A good friend of mine recently left his job in sales to make a huge career change, embarking on a new position in the army. A few months down the line he was deployed to Afghanistan and was struggling to adjust to the new lifestyle and being so far away from his family. As his birthday was approaching, I thought it would be a nice idea to send him a small parcel and hopefully cheer him up a little. However, thanks to a lack of BFPO data, this was nowhere near as easy as I was expecting and proved almost impossible.
Sites that don’t deliver
Browsing his favourite stores online, I noticed the majority of sites can’t deliver to British Army Garrisons. This is because they use postcodes to capture the mailing address details. If you’re familiar with our website you will know of the time-saving and data-quality advantages postcode look up brings to a check-out process.
However, the UK forces use a very different method of getting their post, the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) system, which is used to send materials wherever the forces are serving. As there is no postcode, BFPO addresses do not conform to the online purchasers’ addressing templates, and as a result the online stores often fail to recognise the addresses.
Missing a trick
Ecommerce sites are so obviously missing a trick here. Not only are they missing out on generous sales from families trying to send gifts, but also from the service people themselves, as my friend informs me that internet access is available almost everywhere and the soldiers are quite partial to an online browse in their spare time!
Finally a solution…
In a bid to change all this, Royal Mail, BFPO and Postcode Anywhere have teamed together to produce BFPO addresses in a Royal Mail PAF format – each with their own postcode. With this in place, all I needed to do was enter a BFPO number or the new postcode in order to retrieve the whole address. It’s really that simple.
BFPO data is now available with international address finder at no additional cost. There are currently over 650 addresses corresponding to different deployments, bases and vessels around the world.