Directory of Articles:
The Poor Quality Of Many International
Address Files Wastes The Resources Of Mailers
(Publisher's Multinational Direct, November 1998)
An average of 50 percent of international, in-house address lists,
and 60 percent of the addresses in outside lists, require correction,
according to Jerry Messer, president, Data Services, an international
computer bureau. Current computer technology can solve many of the
address problems encountered by international mailers. But the degree
of success is highly dependent on the condition of the files given
to the merge-purge bureau.
Why are so many lists in poor shape, considering the growth of
global direct marketing?
Messer cites two reasons:
- In recent years, many international mailers have achieved good
responses despite problems in international addresses. There was
little incentive to keep international lists clean. That is changing
now. The global financial turmoil is having a negative impact
- The address files of most direct marketers are domestic. The
foreign portions are "add-ons." Squeezing complicated foreign
addresses into a typical US format leads to inconsistencies in
address fields and the loss of critical information required for
And there is another problem as well. Many data-entry personnel
are accustomed to inputting large quantities of domestic addresses.
They have not yet achieved a high level of skill in processing foreign
addresses. Because they lack basic understanding of the world, mistakes
can easily happen. "Australia" can be input instead of "Austria"
for example--simply because the data-entry person doesn't know they
are two different countries.
Marian Nelson's Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats,
now in a new edition, has helped develop awareness of the differences
between domestic and international data records. Nelson agrees with
Messer that the amount of space in the address layout is critical.
She also believes that mailers should allow for the differences
in address formats among countries. Some countries have addresses
with many lines of information, but each line is short in length.
Other countries have addresses with fewer lines, but each line is
long and requires more space.
Common Errors During Data-Entry
According to Messer, these errors crop up most frequently.
- Street name misspelled
- City name misspelled
- Postal code missing or incorrect
In the USA, address files are maintained in a standard format.
This is not true with international files. When international files
arrive at a service bureau, before they can undergo the merge-purge,
deduplication, or correction process, they must first be standardized.
All the fields must be separated and the address elements isolated.
In most cases the files will have been maintained in several different
countries, in several languages.
In order to perform address standardization on international files,
a service bureau must first acquire addressing data from each country's
postal service. Data Services has addressing information from more
than 19O countries, which allows the system to make address corrections
according to local requirements.
The service bureau must be able to handle specialized sorts, as
well. The output of the deducing process might require an International
Surface Airlift (ISAL) or International Priority Airmail (IPA) sort.
Or perhaps the mail is being entered directly into another country's
postal stream. To qualify for any postal discounts, the mail then
has to be sorted according to that country's sortation scheme. Countries
where pre-sort discounts can be achieved include the UK, Canada,
Germany, Australia, and Mexico.
Tips for Improving the Quality When Maintaining International
Dimitri Garder, vice president of Global-Z, another service bureau
providing international merge-purge and address standardization,
suggests that you provide space directly above the address area
on your order cards. This will allow the customer to re-write the
address, if necessary, says Garder. If the customer tries to over-write
the existing address, errors can easily occur.
Also, watch addresses provided by visitors to your Web site. The
tight formats provided in typical Web registration forms can lead
to additional errors. In the state field, for example, a foreign
visitor may put in a state which is not used in the address for
that country. Garder suggests that you have an additional form for
international Web registrations, consisting of one line each for
the name, the title (if desired), and the company; four lines for
the address; and one line each for the city and country.
Watch for geographical entities that aren't countries. For example,
Puerto Rico and Guam are both part of the US address system.
Keep Abreast of Changes
Japan is the only major country that has recently undergone a full-scale
revision of its postcode system. The Japanese post office continues
to deliver mail with the old code. And a combination of the new
and old codes should not be a significant problem in a merge-purge
or deduplication process, says Garder. Eventually, of course, you
should have your entire file updated.
Changes in postal systems take place on a regular basis. In fact,
there are about 20 countries that have made changes recently, according
to Nelson's Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats.
Most of the recent changes have taken place in smaller countries
that probably don't represent a large portion of your address files,
says Nelson. And if you are not up on these changes, your mail will
probably be delivered. But even small numbers in 20-plus countries
eventually become significant.
Pay Attention to How Your Addresses Are Printed
Many US lettershops don't have extensive experience with international
mailings. Because many international addresses are larger than the
US format, make sure that your lettershop can handle nonstandard
label sizes. It is possible that lettershops will inadvertently
cut off portions of an address, says Garder. So a final check is
required at the lettershop stage. In one case, PMD noted that a
lettershop cut off the postal codes. In another case, country lines
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