Clean customer address data is key to retail success

By Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa

As they scramble to drive sales during these difficult times, the pandemic has encouraged retailers to take online a lot more seriously.

However, to succeed online, often where there’s little differentiation in price and service, retailers need to take a step back and think how best they can best utilise this channel.

One vital area is their customer contact data. In particular, customer address data. If it’s clean and accurate it helps to drive sales, reduce costs, and deliver a standout customer experience.

In fact, retailers face many challenges that can be tied directly to bad address data. Whether providing goods or direct mail, incorrect addresses are a high-cost, no-reward expense that must be avoided at all costs.

Fast delivery and pick up necessitates clean customer address data  

Free delivery is becoming increasingly commonplace. A number of retailers – particularly those in apparel – now offer free delivery, along with a free collection and return service.

This makes it even more critical to have accurate customer contact data, particularly address data. It’s only by having access to such data that you can deliver fast and efficient product delivery, omnichannel marketing communications, and seamless pick up of products for return. Such data will also help retailers avoid the dreaded as well as costly return to sender scenario. And it’s worth remembering that the biggest expenditure for ecommerce-only retailers is likely delivery, so it’s vital to get it right.

Once you have an accurate address you can use geocodes to further improve logistics and delivery. Geocodes provide rooftop latitude and longitude location coordinates, resulting in reduced shipping costs and faster delivery. Such clean and accurate address data will ensure an optimised customer experience, encouraging them to remain customers for the long term, whilst aiding retailers in their efforts to compete with the likes of the big online retailers, such as Amazon.

When it comes to delivery, it’s important to highlight that many retailers outsource their delivery or logistics, leaving those agents to sort out address issues. However, retailers fail to realise that customers will often identify their delivery experience directly with the brand they purchased from rather than the last mile van company that transports the item. The issue is the outsourced logistics companies may not have the appropriate level of data quality, and may use numerous sub-contractors in the supply chain to the front door. This poses a question for retailers - do they really want to leave this very important function to chance, rather than ensuring it is optimised at low cost, and by doing so own the complete click to drop off customer experience?

Insight provided by address data drives sales

One of the most important aspects of clean customer contact data is that it can be effectively analysed to improve secondary sales. Accurate postal address data leads the way here. Using it it’s possible to source valuable customer demographic data such as household income, marital status of the residents, whether the property is owner occupied, and if children are resident. This data can be segmented by the different audience groups and tailored content and outreach campaigns created to their preferences, maximising sales.

Additionally, with this information, it’s possible to define your best customers' unique attributes, predict likely future buying behaviour, and identify those prospects most like your best customers. For an added bonus this data can inform new product development.

Postal Address

To avoid fraud match an individual to an address

Fraud has been on the increase since the start of the pandemic, because of the growth in online operations. However, if you can confidently match an individual to a specific address at the point of sale, by undertaking ID verification, you reduce the possibility of costly fraudulent activity.

It’s important to utilise ID verification not only if you sell high value items, but increasingly lower cost ones, because of the growth in fraud and the lower cost and ease of use in undertaking effective verification. Also, by undertaking ID verification it’s possible to correct and enrich existing customer contact details to confirm their accuracy and fill any gaps, respectively.

Target address accuracy at the data capture stage

Embrace technology, such as an address autocomplete service, for accurate customer data collection. Tools such as this speed up the checkout process and encourage a frictionless close of the sale. These services are so valuable because they automatically reveal a suggested correct version of the address as the customer fills out an online contact form. This provides an opportunity for the prospective buyer to select one that is not only accurate, but easily recognised and correctly formatted for their country location. In the mobile age a service like address autocomplete is a necessity with mistakes caused by ‘fat finger syndrome’ a real issue when it comes to providing data. In fact, small screens are largely to blame for why over 20 per cent of addresses entered online contain errors such as spelling mistakes, wrong house numbers, and incorrect postcodes.

It is time for retailers to obtain and maintain accurate customer address data. Those who prioritise efforts in ensuring their customer address data is clean and accurate, will deliver a standout customer experience that will drive loyalty and increased sales from existing customers, while reducing costs.

By Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa

Published 13/04/2021

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