When I was young, I thought it was super-smart and incredibly funny to write as long an address as possible on an envelope. Maybe the letter was to Santa, maybe it was to an Aunt to thank her for a present – either way, I’d manage to squeeze on, after the postal address, ‘the United States of America, the Planet Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, Local Group, the Virgo Supercluster, the Universe’. Pity the mailman who had to decipher my writing and deliver my letter. Now, as an adult, I’m still fascinated by addresses – but for different reasons. For me, addresses are the unsung heroes of the age of digital transformation. They’re data’s DNA.
Everything is addressable. Whether physical or digital, our addresses anchor us to a particular point, and make a unique statement about us. Physical addresses are far more than words on an envelope. They locate us at a particular point in time, give us a sense of place, connect us to a community, join us to a culture and – if we’re lucky enough – give us somewhere we feel we belong. Our digital addresses such as email and IP addresses, even our mobile phone numbers and social network handles, link our behaviours, our transactions, reactions and interactions, connect us, and facilitate the swift flow of communication. Wherever we go, we bring our addresses with us, as part of our personal fabric.
Historically, businesses have underestimated the power of the address, lacking the technology, tools and platforms to stay on top of their customers’ physical and digital movements around the world. Out-of-date, inaccurate, incorrectly-addressed physical mail and email is not uncommon, and can damage customer relationships, impact credibility and result in regulatory penalties, especially in the wake of GDPR. But all that is changing, as businesses realise the value of accurate data. “A strong organisation can generate up to 70% more revenue than an average organisation based purely on the quality of its data” says research from Ringlead. The benefits of understanding addressing extend beyond revenue, to building long-term customer relationships which improve planning and help to futureproof a business. Now, advanced software platforms, data marketplaces and customer information management tools mean businesses can connect the address on the outside, with the customer on the inside.
Here are five ways your business will benefit from rethinking the way you look at addressing:
1. Boost customer engagement
Accurate addressing provides companies with a unique method of identification, and the opportunity to deliver a hyper-personalised customer experience across a host of different digital channels: identifying your customer’s precise geographic location, and pushing a notification of a voucher to your mobile as you walk past a restaurant, for example. This just isn’t possible without getting addressing right, but with a rapidly-growing population and higher property prices pushing potential homeowners towards renting rather than buying, it’s incredibly hard to keep contact data current. Research estimates that up to 30% of a company’s contact data becomes inaccurate each year, and with human error cited as the main cause of data inaccuracy, the ability to automate data updates is key.
Some platforms provide regular, real-time data updates: knowing your business’ data is refreshed in real-time through automation gives you a very strong foundation for growth and leaves you free to focus on creative, effective, relevant omnichannel engagement strategies that work.
2. Reduce costs
Cost reductions come from improved, intelligence-based risk management. In line with my point above, you may have heard of the 1/10/100 rule, which estimates that it costs $1 to check and verify a record as it’s being entered; $10 to correct this later, and $100 if no steps are taken at all. With GDPR bringing in new penalties for non-compliance, the ‘$100’ part of this formula is set to skyrocket. Aside from these costs, you also have the costs which come from continually sending communications to a duplicated address. Your records might show two different people within different surnames living at the same address, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you can only send one communication. Access to accurate addressing data means you can identify whether or not the property is an apartment, for example. Delving deeper and using software to establish links within your data, you can establish further whether the two records are connected or even the same person.
3. Geocode your data
Geocoding is the process of translating an address reference to a position on a map. This isn’t a strategy reserved for data scientists - the ability to geocode opens up a world of possibilities for your business. It means you can create accurate, meaningful and comprehensible visuals with your data, and share them across your business. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text, so never underestimate the power of a map! And on the subject of geocoding, you can ‘geoenrich’, too, expanding your addresses with information about the behaviours and lifestyles of populations within a location. Think of studying demographics based on addresses when you’re scoping the location for a new store opening, for example. Understanding more about an address facilitates accurate modelling, and provides a springboard for laser-sharp forecasting decisions. Software can help you validate and geocode addresses – updating them, and adding detail and relevance.
4. Simplify overseas business expansion
Understanding the structure of overseas addressing can be complex – and how can you target new areas for growth if you can’t communicate with your customers and prospects? Christian name or family name first? House number before or after the street name? Incorrectly structured address data runs the risk of your letter, or parcel, going undelivered, and the costs impacting your bottom line. Software can help you with this, validating and standardising your data so your delivery is shipped to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.
5. Improve your customer experience
Think about the seamless approach some retailers can now deliver. When we access their site from any one of our devices, they connect our digital addresses so that we can view our shopping basket and browsing history, wherever we are. They identify our nearest store we might want to ship our goods to, for a ‘click and collect’ service. It makes life easier for the customer, and without knowing our physical and digital anchor points, they couldn’t do this.
No longer should we think of an address as a standalone data point: it is part of an ecosystem, a hierarchy which places it at the heart of hundreds and thousands of different data points. These datapoints connect and collide, and beneath them lies a goldmine of insight. Addresses are the data which bind people together, and they’re reclaiming the authority they deserve.
Andy Berry, Vice President EMEA at Pitney Bowes Software
Image Credit: Pitney Bowes Software