‘Silver bullet’ of Address Validation: the 2 key strategies to consider

Posted 23rd June 2023

‘Silver bullet’ of Address Validation: the 2 key strategies to consider

When it comes to success for retail, e-commerce, delivery and even financial services companies, address data plays a key role at each stage of product design, manufacturing, launch and improvements... It drives smart decision-making, directs investment and of course directly impacts revenue. But what if the address data required for that job is not available? What if the usual suspects for providing solutions to this problem can’t actually offer anything? What if there is no ‘silver bullet’!?

Capturing, processing, managing and serving address data at scale is not only resource-intensive and expensive but also extremely complex, especially when it comes to sending goods or last-mile delivery. Companies either need a base of operations in a market to capture and manage the data or partner with a 3rd party. Sometimes there are even jurisdictional challenges that prohibit the data from being stored (let alone utilised) outside of that market and in other cases, there is no data to capture at all. Yes, seriously.

Why is address data so complex? 

Up until the 18th and 19th centuries, most houses were not numbered. With the birth of domestic mail services and the popularity of sending mail (and fun fact, census taking for military conscription), addresses became a necessity and a requirement. If we think about it, something as fundamental as addresses is incredibly young, meaning proliferation has been slow globally.

Also, therein lies the problem. Over the past 300 years, addresses, while conceptually the same, have been treated and structured differently… everywhere. So if you ask someone where they live in Ireland, and if you ask someone in Nigeria the same question, you will surely get two different answers. 

So what’s the solution for address data management?

So if we just standardise all addresses around the entire world we will solve this data issue, right? Well yes, but only partly. The real issue is to do with (once again), necessity. In emerging markets, up until the last 10 years with the birth of mobile commerce, addresses have been an afterthought. Streets remain unnamed and addresses stay largely localised and colloquial. So how can we get the perfect rich ‘silver bullet’ data set in these unmapped markets? The answer is you don’t have to. Solving this challenge is about thinking about it slightly differently, specifically in two different ways. 

1. Fixing Address problems is more than just having the best data-set 

Addresses are not completely a data issue, they are also a technology and logic issue. Consider a delivery company operating in multiple markets. They understand the structure of address data needed in each market that they operate in, meaning they know what should be included in the address in order to ensure it is complete or deliverable (building number, street, suburb, postcode etc etc). So if a customer has provided an address that reads ‘Downtown Dubai, Dubai’, they know that it requires more information (components) to be a complete address (regardless of whether we have a data set which says ‘Downtown Dubai’ is real or not). So when we implement technology to capture this data, we need to consider this by validating not the address but each component of the address.

2. Introducing new forms of standardisation to complement a traditional address

However, as mentioned above this would only solve part of the problem. What if an address or location literally has no data? Then we can use standardisation or in the case of addresses, plus codes. Plus codes are a universal alphanumeric grid system for every single point on the planet. Meaning, addresses have been reinvented to be logical, unique and truly global. 


So to conclude, there may not be a ‘silver bullet’ for address validation and managing Address Data but there is a way of solving a problem without a perfect data set. Here at Oni, we work with some of the largest e-commerce, delivery and financial services companies globally, meaning we have had to tackle this problem head-on (for hundreds of markets). With our address solutions, we use a hybrid approach of rich Google data combined with advanced Oni technology and logic. Focusing on prompting a customer that there is an error with their address rather than relying on a perfect data set to correct missing data.

Written by Martin Tiekle, Last Mile Delivery Specialist & Global Head of Partnerships

Martin has been at Oni for the past 10 years, originally from our ANZ office, he started our Asian business in Singapore and is now based in London working with our largest customers globally. Martin leads our commercial consulting team specialising in logistics, first and last mile delivery and telematics. 

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