All Things Shipping | Aug 15, 2016

Importance of Address Verification

Shan Lian


There are approximately 155 million addresses in the United States, and everyday 509 million pieces of mail and packages are processed and delivered to those addresses by the USPS alone.

To streamline delivery, it’s important to make sure that you are collecting a valid address from your customers so that you’ll be able to ship their purchase to the correct location.  The number one customer service question is where is my stuff, and the last thing you want to do is ship your merchandise to a nonexistent or wrong address. Besides unhappy customers, your warehouse will need to deal with the returned packages, and depending on which carrier you shipped with, you may incur additional costs for the returned goods.

When should you validate a shipping address?

Though Shippo validates addresses before a label is created, as a business, you should be verifying addresses before your customer checks out. This way, they can correct any mistakes before leaving the checkout flow, and you won’t have to pause your fulfillment flow to contact them.

If you take phone orders or have a customer support staff that can modify shipments, address validation should be performed any time the destination address is updated.

The USPS has a complete database of all addresses they deliver to. It is the most comprehensive set of residential and commercial address available in the United States. Many shipping platforms, including Shippo employ this address validation database to verify if the sender and recipient’s addresses are unique and deliverable before generating a shipping label.

What can I do to verify addresses?

The simplest and most automated way to validate an address at checkout is through an API. For instance, you can use Shippo to validate your address. We tap directly into USPS’ address database to verify all addresses so that you won’t end up with a non-deliverable shipping label.

Shippo’s address validation API only corrects addresses if they’re positive that it does not actually change the intended address. Whenever the address validation is ambiguous, the address validation service returns the original address (or an error) and usually includes a message such as “ZIP and city are a match, but street address is invalid”.

Another more manual method for one-off addresses verification is the USPS address lookup tool. You can type in the shipping address, and they can suggest similar, complete addresses.

What else can I learn from address validation?

Another important set of information that address verification returns is whether the address is residential (someone’s home) or a business. While USPS does not, certain carriers charge a higher price for delivery to a residence than a business. When getting rate quotes, you can use your knowledge of the destination type to pick the right carrier for the package and avoid surprise charges after you’ve shipped your packages.

What are some examples of an invalid address:

  • “Name” field only has one name
    • Must have at least 2 – first and last name, or 2-part company name)
  • Missing suite/apartment/unit number
  • Missing house/building number or incomplete street name
  • Use of non-English characters like “ñ” or “街頭”
  • Suite/apartment/unit number/etc on the wrong line, should be on ‘Street 2’, not ‘Street 1’
  • The street name is misspelled or missing information
    • Ex: ‘Woodburt’ instead of ‘Woodburn’
    • Ex: ‘Cavanaugh’ instead of ‘Cavanaugh St.’
  • Street name and suffix all one word, should be two words
    • Ex: ‘Hill St’ instead of ‘HillSt’
  • Too much information is included in street address
    • Ex: ‘8550 NW 51st Street Lauderhill’ instead of ‘8550 NW 51st Street’
  • Company name included in ‘Street 1’
    • Ex: ‘Company Name LLC 2269 Chestnut St’ instead of ‘2269 Chestnut St’
  • Using symbols instead of writing out words
    • Ex: ‘Lewis & Clark Rd’ instead of ‘Lewis and Clark Rd’
  • Abbreviations used when they shouldn’t be
    • Ex: ‘Co Rd 704’ instead of ‘Country Road 704’
    • Ex: ‘ACR 425’ instead of ‘Country Road A 425’
  • Missing the 4-digit zip code extension
    • Ex: ‘10009’ instead of ‘10009-4153’

Address validation is an often overlooked piece of shipping logistics, but it is very important for getting packages to your customers without delay. A little upfront investment and design can help mitigate a lot of headaches. You can use Shippo’s API to validate addresses during checkout and before generating a shipping label, completely for free.

Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.

Shan Lian was a product marketer at Shippo.

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