To say that ecommerce is booming is an understatement. According to eMarketer, the worldwide ecommerce market will skyrocket 20 percent this year to an unprecedented—and perhaps to some, unfathomable—$1.5 trillion. That’s just two trillion less than the entire annual U.S. GDP.
However, while millions of businesses are striving to establish and deepen their ecommerce footprint, many of them aren’t reaping a windfall. In fact, according to research by PracticalEcommerce.com, 80% of ecommerce businesses hit the virtual skids within the first few years of operation.
Naturally, as with all business failure stories, there are several variables and factors to blame—MOST® notably: not enough working capital, lack of cash flow, feeble demand, and overwhelming competition. However, just as insidiously, but less obviously, lies another threat that breaks rather than makes success: not using real-time address correction.
Below, we highlight the nine key reasons why real-time address correction (a.k.a. auto complete) should be a fundamental part of any ecommerce business, regardless of whether we’re talking about a brand new start-up or seasoned organization.
1. Save Money
Ecommerce businesses can waste anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars each year on production, postage, and shipping products to the wrong address or to an address that doesn’t exist. Real-time address correction substantially reduces, or in some cases eliminates, this risk, while keeping courier (e.g., UPS, FedEx, etc.) charges at a minimum for problematic deliveries. These costs can really add up over time and avoiding them is a critical priority.
2. Reduce Errors
Manual data entry is a magnet for errors. Real-time address correction doesn’t completely eliminate keystrokes, but it certainly does dramatically reduce them, which means a much lower likelihood of error.
3. Improve Data Hygiene
Real-time address correction fundamentally improves data hygiene by standardizing all customer data and by using various algorithms designed for this purpose. The result is that inaccurate and undeliverable addresses are kept out of the database in the first place. This also allows the data to be leveraged for other business purposes besides shipping and product fulfillment (as described below).
4. Enhance Marketing Campaigns
Data that has been filtered through real-time address correction software is much more reliable and accurate and can therefore be used by sales and marketing teams to craft targeted campaigns. Furthermore more, the software can be set to augment records with additional data (e.g., demographic data, geographic data, etc.), which makes the data more suitable for inbound marketing platforms and predictive analytics systems.
5. Improve Worldwide Shipping
MOST® real-time address correction software solutions use a multiplatform API or cloud service to parse, standardize, and verify addresses for countries worldwide (for example, the solution offered by Melissa Data is applicable for more than 240 countries and territories). As such, U.S.-based ecommerce businesses doesn’t have to worry about getting their domestic shipping right, but face unexpected challenges and costs with their international shipping.
6. Keep Customers Happy
It’s easy for hectic, fast-paced ecommerce businesses—which is essentially all of them—to lose sight of the fact that customers could not care less about the back-end mechanics of logistics and fulfillment. They simply and only want what they purchase to be delivered on time, without a hassle or headache; and if this doesn’t happen, then they’re likely to head straight to a competitor. Real-time address correction is a big part of meeting customer expectations and keeping them happy and loyal. It can also help create “brand ambassadors,” which are customers who help businesses sell by recommending them to their personal and professional networks—and sometimes even complete strangers (i.e., by leaving online reviews, ratings, etc.).
7. Eliminate Duplicate Names
Ecommerce businesses that use back office software to manage their duplication process need to augment this with real-time address correction, which uses algorithms to build a match code. Also keep in mind that it’s not enough to identify exact matches, but it’s also necessary to filter out similar or linked records, regardless of sequencing or precise spelling. A cleansed address is imperative for a duplicate elimination process to function properly.
8. Get Rate Shop Requests
Shipping rates frequently change, and maximizing profits involves choosing the MOST® cost-effective shipping methods, which can be a difficult challenge. Real-time address correction supports real-time rate shopping, and ecommerce businesses quickly adapt to changes in the costs of shipping, regardless of whether they’re shipping product out to customers, distributors, or retailers.
9. Prevent Fraud
According to research by anti-fraud technology provider ThreatMetrix, fraud attacks launched against ecommerce businesses climbed 20% in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the first quarter, with over 36 million attacks detected. Real-time address correction can be used to compare submitted addresses to authenticated addresses stored in a database. In the event that there’s a notable discrepancy, the transaction is flagged as invalid and can be investigated before the product is shipped—not after, when it’s likely too late.
The Bottom Line
In light of the above benefits and advantages, it’s clear that real-time address correction isn’t optional or a “nice to have” for ecommerce businesses: It’s essential for success and, arguably in the long term, for survival as well. In addition, MOST® real-time address correction software integrates easily within client environments, browser-based apps, and web forms.As a result, they can quickly start reaping the benefits, which as noted, fundamentally include: saving money, increasing efficiency, improving customer service, and building a stronger, more successful operation that thrives for decades to come.