Are you giving your customers the best experience possible?
It’s your job as a business owner to make sure your customers come away from their purchase happy, coming back for more, and hopefully referring others your way. But you can’t do it all on your own. Smart business owners are leveraging technology to help get the job done. It’s the secret to accomplishing more with less. One of the tools companies are using every day to do this is APIs. In the world of ecommerce and shipping, APIs are more important than ever.
We’re going to teach you everything you need to know about APIs, how they can improve your customer experience and take your ecommerce business’ shipping capabilities to the next level.
Let’s dive in!
What is an API?
An API, or Application Programme Interface, allows two unrelated applications to work together. Similar to people, programmes can get more done by working together. This may be the first time you’ve heard the term, but APIs have become the norm in many businesses looking to optimise their internal operation and customer experience. In fact, it’s likely you rely on API functionality every day, but you just don’t know it!
Other examples of capability powered by APIs are Twilio, Slack, Google Maps, Salesforce, and Zapier. Think of these applications as giant ‘outlets’ that other applications and systems can ‘plug into’ to expand their capabilities. Let’s talk about Google Maps. Google Maps uses an address validation API to help get you where you’re going. The API can interpret your address and predict the address you’re typing based on your location.
At New Zealand Couriers, we use an API powered by CoreLogic to enable our systems and our customers’ systems to validate addresses. CoreLogic has data on approximately 99% of the New Zealand property market, and they have more than 500 million decision points in their database. It helps ecommerce businesses make sure they’re passing us accurate address details, meaning parcels get where they need to go any time.
Companies are already putting these amazing tools to good use, achieving effective results.
APIs also have the power to help teams develop new, innovative products. Their integration capabilities present opportunities to create a better customer experience. They can keep your team on-task by keeping all the relevant information in front of them in one simple interface.
While APIs are now used in every industry the world over, they come in handy, particularly within the ecommerce space. With so many order management systems, ecommerce platforms and courier solutions available, it is more important than ever for businesses to publish and consume data from one interface. Of equally vital importance is ensuring the integrity of the data – most notably, the addresses!
Read on to understand more about address validation and how it can help your business…
How does Address Validation work?
Let’s start with a common issue that arises time and time again for retailers. Your customer generates an order with a delivery address of 38 Glenmore Road, New Zealand. Looks OK at first glance, but with multiple Glenmore Roads in Auckland, which one is the right one?
This is where address validation comes to the rescue. Getting accurate addresses upfront at the time of order is crucial to ensuring you can despatch the order seamlessly.
More specifically, address validation via API is used to make sure a particular street address or postal address exists. You may also see it described as address verification. When an API verifies an address, it can do so in one of two ways. Some applications start to validate the address as soon as the user starts typing it in. Others will verify the address by taking the whole address and splitting it into parts. This process is called “parsing.”
Stages of the Address Validation process
An address can go through any three stages as it works through an API’s validation process. Cleansing is the step that refers to repairing incorrect data in the address. An example is if a user inputs a misspelt street name.
The next step is supplementation. This is the process of adding missing parts to the address. Sometimes you can forget to add a street suffix or postal code to an address. In this case, supplementation is the process of finding that information in the database and adding it for you.
The third step is standardisation. This is a useful part of the process if the user inputs any part of the address out of order. For example, if the house number is input after the street name.
In this case, the API uses the known address data to correct the address. It will also format the address properly. For example, if a user inputs the word “St”, the API can change it to “Street” through the standardisation process.
Why is Address Validation important?
Well, there’s the obvious reason that without knowing if an address exists, how can you send a package there? But there’s more to it than that. For one thing, address validation is directly linked to customer satisfaction. When a courier is delivering an item that is correctly addressed, the risk of a missed delivery due to address confusion drastically reduces, and customers can feel confident their parcel will get to them safe and sound. This means no need to go down to the local depot for a pickup or to re-arrange a new delivery time with the courier company.
The other upside is correct charging at checkout. Being able to validate addresses and correctly format them at the time of purchase means your customer will be paying accurate shipping charges. No more guessing at how to recover your freight costs!
Another benefit of address validation is for you as the business owner. Getting addresses correct up front minimises the number of the potential ‘Return to sender’ scenarios. Ecommerce shipping costs are high enough as it is, so imagine how much the profitability of your business would suffer if you had to send every package twice. Good thing you’re validating your addresses upfront!
In addition to saving you money by limiting returned mail, address validation APIs also save you time in your despatch process. The API does this by allowing you to automate your supply chain, and cut out the unnecessary minutes manually typing in address data. Believe us, those minutes add up.
Automate your supply chain with our API
Our API helps you get real-time freight data into your business platform and manage your freight where and how you want.
Real-life API examples
With global organisations revolutionising modern address validation methods, such as home-share services like Airbnb, APIs are more important now than ever before. New Zealand Couriers uses address validation every day to ensure customers get their packages in full, on time.
Address validation APIs are also used extensively by national governments. New Zealand and Australia conduct regular censuses of their citizens as a means to gather demographic data on their countries’ residents. The agencies responsible for these surveys use address validation APIs to decide which areas or neighbourhoods would be good census blocks. This type of market research isn’t only useful for national governments though.
Brick and mortar retailers conduct similar research using address validation APIs to identify areas of customer density. Using geographic information systems (GIS), retailers can make better decisions on the best location for their next retail location.
Brick and mortar retailers conduct similar research using address validation APIs to find their customers. Using geographic information systems (GIS), retailers can make better decisions on the best location for their next retail location.
Ecommerce companies are also benefiting from these APIs. Well-formatted shipping and billing addresses are a necessity when it comes to ecommerce stores. Postal address data is sometimes sufficient, however often it can contain inaccuracies, leading to delivery issues and customer frustration.
This is where APIs help ecommerce businesses thrive.
How to start making the most of APIs
By now, you should be starting to see the benefit of APIs. You may be wondering how you can put them to use in your own business.
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to do! Many organisations will have an authentication key that you can access via their website. Usually, this can be found under the “Integrations” menu title or something similar.
For platforms that have inbuilt API integration with other off the shelf applications, you simply take the key and copy and paste it into your application. Think Shopify and Instagram.
An API key will link both platforms and allow the exchange of data without having to copy everything to every one of your platforms.
You should now have a strong foundational understanding of APIs and how they can improve your ecommerce shipping. There is no limit to the things your business can do when you enlist the help of new technologies designed to accelerate you further.
To learn more about how we use APIs on our team or if you have any other questions regarding our shipping services, get in touch with one of our ecommerce experts.