Address cleansing is a process by which addresses are standardized and validated.
In the standardization step (sometimes also called normalization), an input address is first formatted into a standard notation. The most straightforward example of this is the use of postal abbreviations; you could send one letter to “123 Main Street” and one to “123 Main St.” and both letters will arrive at the same location. That’s great for ensuring that addresses are usable and flexible, but it makes validation more complex because there is more to consider. To help this process, entities like the USPS maintain a standard notation. Continuing our example, the official standard for “Street” and its various abbreviations are “ST.” When you input something like “123 Main Street” into a standardization process, you end up with “123 Main ST”. Standardization will often do other actions like adding the ZIP+4 code to the postal input code.
In the validation step, a standardized address is compared to an official database of known addresses. Again, the USPS is responsible for maintaining this database. It is considered valid if a queried address is present in the official database. Several methods of doing this include separately validating individual components of a given address. For example, you can easily verify that a given combination of city, state, and postal code exists or that the street number is in the correct range for the given street.
Use of Address Cleansing
Address cleansing is a software offering because of how vast the address landscape and complex the rules and standards are. Correct customer addresses can be the difference between success and failure for many companies and organizations. There are several use cases where address cleansing can be highly impactful:
An e-commerce site can use address cleansing to ensure that its customers enter valid addresses that can be shipped to. Misspelled street names and fat-fingered postal codes are common mistakes caught by address cleansing.
An organization looking to do geographic analysis on a list of addresses can use address cleansing to ensure that all entries in the list are valid and usable.
A bank can use address cleansing to ensure that critical financial documents are always sent to valid and deliverable addresses.