International shipping addresses: user guide

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.

 

Despite the understandable diversity of the sources we were talking about, we could consider as “standard” this kind of international address:

FIRST LINE RECIPIENT John Smith
SECOND LINE FIRST ADDRESS LINE 1 Example street
THIRD LINE LOCALITY BN1 1AA Brighton and Hove
FOURTH LINE COUNTRY United Kingdom

 

It is possible to add other optional lines to these four, which are always mandatory. For instance, we could add some information that will better identify the recipient (Mr, Mrs, etc.) or navigate through the building (Floor, Stair, etc.). In principle, it doesn’t matter if you’re shipping to India, Australia or Russia: you will always have to use the same sequence of lines (Recipient, Address, Location and Country). But beware: there are many exceptions and we must respect all the standards concerning spelling, punctuation and content. Let’s take a step further and analyze more in detail what rules we must observe during the “composition phase”.

INTERNATIONAL POSTAL ADDRESSES SPELLING

In many countries there is no distinction between uppercase and lowercase, such as in Japan, therefore the use of uppercase for international addresses should be adopted only in the alphabets that allow it. Uppercase letters should be avoided in case of obvious reasons of ambiguity, such as the typical case of the capital “i” that at the beginning of a sentence could be mistaken for a “l” (l for lima). Let’s not forget that the shipping chain is still mostly made up of real people, from transporters to warehousemen, from customs agents to postmen: these people have to read and understand what is written on the package, on the envelope or on the consignment note, therefore directing the content to its legitimate recipient or, on the contrary, blocking the shipment.

PUNCTUATION IN INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING ADDRESSES

As for punctuation, the golden rule is to write the entire address without commas, dots or other special symbols. The principle to follow always remains the same: maximum clarity and minimum ambiguity. The only exception is for the points used in the case of abbreviations, such as in Mr. instead of Mister, Ms. instead of Miss, Dr. instead of Doctor etc., all of which are used just in American English. Inverted commas, dashes, parenthesis, brackets and any other special symbols will instead be omitted. The separation between words and numbers can only be flagged using spaces or starting a new line. Here is an example that is purely indicative:

WRONG VERSION

 

MONS. PASCAL MICHEUX

RUE DE LA BELLE VIE – 12

PARIS, 75000

(FRANCE)

CORRECT VERSION

 

MONS. PASCAL MICHEUX

RUE DE LA BELLE VIE 12

PARIS 75000

FRANCE

 

THE CONTENT OF INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING ADDRESSES

Address Validation Area Code Locator

The content itself is undoubtedly the most technical part when composing an international postal address. Numerical values, in particular, play a crucial role and must therefore be transcribed as established by the respective postal system. The situation can widely vary: even if the locality and the name of the recipient are a constant for any country of the world, in each country there are different codes and different formats of the same code. The postcode system used in the US and Canada are the ZIP codes, CAP in Italy, the PAK (Poštanski Adresni Kod) in Serbia, the PO Boxes in Jordan. There even are cases where the postal code does not even exist or is currently being implemented (such as in Palestine or Zimbabwe). For more information, visit the “List of postal codes” page on Wikipedia.

The same can be said for the “locality”, a term that can be declined in a thousand ways depending on the country of destination. As you might have guessed, every dynamic postal system has dictated precise guidelines on this topic, specifying how the abbreviations and localities subject to international shipping should be written (MI for Milan, D.F. for Districto Federal in Mexico City, etc.). In order to ensure compliance with delivery times, reduce redirection and redeployment costs, optimise deduplication activities and overall streamline and strengthen your business activities globally you must use the correct codes and abbreviations. We are now going to see how you can search for the correct international postal address using an advanced tool.

THE ADDRESS4 SUITE: DATA CLEANSING, NORMALISATION AND MUCH MORE

As you can guess from reading this article, filling in a shipping data form is not obvious at all. Omissions, errors, obsolete data and other factors can be the cause for insufficient accuracy in the delivery phase, potentially resulting in a unsuccessful outcome.

For those who want to address this necessity with results that live up to expectations, Address4 offers a suite of cutting-edge tools to perform data cleansing, standardisation, deduplication and geocoding.

Amongst other things, the address validation service is of considerable help when checking if a specific address complies with the required postal format, checking every piece of data, filling in the gaps, correct misspelling and return its international deliverable version.

Address4 covers over 250 countries and territories around the world, so operators can normalise entire digital databases with just a single click.

The Address4 suite is available directly online for business applications such as data entry, ecommerce, shipping & mailing, web forms and numerous other ones. You can explore the potential of Address4 signing up for the free trial today: you will receive our e-book on data quality, some free credits, access to advanced features, validation of online databases with no need to install anything on your device.

On the demo page you will find a registration form: it takes less than 60 seconds to fill it in and therefore receive the linked contents instantly. With Address4, managing international shipments will no longer be a hassle: let yourself be guided by our decades of experience!

Free trial

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