As the holidays approach, consumers all over the world are ordering record-breaking amounts of merchandise to be shipped to friends, family or their own doorsteps in preparation for hosting gatherings and creating a bit of wintertime magic. When these customers open their highly-anticipated packages, they are generally filled with excitement over their purchase. What they don’t see is the intensely complex process that leads to that package making it to their porch on time. If one step in the chain goes wrong, boxes and envelopes can be delayed, misdelivered, returned to the merchant, or lost altogether. In our modern world of automated logistics and digital processing, every point from the factory to the intended recipient relies on data.
Delivery issues cause retailers no end of headaches. In their 2022 survey, Anyline reported that 76% of customers would think twice before ordering from a company again after an unacceptable delivery experience. And although brands don’t always control the shipping process from start to finish, many consumers tend to blame retailers for delays and failed deliveries anyway. This can lead to damaged relationships, negative reviews online and a ripple effect of lost business. Different estimates exist on the potential loss of revenue due to these issues, but all agree it is well over $1 billion.
Obviously, it is in retailers’ best interest to avoid issues with delivery. What is less clear is how to step up the logistics game and ensure a smooth customer experience. One thing is certain: Businesses need better data.
What is Location Data, and How Does it Go Wrong?
In order for businesses to accurately and efficiently deliver packages, first they need to know where to find their customers. Physical and mailing addresses, geocodes, latitude and longitude are all elements of location data that can help different businesses in different ways.
For retailers, a mailing address is the most relevant piece of location data. Unfortunately, getting an address from a customer is more complicated than it sounds. To begin with, most addresses are acquired through user input, which means human error is inevitable. When someone hits a number on the keyboard twice on accident, or puts the city and state in reversed fields, uses the voice-to-text mode on their mobile phone, or neglects to add the last digit to a zip code, the end result is an address that is unusable. Add in international shipping, where addresses may be in a completely different format, and you have a recipe for disaster.
While none of these errors are the fault of the merchant, the end result–a package that does not get where it needs to go in a timely manner–is the same. Sellers then have to choose between an upset customer and a loss on a product that must be shipped twice.
Fortunately, as ecommerce has risen in popularity, technology has been developed to assist in getting clean location data. A good address verification service paired with an autocomplete function can help avoid a lot of errors on the input side.
Address verification utilizes an existing database — like the one the US Postal Service maintains — to compare data entered by consumers and ensure that the end result is a deliverable address. A script can be embedded right into the retail site to verify every address that is typed in, as well as standardizing the format. The best address verification tools will check against multiple databases, so that non-postal addresses and international addresses are also vetted.
Adding address autocomplete to the equation aims to proactively prevent bad data from entering the system. As an individual begins typing their address, the autocomplete function offers suggested addresses to fill in the rest. Customers love this, particularly on a mobile device, because it saves them the effort of typing all of their information into the provided fields. Businesses love it because the autocomplete tool suggests correct addresses in their approved format, reducing the number of errors.
The Value of Accurate Data
The adage, “bad data is worse than no data” is well-known for a reason. Companies that are utilizing location data in smart ways have a huge advantage over their competitors, but if their data is incorrect, they are worse off than they started.
Inaccurate data can cause more than bad deliveries. Incorrect or undeliverable addresses necessitate employee involvement. The logistics department will need to track down and correct the address, labels may need to be reapplied, and customer service reps will spend more time calming people down who are waiting on their packages and less time creating positive experiences and lasting relationships. All told, bad data costs US businesses more than $3 trillion each year.
Paying attention to location data, using an address verification service to target problems before they happen, and having a strategy in place for inaccurate addresses when they happen could be the key to making it through the end-of-year rush, or any busy season. With a clean address database, brands will have happier customers, repeat business, and better online reviews.
Companies will also have the added bonus of a robust address list that they can be confident is correct and standardized. Clean addresses help companies understand their audience, make strategic decisions about where to open retail stores or the best regions to lease warehouse space, and give their marketing team valuable insights into where to find their customers.
As retail businesses gear up for a huge influx of orders that must be processed, packaged and shipped on an absolute deadline, they have to worry about a lot of things.
Bad addresses don’t have to be one of the many worries on an executive’s mind. To ensure every parcel finds its way home, businesses can’t assume that customers are always giving them the right information, but with a reliable address verification system in place, companies can rest assured that their data is reliable, and deliveries will be sent to the right place.
The joy of the holidays is tied so closely to brown paper packages on the doorstep and the surprises inside, and it all starts with reliable address data.
Trent Howell joins Smarty as Head of Marketing with more than 25 years of experience in information technology, training and certification, and software industries. Prior to Smarty, Trent led high-performing global marketing teams at leading companies in the software and technology industries.