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Our Address Lookup tool standardises address data, but what does that actually mean?

Address standardization is the process of removing mistakes and aligning address data with the official format accepted by the postal service of the country in question. 

Postal addresses are a fundamental cornerstone of modern society; connecting individuals with one another, allowing ecommerce and home delivery to flourish, giving residents access to a range of essential services from financial to utilities. Customer address data is also a fundamental cornerstone for modern business, whether capturing data for the first time at checkout or registration, searching or cleansing your existing database.  It is vitally important to get the delivery details right, particularly for companies such as ecommerce merchants which ship overseas. If you only have the house number where the recipient country is expecting a postcode, or any number of other simple but easily made mistakes, it could lose you time and money in trying to reformatting for your logistics or courier company, rearranging delivery, potentially returning, and refunding, or even completely losing your goods and the future business of that customer. 

However, although it is a vitally important detail, accurate address data, formatted to the correct standards, is still only a tiny part of your business and the service you provide to your customers, be it in ecommerce, finance, insurance, utilities, hospitality, or a membership organisation. Which brings us to the real answer. 

Quite simply, if you integrate our address auto-complete or postcode lookup address finding tool, you really don’t need to worry about address standardization at all. Our API will analyse the address entered by your customer, detect and remove common errors, match the information to the verified address in our database, apply missing formatting such as capital letters, and populate the address form in the correct order depending on the standards of the selected country. All in a matter of milliseconds. 

For a bit of history, in case you were wondering why we even have set standards for addressing, if I live on the corner of Beech Street and Poplar Avenue, down the road from the train station in my town, why not just say that? Well, the thing is that is exactly what used to happen. Up until the 19th century, people would just describe the place and person they wanted to send the letter to, and the poor postal worker would just have to get as close as they could and then start asking around. At a certain point it just got too exhausting. In the UK, the introduction of house numbers and the division of London into the first districts in the 1850s, began the slow and methodical process of standardizing postal addresses. The Postal Museum in London holds a collection of posters encouraging people to use their correct house numbers and postcodes as many were slow in adopting them, even up to the 1970s when those shown below were produced. 

Poster encouraging the use of house numbers, from the London Postal Museum Archive
Poster encouraging the use of postcodes from the London Postal Museum Archive
A similar advertising campaign took place in the USA accompanying the implementation of the Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP Codes) in 1963. Having seen the struggle of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company to get the public to adopt area codes at the beginning of phone numbers, the post office pre-empted public resistance and decided to tackle it from the very beginning the with Mr. Zip.
Poster of Mr. Zip advertising the new zip code list in 1963, from the Smithsonian Postal Museum Archive
Mr Zip advert in Time magazine, March 1965, from the Smithsonian Postal Museum Archive

Learning about this can make you realize just how hard the job of being a postman was. Before address standardization the postal round would have been a very different experience. But it’s not all plain sailing these days. You may have seen the story in the news recently about this letter which was successfully delivered against all the odds of eccentric address writing. 

Photo of the uniquely addressed envelope addressed to the author Catrina Davies from the BBC news

The fact that this letter made it through is a testament to the dedication of the Royal Mail and how lucky we are in the UK. But without the assistance of the referenced BBC2 programme, most likely letters addressed like this will end up at the National Returns Centre in Belfast. Or similar “dead letter” offices in other countries. 

Every country in the world has it’s own story of the development of an addressing system, some more recent than others, and many still being refined. The “Addressing the world—An address for everyone” initiative by the Universal Postal Union seeks to help countries around the world develop cohesive address infrastructures and to guide them through common complications with addressing. But that is probably a subject to dive into another day.

As volumes of mail, mail-order shopping and then ecommerce have increased, so has the need to streamline the sorting and delivery process. Standardised addresses which can be quickly and efficiently recognised and sorted are a vital part of this process. Thankfully over the last 200 years the public has mostly learnt how to use addresses pretty consistently, but people still make mistakes frequently, it happens. Our address search and data validation tools are here to mop up the errors, typos, autocorrects and everything in between, ensuring you collect only accurate and standardised address data, every time. 

About Fetchify

We are a pioneer in SaaS address lookup and data validation solutions. We process millions of data transactions each day for thousands of clients ranging from small e-commerce startups to large household brands such as Heinz and RBS. Our flagship products Address Auto-Complete and Postcode Lookup reduce friction on checkouts, leading to increases in conversion rate of up to 40%, and helps reduce failed deliveries by as much as 75%. Since launching in 2008, we have differentiated by our ease of integration and exceptional support.