Get Down With Global Data
By Lisa Yorgey Lester
How to get better data and better delivery.
Achieving data quality with international addresses is a complicated process, whether you're mailing to your own file or rented names. Postal addresses often are longer than U.S. addresses, and formats vary from country to country. Some countries may use multiple formats, such as Switzerland, which has three—one for each of its official languages.
To help you get a handle on international address accuracy, here are some best practices for data collection and data cleansing.
Clean Up Your House
The first step is to "recognize that international data is fundamentally different from domestic data," says Dimitri Garder, vice president of operations for Global Z, an international data management firm in Bennington, VT. "This forces you to think about all the internal systems that will be handling the data. Many of the problems associated with international data haven't changed in the past 10 years. We're still dealing with inadequate storage space and data-capture problems."
It is of the utmost importance that you look at the data structures you will be using to store international addresses. A standard U.S. address is formatted in three to five lines, while foreign addresses generally run five to six lines. As such, international addresses cannot be crammed or abbreviated to fit the standard U.S. database formats and still maintain the integrity and accuracy of the data. Abbreviating or dropping the data from an address will make it undeliverable.
How much space is ideal? Generally speaking, five lines of 40 characters per line works for a consumer address: one line for the name; two lines for the street address; one line for the city, state or province, and postal code; and always a separate line for the country.
To achieve an acceptable level of data quality, Garder recommends marketers have someone in-house who is responsible for understanding international marketing and, even better, international marketing data. "Have him or her get up to speed on the ins and outs of international direct marketing. You need a champion to drive international marketing efforts."