Untangling the Web of International Address Validation

Global retail is challenging enough without throwing the problem of international address validation into the mix. To remain profitable and expand into new markets, your business must reduce instances of avoidable address verification errors.

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In Germany, growing up the format for building addresses is entirely reversed compared to what you encounter in America. Street names come before the house or apartment number, and the name of the city or town comes after the five-digit postal code.

This is just one of many differences in address formats worldwide, but it’s stuck with me in my work making address validation easier for brands and retailers. Across the global supply chain, most countries have their own unique set of formats and customs related to addressing.

While these discrepancies may seem minor, for a company that ships internationally, this complex web of variations can prove problematic — in fact, 40% of businesses have experienced a decline in customer retention rates as a result of inaccurate address data.

Errors happen in the absence of an understanding of each country’s unique addressing customs and a mechanism for verifying each customer’s address. To optimize global shipping practices, companies need a solution that offloads this responsibility, minimizing costly financial mistakes.

What Makes International Shipping Such a Hassle?

The average business’ foray into global retail is challenging enough. There are cultural differences, competition with established businesses, complex legal and regulatory environments, regional product preferences and sizing — these factors all make marketing and shipping to new countries a tall order. Adding international address validation to the mix complicates operations even more.

It’s important to recognize that not every country has a system as organized as the USPS. Of the 241 mailing countries and territories around the world, only 12 support delivery point verification (DPV) data. DPV (or the local equivalent) is the process of validating that mail and packages can be sent to a specific address. The address is checked against an authoritative dataset, and if there’s a match, the address is considered verified.

In countries without DPV, knowledge of a specific address’ validity falls to individual delivery drivers. However, there’s often little formal documentation of known addresses. When a driver changes jobs or retires, they take their accumulated knowledge with them.

Without a reliable addressing infrastructure, businesses risk shipping products to addresses that are either incorrect or don’t exist. Just a single typo or formatting error can leave the customer’s package miles away from where they live. Mistakes like these tests the limit of customer loyalty. No one enjoys an unexplainable delay in receiving their package, especially if they’ve already made a significant financial commitment to your product.

Any losses in customer loyalty are coupled with the cost of reshipping the product — or potentially having to dispose of the product in a landfill or bury it in a backroom. In isolation, a single missed shipment may not seem very consequential. But when magnified at scale, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in lost resources and thousands more in opportunity cost from the lost loyalty of valued customers.

Finding Address Validation Answers through Automation

So, how can your business tackle the international address validation problem? For one thing, you can’t do it alone. It will take a partnership with an experienced address validation provider to automate this complex process.

When identifying targets for automation, there are several questions to ask. Is this process manual? Is it time-intensive? Is it data-heavy? Address validation checks each of these boxes, making automation a viable solution for the optimization of global shipping.

Partnering with an address validation expert can help facilitate the implementation of an automated solution into your shipping workflows. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Determining the right address validation automation for your business depends on several factors, including:

  • Your existing address validation processes: Any potential technology investment should begin with an audit of your existing solutions and processes. Consider how far along you are in your address validation journey. For example, you may already have a domestic address validation solution in place but are looking to expand internationally. Or maybe you’ve just become aware of the importance of address validation and are learning about the potential of automation as an answer to global shipping challenges.

Clarity on your existing approach will define the specific goals of your automation journey, which will ultimately narrow your vendor search

  • Your non-negotiable capabilities: Gaining clarity about your specific goals will surface a list of non-negotiable capabilities that your partner must provide. For example, consider which countries the solution does not include. It may sound obvious, but if Italy is a major market for your business, ensure any solution you’re considering can interpret Italian address formats and enable seamless shipping in this market.

Ask where the vendor sources data from, and how often they update it. Additionally, determine whether they support transliteration, the translation of an inputted address from one language to another. You may also consider if a potential partner has specific experience and leadership in your industry. Aligning address validation capabilities and experience with your goals increases the likelihood of finding your ideal fit.

  • Your solution provider’s responsiveness: Given the complexity of international address verification, you can’t afford an apathetic or unresponsive partner. Nuanced problems are bound to arise, and your chosen partner must understand the intricacies of international address verification and how they can intervene on your behalf.

To gain a better understanding of a potential partner, vet them online by combing through reviews. Look for recurring themes and issues consistently mentioned by both current and former partners. Also, take advantage of your network to determine whether former colleagues or business partners have experience with a potential partner. Even if they haven’t, they may be able to direct you to another partner that is a better fit.

Making Global Retail Sustainable through Optimized Address Validation

Global retail is challenging enough without throwing the problem of international address validation into the mix. To remain profitable and expand into new markets, your business must reduce instances of avoidable address verification errors.

Understanding the complexities of international address validation is the first step. From there, partner with a solutions provider that can offer peace of mind that your deliveries will make it to their intended locations — even if those locations are halfway around the world.