Ecommerce administrators, research companies, web developers, digital marketing agencies … There are many businesses and professionals who ask themselves the daily question: how can I validate an international postal address? The answer is actually not so obvious.
An international mailing address often represents a nucleus of little known information and therefore difficult to decipher, especially for those who are not familiar with the language of the target country of the shipment. After all, the language is certainly not the only barrier that the less experienced have to face. The difficulties of validating international addresses are of at least three types, all equally important:
The format of a postal address corresponds to the layout and type of the various records. Name and surname of the addressee, street or square, street number, area code, town, country … these items can vary a lot from one country to another, both in their sequence (logical order), and in the way they manifest themselves (whether they exist or not). International address validation software, as we will see shortly, is able to convert the address format from country A of origin to destination country B, verifying at the same time that the quality requirements of a cleansed address are respected (update, completeness, consistency, etc.).
Another great obstacle for those who do not possess the necessary skills is inevitably linked to the language. The international address must in fact be written correctly, in accordance with the grammar and vocabulary of the target country. Accents are very important in this sense: a simple forgetfulness can give rise to misunderstandings that make shipping to the recipient vain, with obvious negative repercussions in terms of budget and result. The language must therefore be managed wisely, without improvising oneself as translator and without thinking that an address written in the source language may lead to a secure sending of the correspondence.
Even among professionals, the exact knowledge of how postal address validation works is not always shared by everyone alike. The validation systems, in the form of more or less advanced computer software, each have different technologies and functionalities, so the idea users receive about the real validation mechanism of postal addresses can vary greatly, not only based on the program used (and more specifically on the version of the program used), but also according to the reference language and the target country. We at Address 4 have the great advantage of knowing every aspect of the subject (especially on the development front), and we can talk from a more advanced perspective than any other end user.
In light of the above, we want to offer readers of our site the chance to learn more about how last generation validation software of postal systems works, backed by decades of experience gained by our company in this sector. We will therefore see the many factors that come into play when an address is assigned to computer programs dedicated to validation, and what results can be obtained with these tools in the main configurations of use available (real time, batch, plugin, API). We begin by outlining the major services related to the normalisation of postal addresses in relation to the resources available with the Address 4 software.
The first job option that we mention is online address standardisation, a service that allows you to correct and verify any postal address by entering the data in a template or form within a specific page. In this case, data processing takes place remotely, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The most obvious advantages are practicality and calculation speed, useful factors when you need to obtain a validated address immediately.
If Master Data are the intangible resources – computer and not – more valuable for a company, the Master Data Management (abbreviated to MDM) represents the system of administration and care of Master Data par excellence. We are talking about a sector of advanced corporate governance, which, however, is not just about multinationals and industrial groups. In fact, any medium and large enterprise can greatly benefit from the adoption of an effective Data Master Management strategy. This is true today and will be more and more in the future with the exponential growth of IT systems and data volumes collected through manual (call center, data entry, etc.) and automatic / semi-automatic (funnel, newsletter, landing page, etc.). Note the mixture of channels from which the data originates: we should not think of Master Data Management as something that exclusively concerns the field of infomation technology. The advantages, as we will see in this article, are real only if we take into account the set of variables involved.
If you want your international parcel delivery to succeed, spelling your address correctly is definitely important. Medium-sized or big companies, online structured stores and other kinds of entities that send material overseas every day as part of their business should reduce to a minimum – or even better, completely eliminate – returns and errors when delivering, therefore avoiding dreadful wastes of time, resources and money. A superficial or erratic approach when composing addresses can cause delays, failed deliveries and customer dissatisfaction, with a negative fallout that is hard to contain. Such risks must be immediately avoided, mastering the knowledge of the formats allowed for international shipments and using adequate tools for data cleansing and normalisation.
The first step is to make sure that the addresses are transcribed in an appropriate manner, that is, in compliance with the standards set by the postal system of the destination country. In fact, not all countries adopt the same identical format. If the main data are common for every country (both for recipient and sender), there may be significant variations concerning codes, abbreviations and the order of all the elements too. So how do you get the actual correct format? Many authoritative sources are available online, such as the Universal Postal Union database, the UN specialized agency in charge of coordinating the postal policies of every member country, but also the Appendix V International Address Formats from Microsoft, where some examples are given for international shipping formats. Other than these ones there are also additional sources usually less precise or not as complete as the other ones.
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