Here be treasure!

X marks thespotGeocoding has historically been confined to the geographical information systems (GIS) arena and had limited use within mainstream business. This is changing as the importance of knowing one’s customer’s location is becoming increasingly obvious for marketing, planning and operational purposes.

Location information can bring a vast amount of insight to any business – supporting an enhanced customer experience and optimal use of expensive infrastructure. However, to ensure geocoding provides benefits, quality address data is required.

According to, geocoding is defined as: “Converting addresses, place names, or other conventional locators into geographic coordinates”. Geocoding can provide a wealth of information and benefits to many industries such as retail, courier services, insurance and more. Unlocking the knowledge from the information obtained from geocodes can give a wealth of intelligence to an organisation, providing many businesses with the information to give them the competitive edge to their rivals in the industry.

Poor data quality can severely impact an organisation’s ability to geocode address data. Small inconsistencies, such as abbreviations, missing information, spelling mistakes and typing errors, can make it impossible to match existing data against a national address database purchased from an external vendor. While small data volumes can be enriched manually, the large volumes typical in business data sets require an automated solution.

Organisations should opt for solutions that enable them to maximise the value that geocodes deliver. This means choosing a data quality platform that is able to standardise, validate and format address data before assigning latitude and longitude coordinates. This will ensure that the most accurate location data is available. In South Africa, for example, this may require translation to standardise addresses into English variations, correct common spelling or typing errors and add the correct post code. Multinational corporations need to consider a solution that can deliver decent results in every country in which they have a presence.

Geocoding provides competitive advantage

Quality address data, which results in quality geocodes, will result in improved efficiency, cost savings and better decision making. Geocoding allows organisations to integrate address information with other business data, enabling organisations to make improved decisions, review opportunities and empower the organisation with planning, marketing and other activities.

Geocodes allow organisations to visualise address information, ensuring better decisions can be made based on the results. With the current focus on improving the customer experience, understanding a customer’s location relative to the supplier’s services can be the competitive differentiator. It can also save companies money by ensuring that new infrastructure investments are located where they will add the most value.

The logistics industry is particularly dependent on accurate address data.  Profitability depends directly on quoting correctly based on the distance that will be covered. Too high and the business is lost to a competitor, too low and the service is delivered at a loss. The ability to quickly plot delivery addresses on a map means more accurate pricing and more efficient route planning.

Location is also playing an increased role in managing insurance risk. Insured locations can be plotted against high risk areas, such as flood plains, in order to provide a more accurate risk profile for each insured party.

Geocodes can provide an organisation with a wealth of benefits – improved customer experience, cost savings, targeted marketing initiatives, and more. Accurate address information that is standardised, validated and complete is necessary for organisations to reap these benefits. Location intelligence, once unlocked, can provide organisations with the edge needed in the competitive business world.

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