Postal address data can be a remarkable resource for understanding and contacting your current and potential customers. In gathering this information, though, it can be easy to introduce errors and duplicates that hinder its efficacy. As such, you should standardize postal data before using it.
Data scientists will tell you that data must be clean and often organized before it’s useful to analytics processes. The same concept applies to postal address data, especially considering how easy it is for mistakes to arise in this information.
Why Standardize Postal Address Data?
Studies show that eight out of ten users are likely to make an error when filling in address data. In turn, these errors lead to 23.6% of mail being addressed incorrectly, costing the USPS $2 billion per year. As a business using the mail system, you’ll experience the weight of those expenses as well.
Incorrect addresses could result in lost business from customers who might’ve responded to mail. Shipping mistakes could also upset current customers, leading them to demand a refund or turn to a competitor. If nothing else, incorrect or inconsistent postal address data hinders you from seeing a positive ROI on what you spend on delivery fees.
Address standardization seeks to solve these problems by creating a clean, organized database of users’ postal information. Just as standardized phone number prefixes help you pinpoint converge areas quickly and accurately, so does address standardization work for your mail. With a standardization process in place, you’ll eliminate errors and improve efficiency.
With that in mind, here’s how you can standardize your postal address data.
Check for Errors
The first step in standardization is to ensure your data is error-free. Users will have likely made a few mistakes when filling out additional forms, and you need to correct these to make this information useful. Most of these are minuscule, like an extra letter in a street name, making them easy to miss if you’re not looking for them.
You can use a spell checker to find and fix typos but always double-check these suggestions. These programs, especially built-in solutions in programs like Excel, are typically far from perfect. Many may also think a word is misspelled when it’s actually an unusual proper noun.
Thankfully, there are many postal data standardization and address verification tools available today. These refer to USPS databases for more accurate results and save you time by automating the process.
Reformat According to USPS Standards
After finding and fixing spelling and syntax errors, you need to put all addresses in the same format. The machine learning programs you may use this information with look for patterns in data points, which is far easier when everything is organized. Thankfully, format standardization with postal address data is more straightforward than other data types.
With other types of information, you may have to decide between multiple formats or design your own. With postal addresses, you should use USPS standards since all mail carriers will use the same.
The USPS has a free tool for correcting street addresses according to USPS standards. It will fill in missing information, add zip codes and capitalize words so that your data is ready to use for shipping and mailing purposes.
Finally, after you have corrected and standardized your data, you should check for and delete duplicates. Duplicate addresses are a common error since users could accidentally submit the same information more than once. While they may not seem like a pressing issue at first, they can slow your system and cause unnecessary expenses through duplicate shipments.
Deduplication is fairly easy once your data is standardized. With everything in the same format, even the most rudimentary text-checking tool can find duplicates. Most postal data standardization programs will include a deduplication feature, too.
Like with the previous steps, while you can do this manually, it’s best to use an automated program. Automation will save you time, likely working in a matter of seconds with enough organization.
Address Standardization Unlocks Your Data’s Potential
Postal address data is often fraught with errors, mostly from user error. While many of these mistakes seem insignificant on their own, they can add to considerable excessive costs from mailing errors and lost business.
Address standardization helps you avoid these potentially costly problems. Any analysis program you use will be more accurate, you’ll avoid unnecessary return expenses and you’ll reach who you intend to. In short, postal addresses data standardization lets you get all you can out of your mail investments.
And with an embedded postal address autocomplete and validation tool, you’ll save on manual database cleanups in the future.