In most of the more developed countries, address verification means checking the complete address – building number and street name or post office box number along with the locality (city, town, etc.), postal code and, perhaps, the province or state – is correct and deliverable. The addresses are compared to a database provided by the postal operator, a government agency, or other authoritative source in each country. This is frequently done by a service bureau providing international address hygiene services. (More on that last below.)
But address verification takes on different meaning depending on the country where the address is located. Unfortunately, does not always mean that the complete address is checked. In some countries, address verification may only mean that the postal code matches the locality or the district. Less developed countries might simply verify the locality exists within the country.
Except in the more developed countries, address verification does not guarantee that the address is deliverable. The process in less developed countries will still identify some incorrect and undeliverable addresses.
Address verification is often one component of the address hygiene process offered by service bureaus. Some reformatting of the file containing the addresses and standardization of the addresses may be required prior to verification. Not doing so will reduce the accuracy of the verification results, so it is not practical to compare files in differing formats. (Other services are also available from address hygiene service bureaus but those are outside the scope of this discussion.)
Whether the process of address hygiene and address verification is cost effective will depend on the cost to mail each item, any other perceived benefit of corrected addresses, and the price of the processing. Since there are likely to be minimum charges, the number of addresses will matter. Separate, and higher, charges will apply to some countries, further affecting the cost/benefit analysis. A mailer should have a close estimate of how many addresses are to be processed and the count for each country.
A discussion with the service bureau in advance of sending any files will allow for a determination for each country of the benefits and the costs. Deciding that some countries should be eliminated from processing may be counter-intuitive but indicated when comparing costs and benefits. Each company will need to weight that decision. The analysis will need to be repeated as the number of addresses and processing enhancements change over time.