Do you need address validation?

How important is it to get an address perfectly correct? Does it really make that much of a difference? Is it such a big deal if the odd package goes astray – or if forms take a few minutes longer to fill out or if the data isn’t in the box that we expect it to be in?

These are questions that ecommerce managers, marketers and business owners must consider when making the decision between using address validation software or not.

The problem is that the implications of not using technology to make sure that the right details are captured correctly, are often either hidden away from view or not discovered until very late in the process.

How many marketers can put their finger on the cost of returns from third party shipping companies caused by poor address validation or identify the number of abandoned shopping carts where potential customers have tired of filling out complex forms or been put off by being shoehorned into filling out their personal address data the way that you want it. Those types of questions have become fewer and further between as the years have gone on, and the benefits of having clean address data in online forms have become more accepted.

Neteller: spreading it on thick

This is why it seems so much more frustrating when dealing with a process where it seems blindingly obvious that getting the address correct is of the utmost importance… and there’s not a single validation rule in sight.

Several of the team at Postcode Anywhere enjoy socialising over a game of poker, and a couple have even dabbled with trying their hands (as it were) online. Consequently I’ve heard stories about Neteller – not a chocolate spread, but an online payment gateway used by around 80% of poker websites – and its poor online sign-up process. So I take a look for myself. At first glance it has a nice site, where effort has clearly been spent in optimising conversion rates.

But when we look at their sign-up form, the alarm bells start to ring.

Not only is there no address validation, but users have to click on the plus sign every time they wish to add in another address line. A clumsy drop-down box is their single attempt at standardising data, in this case the county field which is irrelevant for addresses outside of the UK anyway. Even worse, when you click in the box a message alerts us that each address line is limited to only 35 characters, which is pointlessly restrictive.

There is simple validation which prevents us from leaving fields blank, but this is nowhere near enough to prevent users from entering mistakes on sign-up.

How far can we go with our poorly-inputted data?

I’ve entered gibberish for the street address, and my fingers slipped when I inputted the postcode. Will Neteller process the form regardless? A few seconds and one ping! From Outlook later and we have our answer:

Apparently, I have successfully signed up. The only good news from this exercise is that I have no real interest in playing online poker.

Taking a gamble online

For a process where a hassle-free, smooth experience is essential, it’s pretty clear to see how any Neteller user, once they’ve signed up, can encounter significant problems further down the line.

For any business operating in a country where postal systems and technology may be relatively inefficient, it might be understandable that this technology is little-known. But Neteller is based in Britain; it has no excuse.

This is not a trivial activity, either: users are entrusting their financial information to the site, and the consequences of getting this kind of data wrong can have far-reaching consequences for both the user and the trader. Unfortunately, with zero validation, the user will not recognise there has been a problem – until it’s too late.

We’ll take a look at some of the consequences as this series continues, and also explore the relative merits of different methods of address validation. Have you had any poor experiences when entering your address details online? Please let us know below!