Every business will have some geographical information about its customers today, with either a full or partial address for each person. For most organisations, adding additional location data to these addresses can be both valuable and profitable. This is because addresses are often not enough to get things where they need to be.
There are several reasons for this, with challenges being caused by a building without a specific address, addresses that have been superseded, or multiple addresses that are almost identical but refer to different places. The consequences of this confusion amounts to so much more than someone occasionally missing a birthday present. From avoiding missed deliveries and service calls, to planning routes between drop-offs and assessing the risks associated with a location, there are many reasons why businesses may need to supplement their address data with location intelligence.
So, what is available? Geocoordinates, or geocodes, can be helpful as they typically provide references to physical things such as a building. Some caution still needs to be applied as the accuracy of a geocode will depend upon how it has been calculated and inaccurate addresses can cause anomalies if organisations are converting between geocodes and addresses multiple times. Special caution should be applied to converting postcodes to geocodes too; for example, CV4 7AL contains over 5,000 addresses with many geocodes.
Grid references are another alternative and are based on a geographic coordinate system that defines area locations on a particular map projection. If we think of geocodes as a precise point on a map, grid references represent a square area on a map. As such, they may be less useful at directing a delivery vehicle but are very helpful for dividing up areas for practical reasons such as farming or laying roads, and for analytical reasons where businesses don’t want to be bound by the conventions of postcodes, towns or counties.
Lastly, we come to specialist location items such as Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs). URPNs are unique references given to address and non-address locations in the UK by the Ordnance Survey. As unique references they can help organisations to build a trusted indexing system for all the addresses they hold. But they also persist over time. The plot that first became a house, then a set of three flats and was finally demolished can all be grouped as one.
Whatever choices you make about location data will depend on the industry you are in, what logistical issues you face and what intelligence you want to derive about the world and your customers within it. Hopefully, this will have given you a useful introduction to some of the resources out there, and the good and bad of each approach.
Steve Farr is director of UK&I solutions and marketing at Experian Data Quality
This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.