want to learn more about engineering delivery point validation into your operations? Contact us for friendly, knowledgeable answers from our experienced team of data quality professionals.

Enhance Customer Profiles With DOTS Address Insight – US

Service Objects is pleased to welcome a new service to our lineup, DOTS Address Insight – US.  Built on the core of our USPS CASS Certified DOTS Address Validation – US and DOTS Address Geocode – US services, Address Insight – US blends address and geocode data with supplemental demographic data. Our proprietary datasets of hard to get addresses (like rural or unincorporated areas) enhance United States Postal Service data and provide additional insights about locations that no single service could handle. Address Insight – US uses this data to strengthen your customer profile with just one call.

Address Insight – US Employs Powerful Data from Service Objects’ Strongest Services

Address Validation – US provides robust address validation, correction, and standardization for the vast majority of valid US addresses. Impressive fuzzy matching capabilities and logic are used for dealing with complex address structures. Delivery point validation, residential/business indicators, and suite link to append suite information are all included. In addition, Address Validation – US returns important informational pieces like corrections that were made to the address or identifying special cases such as location vacancy or returning mail.

Address Geocode – US combines multiple datasets to handle complex cases and messy addresses and return the most comprehensive set of Latitude and Longitude coordinates possible. Key informational pieces including State FIPS, County FIPS, Census Tract, and Census Block are also returned. Mapping calculations are performed to identify locations that are unincorporated, or outside of the bounds of a city. These calculations also identify the most accurate name of the location in PlaceName, which could be the name of an area within a larger city – where the larger city would normally be returned.

Three-in-one Service Improves Results and Location Scoring

In addition to the vast datasets found in Address Validation – US and Address Geocode – US, Address Insight – US incorporates additional compiled datasets that improve results and enhances location accuracy scoring. The ability to return information about challenging or hard to find addresses is a critical feature of Address Insight – US. The service returns several notes that help identify information about the address, such as:

  • AddressFoundByUSPS indicates that our Address Validation service successfully identified the location. This is the best possible result as it indicates a solid chance of mail delivery and more informational datapoints are available.
  • AddressFoundInSupplementalData indicates that the address information was found in one of the supplemental data sets. Its not as high quality as the USPS data and not as many additional data points are available, however there is a high likelihood the location is a good address.
  • AddressIsGeneralDelivery indicates that we could not find any specific information on the address, but the area is known and the street is good. The location is likely part of a General Delivery area and still has a strong likelihood of being valid.

Address Insight – US returns a score from 0-100 that approximates the likelihood that the location is a good one.

Additionally, Address Insight – US returns many other useful pieces of demographic and informational data, which can help businesses increase revenue through targeted marketing and satisfy regulatory requirements for compliance in different industries. Sample demographic returns include:

  • ZipHouseholdValue tells the average value of houses in the area.
  • ZipPersonsPerHousehold tells the size of households in the area.
  • HouseholdIncome returns give the average house hold incomes for different levels of the area.
  • Other informational returns include area codes associated with the area, time zone, MSA, CBSA, DMA and more.

New Interface Designed for Future Enhancements

One of the best new features available in Address Insight – US is that it is built upon a new dynamic interface that allows us to safely add in new data fields. We will never change a result that already exists, however, this interface allows us the ability to continually improve the service and add in new fields as they become available. This feature will allow Service Objects to potentially work with clients on custom solutions and in the future, we may even be able to build add-ons to the service that may return entirely new datasets.

Address Insight – US provides address validation, geocoding, and demographic data – all with a single call. We support REST, SOAP, GET, and POST requests over HTTPS outputting in XML and JSON formats. Get started with your free trial key for Address Insight – US or visit the developer guide to learn more.

Saving More of Your Labor this Labor Day

Labor Day is much more than the traditional end of summer in America: it pays tribute to the efforts of working people. It dates back well over a century, with one labor leader in the 1800s describing it as a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” And we aren’t forgetting our friends in Europe and elsewhere, who celebrate workers as well with holidays such as May Day.

As we celebrate work and the labor movement – and enjoy a long holiday weekend – we wanted to take a look at some of the ways that we help you save labor, as you try to carve grandeur from your organization’s data. Here are some of the more important ones:

Validation and more. Let’s start with the big one. For nearly two decades, the main purpose of our existence has been to take the human effort out of cleaning, validating, appending, and rating the quality of your contact and lead data. Whether your needs involve marketing, customer service, compliance or fraud prevention, these tools save labor in two ways: first, by saving you and your organization from re-inventing the wheel or doing manual verification, and second, by saving you from the substantial human costs of bad data.

Ease of integration. What is the single worst data quality solution? The one that gets implemented badly, or not at all. One of the biggest things our customers praise us for is how easy it is to implement our tools, to work almost invisibly in their environment. We offer everything from API integration and web hooks with common platforms, all the way to programming-free batch interfaces for smaller or simpler environments – backed by clear documentation, free trial licenses and expert support.

Speed and reliability. As one customer put it, “milliseconds matter” – particularly in real-time applications where, for example, you are validating customer contact data as they are in the process of entering it. Our APIs are built for speed and reliability, with a longstanding 99.999% uptime and multiple failover servers, as well as sub-second response times for many services – so you don’t waste time tearing your hair out or troubleshooting responsiveness issues.

Better analytics. Your contact data is a business asset – put it to work as a tool to gain business insight for faster, more informed decision-making and market targeting. You can target leads by demographics or geocoding, enhance your leads with missing phone or contact information, or leverage your customer base for better decision support, among many other applications.

Customer support. We recently interviewed a major longtime customer about using our products, and when we asked them about support they gave us the highest compliment of all: “We never need to call you!” But those who do call know that our best-in-class support, staffed by caring, knowledgeable experts who are available 24/7/365, represents a large savings of time and effort for our clients.

We hope you enjoy this Labor Day holiday. And when you get back, contact one of our product experts for a friendly, pressure-free discussion about how we can create less labor for you and your organization!

 

Compliance and Address Insight

The golden rule of marketing has always been, “know your customer.” In today’s regulatory environment, however, it might be more accurate to say, “know your customer – or else!” Nowadays customer data – particularly in areas such as geocoding and demographic data – are often central to maintaining compliance with a wide range of regulations, in the financial world and elsewhere.

In response to this, Service Objects has just released a powerful new capability to help automate the gathering and analysis of geolocated consumer data: Address Insight – US. It provides address standardization, address geocoding and demographic information together in one real-time service, and is designed to serve a wide range of applications ranging from compliance to targeted marketing.

Examples of financial compliance issues

Let’s look at some of the areas where address insight can benefit your compliance efforts:

  • The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires federally insured lending institutions to provide lending opportunities to low-to-moderate income communities – and in particular, prove that they are not “redlining” specific neighborhoods and denying them credit. One of the key performance criteria for evaluating CRA compliance is your geographic distribution of loans.
  • The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), enacted by Congress in 1975, requires lenders to publicly disclose data regarding their mortgage lending activities. While this is a disclosure law with no implied quotas, HMDA also serves to ensure that lenders do not contribute to the decline of specific geographic areas by failing to provide adequate mortgage financing.
  • For consumer lending in general, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has a set of Fair Lending Examination Procedures used to audit lenders for evidence of lending discrimination. These reviews include an analysis of geographic patterns in lending to seek evidence of “redlining” or neighborhood-based discrimination.
  • Conversely, certain real estate transactions may be subject to Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO), which are enhanced identification and record-keeping requirements imposed by the Federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for expensive real estate transactions in areas that are prone to money laundering activities. For example, as of 2017 transactions of $3 million or more in Manhattan or $1 million or more in parts of Florida were subject to GTOs, along with numerous other metropolitan areas.

A solution for compliance and beyond

Of course, there are numerous applications beyond compliance for geocoded address insight. For example, academic researchers can use address insight to study specific neighborhoods – for example, the University of Chicago divides the city of Chicago into 75 defined communities that correlate with tract information, and can be used as study variables. And of course, the combination of location insight and demographic data can be a very powerful tool for market targeting.

For compliance applications, Service Objects’ Address Insight – US provides data such as MSA code, state code, county code (FIPS), and tract number for addresses for FFIEC compliance. It also includes all the benefits of Service Objects’ flagship address validation and standardization capabilities, as well as appended demographic information such as household values and incomes by ZIP code.

As with all Service Objects services, Address Insight – US is available through APIs that can be interfaced directly to most contact data automation platforms, as well as convenient batch list processing for smaller applications or specific datasets. Contact us for a free 500-transaction trial key, and see what this new tool can do for you!

Understanding Addresses in Australia

The country of Australia, officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia, consists of six states and two territories. There are over 13 million known deliverable addresses in Australia. This article breaks down the standard format used for Australian addresses, and what to check for in each field of these addresses.

Postal Services

Mail in Australia is handled by Australia Post, formally known as the Australian Postal Corporation. Australia Post is a government-owned corporation that was founded in 1809.

International Country Code

First, let’s look at how Australia defines its country codes, as well as its states and territories. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the ISO 3166 standard, officially known as Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions.

The ISO 3166 standard consists of three parts:

Part
ISODescription
1
ISO 3166-1Country Codes – defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest.
2
ISO 3166-2Country subdivision code – defines codes for the names of primary subdivisions of a country, such as a state or a province.
3ISO 3166-3Code for formerly used names of countries – defines codes for country names that have been removed from ISO 3166-1.

ISO 3166-1, which defines country codes, contains three sets of country codes:
ISO Country CodesDescription
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2:Defines a country as a two-letter country code, commonly referred to as the ISO, ISO2, or ISO-2.
ISO 3166-1 alpha-3:Defines a country as a three-letter country code, commonly referred to as ISO3, or ISO-3.
ISO 3166-1 numericDefines a country as a three-digit country code.

ISO 3166-1 Country Codes – Australia

Country Code TypeCountry Code
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codeAU
ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codeAUS
ISO 3166-1 numeric code36

ISO 3166-2 Codes

The ISO currently lists codes for Australia’s six states and two of its territories.

ISO 3166-2 codeSubdivision NameSubdivision category
AU-NSWNew South WalesState
AU-QLDQueenslandState
AU-SASouth AustraliaState
AU-TASTasmaniaState
AU-VICVictoriaState
AU-WAWestern AustraliaState
AU-ACTAustralian Capital TerritoryTerritory
AU-NTNorthern TerritoryTerritory

Address Format

Now, let’s look at how delivery addresses are constructed. The address format for deliverable mail in Australia is defined by Australia Post, where an address is made up of several components.

PositionAddress ComponentDescriptionFormatRequirementExample
First lineRecipientThe name of the person, company or organization.Use common abbreviations in titles and distinctions. Also,avoid unnecessary punctuation.RequiredIssac Nichols
Second line and third line if necessaryReference DetailsWhen necessary, the name of the person’s job/position and/orthe name of the company, organization or department.OptionalPostmaster Australia Post
Second to last lineThoroughfareThe street address, Box number or Locked Bag number. If athoroughfare is not available, then include thebuilding/complex name in its place. Include building subunitand floor/level when necessary.Use common abbreviations where applicable. Also, no punctuationallowed.Required111 Bourke St
Last line, first componentLocality or Delivery officeThe full name of the city, suburb, placename or Post Office-Delivery Centre (DC) or a Business Centre (BC). Note that thedelivery locality may not necessarily be the same as thegeographic locality.Must be in UPPER CASE. Also, no punctuation allowed.RequiredMELBOURNE
Last line, second componentState or TerritoryThe abbreviated format of the state or territory.The abbreviation of the state or territory and not the fullname. Also, no punctuation allowed.RequiredVIC
Last line, third componentPostcodeA four-digit numeric code used to identify the postal deliveryarea.Do not omit leading zeros. Also, no punctuation allowed.Required300

States

NameAbbreviationPostcode Ranges
New South WalesNSW1000—1999 *
2000—2599
2619—2899
2921—2999
QueenslandQLD4000—4999
9000—9999 *
South AustraliaSA5000—5799
5800—5999 *
TasmaniaTAS7000—7799
7800—7999 *
VictoriaVIC3000—3999
8000—8999 *
Western AustraliaWA6000—6797
6800—6999 *
* Reserved for PO Boxes and Large Volume Receivers (LVR)

Territories

NameAbbreviationPostcode Ranges
Australian Capital TerritoryACT0200—0299*
2600—2618
2900—2920
Northern TerritoryNT0800—0899
0900—0999*
* Reserved for PO Boxes and Large Volume Receivers (LVR)

External Territories

Australia has three inhabited external territories. They do not use their own name and abbreviation in Australia Post’s postcode system and are instead assigned the name of another state.

NameAbbreviationPostcode
Norfolk IslandNSW2899
Christmas IslandWA6798
Cocos (keeling) IslandWA6799

Postcodes

Australian postcodes are four-digit codes that are used to help sort and route mail. The first two digits often represent which state or territory the postcode belongs too, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which is embedded in New South Wales (NSW).

The postcode is the third and final address component in the last address line, following the Locality and State/Territory components. However, if the envelope being used includes four postcode squares in the bottom right corner then Australia Post prefers that you fill those boxes in with the postcode instead.

Postcode vs Geography

Some postcodes may cover two or more states or territories. For example, the postcode 0872 is currently used to cover 87 localities located in West Australia (WA), South Australia (SA) and Northern Territory (NT). Australia Post sometimes finds it easier to send mail through a post office located in one state/territory for an address geographically located in another state/territory. So, it is not uncommon to find an address with a mailing address that does not match its physical address or geographic location.

Postcodes do not always correspond to a geographic location. Many postcodes are reserved for post office (PO) boxes and some are reserved for large organizations. Some large companies, government agencies, and organizations are classified as Large Volume Receivers (LVR) and will have their own unique postcode. For example, the postcode 0200 corresponds to the Australian National University

Address Validation International: Overcoming Cultural Idiosyncrasies and Postal Format Variables

The above content provides a general overview of Australia and the address format specified by Australia Post. Overall, there are more than 18 different address components, elements and fragments to consider when working with Australian addresses. There are also monthly data updates published by Australia Post to stay on top of.

As with most countries, Service Objects’ Address Validation International (AVI) is capable of processing and validating deliverable addresses in Australia. By understanding this country’s very structured address format, including specific idiosyncrasies such as required upper-case municipality addresses, state and territory abbreviations, and four-digit postal codes, you can automate much of the process of ensuring your contact data quality for this important international market.

Contact Country Detection: How It Works

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefits of using DOTS Address Detective – International to detect a contact’s country. This blog will discuss some of the challenges surrounding country detection in more detail, as well as provide an overview on how we determine the best country from your data.

Contact Components

When trying to append a country to a contact, we have four main components to examine.

  1. Address
  2. Phone
  3. IP Address
  4. Email

Each component must be carefully evaluated on its own merit before it can be used to help identify a country for the contact.

Address Component

The Address component may represent a contact’s physical location or mailable address. It is the most diverse and complex of all the components. International addresses do not follow a singular format, language or standard. Each country has its own set of rules and standards, which can also make the storage of international addresses problematic for US-centric CRMs.

This also means that is common for a contact’s address to be incorrect and/or incomplete. Additionally, some businesses are not always interested in capturing a mailable address and only wish to store a contact’s region. Depending on who is entering the contact address and how it is being stored, it would not be unreasonable to expect this data to be flawed in more ways than one.

Knowing the country is critical to processing most addresses. It determines the address format, which is needed to identify individual address elements, which in turn are needed to identify a locality, postal code or region. With that said, our sophisticated data-driven algorithms are not dependent on completeness and allow for a wide variety of formats and languages.

If you think you can identify a country’s address, take our fun, short Country Quiz.

Similar to the DOTS Address Validation International service, the address component consists of Address Lines 1-8, Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code. The address can be entered entirely in lines 1-8 or in combination with the Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code fields. Address line order does not matter, and common mistakes like putting an address value into the wrong address field are detected and handled.

Not all countries follow the US city-state pairing format or the equivalent locality admin area pairing. Many international addresses do not include an admin area, which can make country detection difficult since many localities from around the world can often share names. Take Venice, for example, which can be found in separate locations of three different countries.

LocalityAdmin AreaCountry
VeniceVeniceItaly
VeniceAlbertaCanada
VeniceCaliforniaUSA
VeniceFloridaUSA

If no other address information besides the name Venice was made available, one would be left having to choose between these three countries. However, by making use of other contact data such as a phone number, IP address and/or email, the service can cross reference various datasets to better determine which country is the best match. Then again, if the locality was entered as Venezia, the Italian endonym for Venice, there would be less ambiguity and the country Italy would be the clear choice.

Phone Component

The phone component consists of a contact’s phone number(s). The format of a phone number is dictated by its country’s numbering plan. Some countries have their own numbering plan, while others share one. The USA and Canada, for example, share the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), whereas the UK and its crown dependencies share the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan. Most countries conform to the E.164 International Telecommunication Numbering Plan, which is published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The E.164 Numbering Plan
The E.164 currently provides five number structures (numbering plans) for international phone numbers:

  1. International ITU-T E.164-number for geographic areas.
  2. International ITU-T E.164-number for global services.
  3. International ITU-T E.164-number for Networks.
  4. International ITU-T E.164-number for groups of countries.
  5. International ITU-T E.164-number for trials.

Each structure has its own set of rules and requirements, but telephone numbers that conform to E.164, in general, will adhere to the following:

  • The recommended maximum length for a telephone number is 15 digits.
  • Telephone numbers will begin with a Country Code (CC).
  • Telephone numbers will not include Prefixes and Suffixes

Country Codes
Country calling codes are published by the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB). Depending on which E.164 structure is being used the country code (CC) may vary between 1 to 3 digits or may be fixed to 3 digits. Country codes are followed by the destination number in accordance with the E.164 numbering plan. When storing a country code or an international (E.164) number, the number is commonly prefixed with a plus symbol (+) to indicate that when dialing the number, one must first dial the appropriate international call prefix to complete the call.

Prefixes
International call prefixes (also known as call out codes, dial out codes, exit codes or international access codes) are used to make a call from one country to another. The Prefix is dialed before the country code (CC) and the destination telephone number. Prefixes are not a part of the E.164 numbering plan and it is recommended to not include them as they can interfere with country code identification.

Making the Call
Suppose you have a contact in the UK with the following number saved in your CRM, ‘+44 123 456 7890 Ext. 123’, and you wanted to call this person from within the USA. To call them, you would dial 011441234567890, and then after you have been successfully connected you would next dial your contact’s extension of 123.

The table below shows how the prefix and suffix are not a part of an international number.

PrefixInternational NumberSuffix
Country CodeDestination Number
011441234567890Ext. 123

Now suppose that you wanted to call this contact again, but this time you are in Sweden and not in the USA. Instead of dialing the 011 prefix, which is shared by all countries in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), you would dial 00 which is the prefix used by many countries in Europe.

At Service Objects, we understand that not all phone numbers will conform to an E.164 numbering plan and that many numbers will have missing country codes, which why our services make use of a wide variety of datasets and are flexible enough to intelligently identify a country.

IP Address Component

Not all companies capture a contact’s IP address, but when they do they are most likely capturing it via the web form the contact used to submit their information. The captured IP address and the location for that IP is often for the registered owner of the IP, so if the contact filled out a web form from their home computer then it is likely that the IP is for their Internet Service Provider (ISP). If they filled it out from their office computer, then the IP address may belong to the business or to the business’s ISP. IP based geolocation systems will commonly return a general location for the owner of the IP, which in most cases is the end user’s ISP.

There is often a misconception that IP based geolocation services will always return an end user’s exact location. For example, that the IP address assigned to a mobile smartphone can alone be used to pinpoint and track the phone’s exact location. This is simply not true. In most cases, IP based geolocation services will return the city and/or the metropolitan area for where the IP address is commonly served. Subscribers will generally be located within the serviceable area of their ISP, and so the IP based location can be used in confidence to identify the region of the end user.

Identifying Anonymous Users
If a contact used a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Proxy connection, such as a Tor network, when filling out a form then that means that the end user’s true IP address was masked and it was not captured. Some users will make use of methods such as these to try and remain anonymous and prevent others from capturing their true IP address. These methods are not only used to mask a user’s true location, but they can also be used to make a user appear to be from somewhere they are not. This is commonly done to circumvent region locked sites and services, however not all VPN and proxy connections are used for this purpose. Many businesses make use of VPN and proxy connections to connect their employees, sites and services from various regions, including remote employees.

A service like DOTS IP Address Validation is capable of identifying proxy related IP addresses as well as IP addresses associated with malicious activity. By leveraging this data, the country detection algorithm can determine if the IP is trustworthy and if the IP based location is genuine.

Email Component

The email address component uses the contact email address to identify where in the world the mail servers are located. The location of the mail server should not be confused with the location of the mail sender; after all, one of the benefits of email is that you can send and receive it from just about anywhere an internet connection is available. This means that a contact may not necessarily be anywhere near where the mail server is located and could potentially reside in an entirely different country. It’s also worth noting that the domain name, including the Top Level Domain (TLD), can be misleading.

For example, let’s suppose we have an email with a domain that consists of Spanish words and the TLD country code for Spain (ES), like: ejemplo@una_palabra_espanola.es

While the above example email address may appear to be for a contact for Spain, the company could instead be hosted or even located in another country, such as the USA. Another possibility is that the company is located in one country and has their email handled by a provider in another. It is quite common for businesses to outsource email duties to specialized email providers.

Some domains have mail servers located in multiple countries and regions and are not tied to a single location. So, email addresses alone cannot be used to accurately and confidently identify a contact’s country, as doing so would be too far-reaching. However, the country or countries for the email component can be used in some cases to help identify a single country when used in combination with other contact data.

Which Country is Best

As you can see, each contact component is carefully analyzed to the point where a country may be singled out for each one, but the next step is to now determine which country best represents the overall contact. By taking the countries that are related for each component and carefully weighing their relevance as well as cross-examining them we can in many cases successfully identify the single best country that best exemplifies the contact.

As previously mentioned, contact components like the Address and Email can result in more than one country. The country detection algorithm takes all possible countries into account, so even though a single component may not have a clear country winner, a best match can be found between all the components. Some components have a stronger influence than others. For example, the IP address and email address components do not have as much influence as the address and phone components since they are not always directly related to where a contact resides.

In general, the more complete the contact information is, the more the country detection algorithm will have to work with, choosing a best overall country. However, even when a few contact components are available, the service will still be able to make do with the information it receives.

Identifying Data Validation Solutions: A Case Study

I have a superpower that most people don’t have. In my position here at Service Objects, I have had the privilege of being a fly on the wall with many companies while helping them create clean and validated data. So I know, perhaps better than most people, what businesses go through as they wrestle with how to improve their data quality and ROI.

In this article, I would like to take you inside the mind of a typical business as they look at their data challenges, and what happens when they decide to work with us. You probably know what *we* think about our products, of course – but the only opinions that really matter are those of our customers. So let’s look at a hypothetical case study of a typical business, based on my many actual interactions with prospects and clients.

Discovering your data quality issues

I was a new hire at my company when it all started. We were a large manufacturing firm serving the business-to-business market, and things were ramping up. We had a website where people could make orders and sign up for a catalog, as well as opt-in for email alerts when special items would go on sale or we had an email campaign.

My job was ensuring that the data we were collecting was accurate and up-to-date. And I found that this data was a mess! For one thing, we had lots of inconsistencies in our contact data. Sometimes street suffixes and street prefixes were abbreviated, and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were in all upper case, or all lower case, or sometimes mixed case. The same things were also true for the state field. One of the complaints from management was that the shipping labels on our catalogs looked very bad.

More importantly – particularly from a financial standpoint – the team was getting frustrated with the amount of “return to sender” items we were receiving. This gave us a few problems to solve. First, I knew that our data input forms would need to be updated, but I also quickly realized that somehow forcing our users to always provide good consistent data was a pipe dream. Standardizing the data alone wouldn’t fix the problem of returned catalogs, so I knew that this really came down to getting our existing data standardized and validated, as well as making sure new addresses coming into the system were also high quality and valid. Address validation was the key to solving this.

Finding an address validation solution

Now a decision needed to be made: do we get our software engineers involved and build it ourselves, or do we get something off the shelf? I had faced this dilemma before in previous positions. For small tasks, building solutions from scratch is OK and can save money in the long run. But I have found that when trying to implement solutions for larger projects, finding products off the shelf can have a much greater impact.

You see, the problem really wasn’t that we couldn’t update our forms to help standardize the inputs. It was a small job to switch data entry fields from open text fields to dropdown selectable options. The tough part was the address validation component. We were experts with our products, but it really didn’t make sense to try to be experts with address validation. Address validation is no simple task, and I knew the right solution would be finding a company that had a lot of experience with it.

Naturally, like everyone else, I did a Google search for “Address Validation”. I was looking for three main things for our solution. First, they had to be experts. Second, they had to have integration options, because I knew I wanted a solution that integrated with the forms we had on the website. I also didn’t want to have to build out a process to clean the existing addresses: I wanted to simply send the data over in a file have it cleansed and returned to me to repopulate our database. And third, I wanted service. I wanted a company that was available to talk when I needed to talk, and would respond quickly to my email questions.

It turned out that Service Objects had all of this and more. I had access to experts with solutions to my problems – not just people selling solutions, but also the people building and integrating these solutions. And it turned out that our team didn’t really need much help integrating the Service Objects’ Address Validation solution into our website. The documentation and sample code were clear, and with just a free trial key we were able to get up and running. Then all we needed to do was switch to a live production key, and we were done! I really like it when things are that easy.

When it came to validating the existing addresses, we wanted a solution where we could upload our data and get it cleansed and returned to us, like I mentioned earlier. After talking it through with a Service Objects representative I realized that we just didn’t have one data set to cleanse. In addition to our direct data set needing to be validated, we would also be importing address data from other divisions of the company on a periodic basis.

Here it would be nice to set up a process where we could regularly deliver a file and have it processed. After talking it over some more, Service Objects told us that they did do one-time processing, But also offered an automated batch service where we could upload a file that would get processed and returned to us automatically. This was exactly what we needed.

Moving on to email validation

So we integrated address validation into our system and got the automated batch process going, and everything was running like a well-oiled machine. Address data was coming into the system as clean as it could be, and the issue with returned catalogs disappeared. Next, I wanted to tackle the issue we were having with our email alerts that visitors could sign up for.

It was being reported that we were getting a lot of bounces on the email offers we were sending. When I examined the email data, some of the reasons were obvious. I was finding things like emails that appeared to have been entered by the user mashing a bunch of random keys on their keyboard. But the problem was larger than that – we were also getting bounces from emails that appeared legitimate.

I recalled from my conversations with Service Objects that they were experts in several types of data validation. Besides address validation, for which they had Canada and international products as well, they also had phone validation services, geocoding services, lead and ecommerce services, demographics services and more. But most importantly, for my purposes, Service Objects had a solution for real-time email validation.

The solution I was looking for would be one where we could validate an email at the point of entry into our system, and also one where we could send automated batches to get validated before we do an email campaign. The automated batches would also help us with the multiple email lists that we purchased or rented. The Service Objects’ Email Validation service was perfect for this, and was just as easy to integrate as the address validation service was.

Lessons learned

This case study tried to identify a few phases companies go through when they try to validate their data. They involve identifying what the problems are, and sometimes these problems are not always obvious. Moreover, validating your data once does not mean that you are done. For starters, email addresses change and people move. Also, if your records are of people in the European Union then personal data needs to be as accurate and current as possible, particularly in light of their new GDPR regulations.

Stale or incorrect data is your enemy, and we have the services you need to keep it valid. After identifying the problem, most companies look next at how and who should solve the problem. As I mentioned in the case study, there are reasons to build out solutions in-house, but when you get into the realm of data validation it is really best left to the experts.

There are additional benefits to buying off the shelf with us besides our capabilities and expert support. You also benefit by always having the latest and greatest versions of our products. When we update our services, these updates are often injected into the operations you are already using and can provide for faster response times as well. Also, nearly every customer goes through a discovery phase where they are learning about a service and all the different data points that it can return. There are a lot of terms involved, and unless you are an expert some of them can be confusing. In cases like these, our assistance can make a big difference.

We’re here to help

Above all, we are there with our customers every step of the way. And there are often times when some expert advice can help you get more out of our services.
For example:

  • For email validation, you may want to know what greylisting is or what catchall means, and how knowing these data points can help you.
  • For address validation, it may be very helpful to know when an address is classified as residential, so you can better define shipping costs.
  • You may not be aware how some of our capabilities could directly profit your specific operations, such as demographic analysis or lead validation.

We are always here to help you understand our capabilities, as well as helping you through the integration process. Integration is usually the last main phase in the process. We do find that most organizations have few real issues when it comes to integration, but there are unique cases that we work through together. We have lots of documentation and sample code to help with integration, and you can count on us as a resource for help.

This hypothetical case study has a lot in common with our real-life experience with customers: they come to us with data quality issues that are costing them money, hurting their productivity or damaging their brand image. And then we collaboratively help them find solutions to these problems, and make it look easy. We would love to help you too!

Contact us any time for a no-obligation discussion on what we can do for you.

Mailing Address vs Physical Address: What’s the Difference?

Is a mailing address the same as a physical address?

No, not always.

In general, a mailing address can often be the same as a street address, but this is not always the case. To understand why, we must first acknowledge that the two types of addresses are often defined and regulated by two separate authoritative entities that generally serve different purposes.

Different Purposes

A mailing address, or postal address, is often regulated by postal authorities that are commonly associated with services related to the sending and receiving of mail. For example, in the US this would be USPS. In the United Kingdom, Royal Mail. Deutsche Post DHL Group for Germany and JP Post or Japan Post (日本郵政 Nippon Yūsei) for Japan. These postal authorities can be public government agencies, like the USPS, or privatized companies like Royal Mail, Deutsche Post and JP Post- which were sold off by their governments.

A physical address, sometimes referred to as a street address, is used to describe where a place is geographically located. It often pertains to a geographic location under the jurisdiction of an administrative area or region that has some government function. The physical address should have a set geographic boundary that is recognized and governed by an administrative area. If an address resides in an incorporated area then its municipality is generally responsible for providing some public services, such as law enforcement, public schools, sanitation, water works etc. If an address resides in a rural and/or unincorporated area, then sometimes these services are provided by the governing state, territory, province, county etc. Sometimes certain services are not available at all.

Location, Location, Location

Where a physical address is geographically located will often determine what public and private services it has access to. For example, a rural address may not have access to readily available public transportation or high-speed internet, whereas an address in a metropolitan area likely would.

In the US, it is the job of the US Census Bureau (USCB) to collect and produce data about the people. Both public and private agencies rely on the various datasets produced by the USCB, such as geographic and demographic data, to help make informed decisions. The USCB produces various Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) datasets that are designed for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and various mapping projects. TIGER products are spatial datasets used to describe geographic features such as boundaries, roads, address information, water features, as well as legal and statistical geographic areas.

TIGER products are widely used in many US related geolocation solutions, including our own DOTS Address Geocode US service, and are considered a standard when it comes to working with geographic locations and features in the US and its territories. TIGER data, along with other topological geographic mapping datasets, can be used to help geocode a physical address to varying degrees of accuracy.

Choosing the Right Route

Mailing address datasets are generally used to help facilitate and ensure the delivery of mail, and they are not necessarily one-to-one comparable with geographic datasets like TIGER. The main reason being that these datasets are intended to serve different purposes. Let’s take USPS ZIP Codes for example. USPS ZIP Codes are not geographic areas. They are a collection of mail delivery routes and they help identify individual post offices and delivery stations that are associated with mailing addresses.

ZIP Codes help the USPS determine the best route for delivering mail. It is not uncommon for a physical address, that is geographically located in one locality, to be assigned to a different locality in its mailing address. This is common for areas where a single post office or delivery station may serve multiple localities.

Not All Mailing Addresses Are Physical Addresses

Here’s an interesting example of an address that is physically or geographically located in one state of the US, but the mailing address has it listed as being in another.

Physical Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, CO 82063

USPS Mailing Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, WY 82063-9203

Using Google Maps to inspect the address and the surrounding area, we see that the location is near a state line, but the address is clearly in Colorado and not in Wyoming.

According to Google the physical address is approximately six miles from the Wyoming and Colorado state line. When we investigated other addresses in the area we found that they too had a mailing address that said they were in Wyoming.

When we reached out to USPS to inquire about the addresses they acknowledged that they were indeed geographically located in Colorado; however, their ZIP code is associated with a USPS Post Office located in Jelm, Wyoming and that is the reason why the mailing addresses are for Jelm, Wyoming and not Jelm, Colorado. It may be confusing to base an address’ location on where it’s post office is located, but logistically it makes sense for the postal authority, USPS.

It’s also not uncommon for some rural areas to use general delivery, where mail is not delivered to a recipient’s physical address and it is instead kept at a post office that the recipient will go to and pick it up. If the post office is located in a different locality, then the recipient’s mailing address would be different from their physical address.

Other examples of mailing addresses that are not physical addresses include:

  • Post Office Box (PO Box) and Private Mailbox (PMB) – Many individuals and businesses use PO Boxes and Private Mailboxes as an alternative to their physical address. Postal Agencies like UPS offer PMBs as Personal Mailboxes, and while they do advertise that their PMBs include a street address it still is not the recipient’s physical address.
  • Centralized Mailboxes – Also known as cluster mailboxes or community mailboxes, are basically a large communal mail box made up of multiple individual boxes clustered together. The mailing address for a centralized mailing box does not have to reflect the recipient’s physical address as each box in the cluster will have its own unique identifier.
  • Unique ZIP Codes – These are ZIP codes that are assigned to some single high-volume addresses such as universities, government agencies and some large businesses. Postal carriers will deliver mail to the organization’s mail department, and it then delivers the mail to the final destination which may be in an entirely different geographic location.
  • Military Addresses – Are used to route mail for military mail services, such as the US Military Postal Service (MPS), the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and the German Armed Forces (Feldpost). Civilian postal carriers deliver mail to military post offices which then perform the final delivery.

Which Address to use

For some people, their physical address is the same as their mailing address and when asked for their address they don’t have to worry about which address to give because they are both the same. For others who don’t have matching mailing and physical addresses, some consideration is needed. If the purpose of the address is to send mail to it, then the mailing address should be given. If the address is needed to locate where a place is geographically located, then the physical address is needed.

The answer should be clear but sometimes there are misconceptions and confusion and on the behalf of the party requesting the address. The party asking for the address may simply be unaware that not all mailing addresses are physical addresses and that not all physical address have mailing addresses. If the intent on how an address is to be used is not made clear, then the person giving their address could potentially give the wrong one if the two are not the same. Sometimes the person giving the address will be sure to specifically ask if they want the mailing address or the street address, but the party asking may be unaware of the difference and inadvertently ask for the wrong one.

Shipping Address and Physical Address

There can also be some confusing cases when it comes to the terms billing address and shipping address. Likely, the billing address will be a mailing address, but what about the shipping address? Let us suppose that a customer wants to have a package delivered to their doorstep. They want to enter their physical address, but they know that USPS does not deliver mail to their physical address. However, they do know that UPS does deliver to their door, but they are not sure about FedEx. If the site they are purchasing from gives them the option to choose the shipping carrier then that helps, but if it doesn’t then which address do they choose to give? Worse yet, what if the customer is unaware that their physical address is undeliverable?

Helpful Tools

When businesses and organizations work with addresses it is important to know where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable. Otherwise, they risk making uninformed decisions that can end up wasting valuable resources like time and money and damaging customer relationships. That is why Service Objects provides various address related products to help prevent mistakes and reduce waste. Our services can quickly correct and standardize address to help determine where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable.

Feel free to test drive any of our Address products and see how we handle these scenarios.

Address Detective – Why it is so cool!

Service Objects has been providing USPS CASS-Certified Address Validation services for over 17 years. Over this time, we have developed one of the best systems for validating, correcting and appending useful data points to US addresses. Our address validation service specializes in fuzzy matching for address corrections and, more importantly, making sure that each and every address provided is NOT changed to something unexpected or incorrect.

While our address validation service is top notch, the focus on both USPS and accuracy introduces necessary limits on how we treat addresses that might be messy or missing key elements.  Which brings us to one of Service Objects more under appreciated offerings, our DOTS Address Detective service.

 

Address Detective and its Operations

Address Detective was born from a need to help our customers fill in the gaps and make sense of their very messy and/or incomplete addresses. This service is an ever-evolving collection of address utilities designed to help with various problems that can arise from these messy or incomplete addresses.  Currently, there are three operations available that each solve uniquely different problems.  It is helpful to understand what each operations does and how it can be best used to correct an address before you even start your implementation.

Operation NameDescription
FindAddressUses name and phone number to assist with the processing of very messy or incomplete addresses.
FindAddressLineTakes inputs that might be jumbled into the wrong columns and parses them into a usable result.
FindOutlyingAddressesDigs into alternative data sets from USPS to identify addresses that while not deliverable may still be good addresses.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindAddress

The flagship operation of Address Detective is FindAddress. This service was designed to help clients with addresses that may be so messy or incomplete that they may not be obviously fixable, even to the human eye. FindAddress is given free reign to be more aggressive in its basic operation but also makes use of other data points like name, business name or phone number to assist with the validation.

Behind the scenes the service will dig into public and proprietary data sources to connect the dots between given data points to return an accurate result. The service is not designed to return an address if one is not given, its designed to analyze data given with cross referenced values in order improve or validate a normally unvalidatable address.

For example, perhaps the desired address is:

Taco Bell
821 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

But what if the input address is something like:

Milpas Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Clearly, not enough information is given for this address to pass validation. A house number is always required. DOTS Address Detective is able to use either the name “Taco Bell” or the phone number, (805) 962-1114, to properly identify and standardize the right location. The partial input values given are still important to compare back and make sure the most accurate result is returned.

What about addresses that are even messier with misspelled or incorrect data:

Milpaaaas Str
Santa Bar, CF 93103

Given either “Taco Bell” or (805) 962-1114, there is still enough information to go on to compare, cleanse and return the correct standardized result.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindAddressLines

The second operation, FindAddressLines, solves a very different problem. We would often run lists of addresses for clients where they would give us a .csv file of addresses with data points that were in unexpected locations. Perhaps they tracked multiple address lines in which the third or fourth address line contained the normal “main” address line.  For example; what if they had something like this:

Four Address Lines:

Address 1: Johson Paper Bag Company
Address 2: C/O John Smith
Address 3: Floor 4
Address 4: 123 Main Street
City: Santa Barbara
State: California
ZIP: 93101

If the user does not know that the needed address in this case is Address4 (123 Main Street) its possible they may be sending the address: Johnson Paper Bag Company, C/O John Smith, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101 which obviously would not be a valid address. Perhaps they have an even bigger problem and there was an error in how the address was stored or a corrupted database leading to something like this:

Corrupted Database Example:

Address 1: 123 Main St
City: Apt 5
State: Santa Barbara
ZIP: CA

Both of these cases are solved by using the FindAddressLines. FindAddressLines takes in a generic list of Address inputs and analyzes them to figure out how to properly assign the inputs to the correct fields.  The result is then validated, corrected and standardized as a normal address. While there is some synergy with the FindAddress operation here, in order to properly parse out an address, the address would have to at least look like an address.  FindAddressLines would not be able to do anything with an address of “Milpas Street” as opposed to “821 Milpas Street”.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindOutlyingAddresses

The final operation is FindOutlyingAddresses. This operation cross references several massive non-USPS datasets to find likely good addresses when USPS cannot. While our Address Validation service is designed to accurately identify deliverable addresses and contains the vast majority of US based addresses it does not cover everything. Pockets of addresses either in very rural areas or some well known areas like Mammoth Lakes (California) do not have deliverable houses, all mail is delivered to a local post office for pickup by residents.

FindOutlyingAddresses aims to fill in the blanks of these hard to find addresses. They may not be important for mail delivery but still play a vital role in identifying lead quality. While the data returns for this operation are not as complete as our Address Validation service, we will attempt to identify the data points at the lowest level we can. Do we know the house number exists? Maybe the house number does not exist but we know the street does? This operation will return as much useful information as it can about these locations.

 

Address Validation + Address Detective = Powerful One-Two Punch

One of the best ways to ensure you have accurate and up-to-date address information is by combining our Address Validation service with Address Detective. This combination allows many of our customers to identify and repair addresses that they would have normally discarded.  We are always happy to help our clients set up this powerful one-two punch.

In its most basic form, we use Address Validation to correct and verify all addresses. Addresses that could not be validated or corrected by the initial, stricter validation process, would be sent to our Address Detective service where supplemental information helps ‘solve’ the address and returns a viable address.

 

What is next for Address Detective?

DOTS Address Detective is an ever-evolving collection of operations that were created to meet the needs of our clients. We are always looking for new algorithms, data sets and features we can add to meet these needs and help clients recover and update even more addresses.

One of the more recent requests we are working on is helping identify GDPR exposure.  Our clients need to know if a contact record resides in any of the European Countries that are covered by the far-reaching privacy protection regulations of the GDPR. It is always a little more fun to solve real-world problems that our clients are facing and we are excited to be launching a new international address detective service in the coming week to help.  (By the way, if you think it is simple to identify a country by an address, try taking this Country Quiz.)

We encourage clients and prospects alike to reach out and let us know if they have a need that does not seem to be covered by one of our current products.  Share your needs or try it today to see what DOTS Address Detective can do to help!