Imagine this for a moment.
You’ve spent tireless days crafting a direct mail campaign for the launch of your latest product or service offering to key prospects; you finalized the copy, approved of the promotional design, and paid the postal service for distribution. Yet, within a few days you notice your mailing address flooded with mails returned from a third of your list recipients due to being undeliverable as address (UAA), putting all your efforts into waste.
And that’s the bright picture.
In worst cases, more than 40% of movers don’t report a change of address according to USPS estimates, causing companies to lose the opportunity to contact and verify their new addresses!
So how can companies prevent this from happening? The answer: using a CASS-certified address normalization solution. Let’s learn how.
What is Address Normalization?
Address normalization, also known as address standardization, refers to the process of converting the format of addresses into standards specified in an authoritative database such as USPS in the United States.
Normalizing or standardizing addresses is critical for scenarios where address lists are replete with varying, inconsistent and incomplete details such as spelling, casing, punctuation errors and ZIP+4 and ZIP+6 values. In the example below, none conform to USPS guidelines.
|Name||Address||Spelling errors||Formatting issues||Missing information||Casing errors||Spacing errors|
|David||129 parker ave, wantagh, 44354||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bruce||43 Mayne, Charlotte 13421||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tim||McKinsey Street, Salisbury, MD||Yes||Yes|
Address normalization is closely linked with address verification and address matching. Address verification is about making sure if a given address conforms to a record in the USPS database. Address matching, however, refers to matching two address data to confirm if they belong to the same person or two different persons.
Causes of Unreliable Address Data
There are various reasons how firms can end up having a multitude of address formats and inaccuracies. These include:
- Data silos: companies with operations spread across multiple units – branches, call centers, departments, etc – can have disconnected datasets each with its own file naming conventions, field formats, and data rules. An example of this is a large sales and marketing company with multiple call centers each keeping customer address lists with different date or birth formats such as Day/Month/Year and Month/Day/Year.
- Mergers and acquisitions: mergers of two or more companies can also cause compromise a single, company-wide data quality framework. In most cases, each company will have its own data quality and governance rules that can result in inconsistencies and unresolved entities when consolidating customer address data.
- Database decay: addresses, like any other data, can eventually become out-of-date. Contacts relocate to other cities, sell and move houses, and change office premises – especially since the onset of covid-19. According to USPS, nearly 16 million people filed change of address requests to USPS between Feb 2020 and July 2020.
How Address Normalization Can Minimize UAA Mails
The USPS defines UAA mails as:
“all mail that cannot be delivered to the name and address specified on the mailpiece, and must be forwarded, returned to sender or properly treated as waste, as authorized for the class of mail and ancillary service endorsement on the mailpiece”.
The 2 main causes of UAA mails are as follows:
- Change of addresses: the mailing address no longer belongs to the recipient
- Missing and incorrect addresses: the mailing address has missing location data (e.g. street name or apartment number) or is incorrect.
Standardizing addresses to a format recognized by the USPS database can go a long way in improving mail deliverability. Upon normalization, the addresses’ validity and accuracy can be verified through USPS to mark off fake, obsolete, and blank addresses and fix formatting errors such as misspellings, leading and trailing spaces, and other anomalies.
Doing so can enable you to achieve the following:
- Minimize mailing costs: complete, clean, and USPS verified addresses can improve the mail deliverability rate, allowing companies to expect a higher return on direct mail campaigns due to lower returned mails and wasted packaging costs.
- Optimize staff productivity: standardized and validated addresses can eliminate process bottlenecks by saving valuable staff hours spent on sifting through multiple spreadsheets to confirm details or deliver mails at the right addresses.
- Enhanced customer satisfaction: improved customer service resulting from on-time deliveries can help garner higher net promoter score and brand loyalty that can result in higher lifetime value.
How are Addresses Normalized?
Address normalization comprises of 4 key steps. These include:
- Import address list: import list containing addresses from sources such as SQL databases or Excel.
- Identify data errors: find anomalies within addresses such as spelling, missing, punctuation, and spacing errors.
- Cleanse errors: fix and standardize errors based on USPS format for consistency.
- Deduplicate records: identify duplicates using double counts and remove.
Drawbacks of Manual Address Normalization
There are various manual tools that can allow users to standardize and verify addresses in line with USPS guidelines. These include:
- Coding repositories: GitHub provides code templates and USPS API integration that you can use to verify and normalize addresses.
- Excel-based tools: add-ins and solutions such as YAddress, AddressDoctor Excel Plugin, or excel VBA Master can help you parse and standardize your addresses within your datasets.
However, manual methods usually have limits in processing data beyond a few thousand records. It can take time to refine the scripts, especially for more complex datasets and requires a degree of technical know-how to use efficiently.
CASS Certification – What is it?
Coding Accuracy Support System, or CASS, is a USPS standard of verifying and validating addresses to increase mail deliverability by factoring values such as ZIP+4 code for higher precision. Having a CASS-certified solution can be a sure-fire way of eliminating the guesswork for address validation and normalization by detecting and correct spelling errors, filling missing details, and geocoding addresses down to the ZIP+4 level.
Using the addresses from Table 1, a CASS-certified solution can verify and standardize addresses as follows.
|Before Standardization||After Standardization|
|129 parker ave, wantagh, 44354||129 Parker Ave, Wantagh NY 44354-2451|
|43 Mayne, Charlotte 13421||43 Main St., Charlotte NY 13421-5633|
|McKinsey Street, Salisbury, MD||151 McKinsey St., Salisbury MD 24133-6423|
Address Normalization with DataMatch Enterprise
DataMatch Enterprise (DME) is a CASS-certified address standardization and matching software that allows companies to fix and normalize addresses as per USPS guidelines and geocode latitude, longitude, and ZIP+4 values to improve mailing accuracy.
Unlike manual scripting methods and tools, DME offers advanced address normalization and verification options to minimize UAA mails. These include:
- Data profiling: DME can allow you to inspect millions of records at a time to reveal errors such as misspellings, trailing and leading spaces, casing errors, null values, and much more
- Address Verification: validate addresses down to ZIP+4, latitude and longitude values based on USPS Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) to identify county equivalents and ensure accuracy.
- One-click transformations: parse addresses into Address 1, Address 2, City, and ZIP code and more increments to improve matching and deduplication possibilities
Gibraltar Group standardizes all addresses under a single view
One of Data Ladder’s clients, Gibraltar Group, faced the challenge of standardizing addresses from a variety of different sources for a sales campaign. Addresses were arranged in silos and were filled without a specific structure and format; some had lane numbers, others had street numbers and the result was an unorganized and untidy address list.
While manual coding was used, it led to loss of considerable person-hours and poor campaign response. Gibraltar Group then utilized DME’s address standardization, verification, and automation capabilities to build out an automated process for verifying and normalizing varied formats as per USPS requirements.
The result? Gibraltar Group was able to achieve its up-sell and cross-sell initiatives at a fraction of the time compared to previous methods.