We are all guilty of fat-fingering text messages. As it turns out, we also mistype our apartment number or zip code when ordering something online. We go on about our day, but incorrect addresses are an ongoing problem for e-commerce companies fulfilling orders.
An incorrect address usually causes a delay in delivery, or worse, an unsuccessful delivery, and negatively affects the customer experience. It can cost in other ways. Carriers like Fedex or UPS will try to verify the address and change it while processing the shipping. A favor, sure, but an expensive one—approximately $20 for each address correction. (Source: FedEx, UPS) According to Statistica, the e-commerce industry in the US processed over $750 billion worth of orders in 2021, and 10% of online orders are marked as “Return to sender,” mostly due to inaccurate delivery addresses, or because the customer has moved to a new address. If our math is right, that would amount to at least $75 billion worth of orders missing deliveries due to inaccurate addresses.
A typo here and there has become a billion dollar issue.
The solution lies in the Lob’s Address Verification API. (If you aren’t a techie, API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and want to dive into code, here are the API docs.) Our API can be integrated into your e-commerce platform and verify addresses in split seconds (less than 200 ms). As a part of the verification process we also check with the USPS NCOALink; if a person has moved and noted their new address, Lob can notify the merchant during the verification process of the same. These APIs help merchants avoid a shipping disruption at a later stage.
For companies with limited or no technical resources, our team also builds integrations on major e-commerce platforms and CRM tools where address validation is vital. The most recent addition is an app we built for Shopify Marketplace, named Lob Address Cleanser. The application helps merchants on Shopify verify domestic and international (United States and 240 other countries) addresses in real time as soon as an order is placed. Any missing/incorrect data is immediately corrected or requested from the customer, making sure the address is deliverable by the USPS and major carriers worldwide. The cost to run this API is a few pennies—costing from $0.02 for local US addresses to $0.04 for international addresses. The app also provides merchants with real time metrics of corrected addresses.
We built a demo store where you can add dresses to your cart (get it?). During the staged checkout experience you can see our APIs at work.
(Here is the official documentation on testing orders in development stores in Shopify but essentially, you can move through checkout in all the usual ways with test information, but once you get to payment you must enter “1” for the credit card number, and any date in the present for expiration. This will allow you to move forward to address verification.)
Our example customer Audrey omitted a prefix (“E”), inputted an incorrect address suffix (“St” instead of “Ave”), and the wrong zip code (“10022 vs. 10009”). We suggested those corrections, plus the 4-digit zip code extension for improved deliverability.
If any incorrect information is provided by the customer, the customer will have a chance to correct it by selecting the address we automatically modified for them, or allow them to go back and edit their address. Once updated, a customer will then see the updated address on their checkout screen (in a live environment, as a merchant, you will see the updated and latest address in your orders list for that customer).
User experience is important to us so we’ve also created a tutorial to help you get started. In short, once you click “Add app,” Shopify will guide you through the installation process. You will have the opportunity to customize your end users' experience to match your branding. The next step is to set up payment with Shopify: 1) We have an option where existing Lob customers can integrate their existing Lob accounts without maintaining a separate account, or 2) you can choose a pay-as-you-go plan. Then you are ready to go live!
Exploring these marketplaces and building native integrations requires time and effort. While there are companies that can help with building these integrations, they often come at a cost. To give our customers the best experience of address cleansing on Shopify while also keeping the costs low, we built this integration in-house. This hands-on development allows us the opportunity to keep updating the application with new and/or requested features.
Clearly, not everyone is an order-entry expert, but fortunately, Lob is an expert at APIs. Our address verification API is designed to improve your customers’ experience, and save you money. While we offer a self-service product, integration requires time and resources, so if you use the Shopify e-commerce platform we’ve got you covered with the Lob Address Cleanser.
Our engineers are now working on address verification for the BigCommerce platform. What platform would you like to see us tackle next? Drop us a line!