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GIS: Accurate Geocoding Across Borders

by Jessica Krokowski | December 14, 2011 | No Comments

Here’s something that should come as no surprise to business people: the United States Postal Service estimates that more than 23% of customer records include an address error.  This, of course, annoysconsumers – and, as we all know, it annoys and frustrates businesses even more. Variations make it difficult not only to deliver the mail, but also have far deeper implications when attempting to apply consistent models in analyzing markets, assessing risk, mapping competition or forecasting population.

When we attempt to cross borders for business purposes, the variables involved in addressing change—and the opportunity for error increases accordingly.  Let’s just say that annoyance and frustration are mild words for the sort of emotion this problem can invoke.

In addition to address errors, multinational companies must deal with a host of oddities:

  • In Japan, for example, house numbers are given to houses in the order of when each house was built within a certain area instead of following a continuous sequence on a given street.
  • Six-digit postal codes in The Netherlands define an area so small that having a house number and postal code is enough to identify a unique location; but in Germany and France, identical house numbers will be repeated multiple times in a single postal code.
  • The Czech Republic relies on two numbering systems for addresses—used at the same time!

Accurate geocodes can help a business answer fundamental questions concerning geographies served, align resources to sales potential, and by uncover patterns in customer data that make it easy to move quickly, seize new opportunities and avoid risk.  Obviously, however, the sorts of variations listed above make applying consistent models across borders and around the world all the more challenging.

The best enterprise geocoding tools combine address quality, multi-level geocoding and spatial analysis in a single solution; and they can apply the same standardized rules in every market.  Simply put, if your basic information is incorrect, it means your geocode is wrong, and your analytics can’t be right … which leads to faulty insights and bad decision making. Global organizations need geocoding applications that intrinsically understand, internalize and resolve the idiosyncrasies in worldwide addressing.

While consumer-oriented geocoding solutions can often be acquired at little or no cost, organizations that use that information to make business decisions should be more concerned with the validity of addresses. Bad information can be worse than no information at all. Geocoding can be complex, and mistakes in geocode assignment can lead to poor business decisions that impact risk, relationships and profits.

What’s important?  Seek out accuracy, flexibility, functionality and proven experience in your geocoding solution providers.  Ideal applications will cleanse data, standardize addresses and validate the accuracy of the source addresses before applying geocodes.

To help manage U.S. and international business operations, Pitney Bowes geocoding solution offers broad international coverage in over 200 countries as well as parcel centroid geocoding within the U.S. – all within a single platform.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, please see my colleague Uwe Rupp’s recent article in Directions magazine – or you may want to view this excellent  Webinar which outlines in detail just how accurate geocoding can benefit multinational businesses.

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