UPS Street Level Address Validation

Posted on June 7, 2012

We've recently implemented UPS's Address Validation Street Level API for a couple of our e-commerce clients. This is an incredibly powerful tool to reduce user error and the customer service issues that result from mistyped and erroneous shipping addresses.

One of the big drivers for implementing this technology is that neither UPS nor FedEx will deliver to post office boxes and detecting post office box addresses without this tool (via regular expression for instance) is quite tricky and prone to error. Another benefit of implementing this tool is that it detects whether an address is residential or commercial. Thus, e-commerce sites that validate addresses with this API (Application Programming Interface) don't have to rely on users to self-identify their address type or make assumptions about their address. Definitively knowing which addresses are commercial can save a lot of money in shipping costs and reduce administrative overhead.

However, as great as this tool sounds, there are drawbacks. Namely UPS will reject valid addresses on occasion because their database is not without errors and data gaps (at least the API's failures are consistent with UPS WorldShip's behavior). The API does return some clues as to why the address might fail but they are pretty cryptic and not easily translated into verbiage that can be passed along to the user who entered the failed address.

Therefore, when this API is implemented, it's very important to have a feedback system in place to give users options when their address fails to validate. Possible options include:

  • Allowing users to self-override the validation step.
  • Giving users a phone number to call when they run into an issue.
  • Explaining why an address might fail to validate (like the address might be a post office box).

With the proper messaging in place to accommodate the situation, when UPS erroneously fails to validate an address, this API can be a great addition to an e-commerce website to reduce errors and administrative overhead.

Read more about the API at UPS Address Validation Street Level API and UPS Developer Kit.

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