Archive for Addressing

An energetic promotion of ecommerce on a regional scale and much to be encouraged.  But it’s a missed opportunity to use this as a platform to mobilize business leaders to demand that governments bring their populations “online” by installing current and accurate addressing systems.   If you don’t have an address, you don’t exist. And you can’t spend, or earn, much money.  An address for everyone.

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Botswana is totally land-locked and sandwiched between South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.  Not a terribly rough neighborhood, but again, aside from SA, not dramatically developed.  The Post has accepted the challenge of beginning the process of providing the citizenry addresses by developing a traditional block and lot and street name and number system.  Their first goal, 6000 homes in an urban area in one year, is not very dramatic, and bodes ill for efficient installation in a short time.  Were a geo-code system to be selected, it’s likely the job would be done much more quickly.  That is what we at GADA are advocating for at the Universal Postal Union.  Had we an opportunity, we would have made the same pitch for Botswana in order to save them money and time.

On the other hand, they are also planning to give the address all  the other jobs it traditionally has, which covers many service areas of government and utilities, some of which are challenging to accomodate with geocode systems, self-evident localization possible with consecutive numbers being one of them.   But even that can be accomodated with mobile phones and maps.  We will continue to advocate for faster deployment of geocode addresses so countries can reap the fruits of location identity as soon as possible. Sure, you get lots of other capability with consecutive numbering and street names, but the price in installation, and lost time, is too high.

Nevertheless, we salute the Botswana Post for launching this resource intense project and wish them well with it.


Thought online retail would’ve killed off catalogs by now? Not so fast. Catalogs are among the most effective sales and loyalty retention tools known to the marketing world. Despite the USPS’s attempts to drive them out of business, catalogs beaver on to deliver solid ROI and loyalty, if you do it right.  And “right” requires a plethora of personal information that fortunately Americans seem comfortable permitting businesses to use.  What would be very interesting to know is whether Big Data analytic tools are being used more and more.  There are some hints in this article suggesting it is so.

Source: Why retailers still bother to print catalogs |

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Online Shopping Started in the UK 20 Years Ago Today – at WHSmith – WHSmith Blog.

Twenty years ago this week, on April 27, book seller and nascent e-retailer WHSmith made the first online sale, of anything. No, the first sale was not made by Amazon.  This article was just brought to our attention by our friends at IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) and tells the story of the folks who pioneered WHSmith’s launch.

And thus began the migration of retail to online, and an unfortunately slow growth in appreciation of the value of an address.

The article identifies the first book sold on line, indeed the first item sold online, as Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.    This was a best seller at the time.  This seems to us so appropriate for a British company, for Britain has always been an international trader, and the story is placed in India. And the book was mailed through Royal Mail, to an address which is not identified.

And we are reminded by the locale of the book, India, that hundreds of millions of people in India do not have a postal address, a problem our non-profit member Addressing the Addressed is committed to solving. Contact them at


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The “parcel box” picture comes from Bern, Switzerland, and we took it on a somewhat overcast Saturday afternoon. Posts and other players throuoout Europe are installing these boxes for a myriad of reasons.  For the most part, the biggest motive is to relieve the posts of the time-consuming delivery of parcels to the home. Arranging a mutually-acceptable time is time-consuming and thus expensive.  Although leaving a parcel with  a neighbor or concierge is feasible, it’s not a solution in much of the country, such as in neighborhoods with many apartment buildings lacking staff, as in this neighborhood.  More and more of these will be popping up in more and more countries.  The growth in parcel traffic due to ecommerce is breathtaking and has resulted in a stunning change in the work being done at the UPU.  What appear to be open boxes on the locker are actually trompe l’oeil, by the way. They break up the monotony of the concentrated mass of yellow.

We have written previously about the shift in the attention of the UPU to parcels. First the Strategic Conference, and now the working sessions, are underscoring the sea-changes that posts are now faced with making.  As mail volumes unfortunately continue to slide, the more expensive and less “postal” grows the parcel traffic.   What does this mean?

Delivering letters, magazines and small packets is a well-structured repetitive exercise.  The postman has a well-known route he or she travels every day.  There is usually “something for everyone” or close to it, and interaction with the recipients is rarely necessary.  The postman walks or rides the same route everyday.

Parcels are quite different.  It is most unlikely that every house or delivery target will receive a parcel every day. So for optimal use of delivery personnel, new “routes” must be drawn up for the carriers to follow. And, a half dozen parcels won’t fit in the postman’s bag, or lie in the crook of his arm. He’ll need some other means of carrying the parcels, probably a wheeled vehicle of some sort.   Most parcels don’t fit through the mail slot, or quite possibly not in the curbside mailbox, either.   So they must be given to a human being.   Thus, the shift to parcels in what is being mailed requires a significant shift in human resource allocation and even in equipment.

And this problem has called forth human ingenuity, which has created these “parcel lockers”, which one sees all over Europe.  In the US, before 9-11, it was not uncommon to see something similar in train and bus stations. Most were removed as security threats.  The USPS is experimenting with these.

Some of the offerings which posts are making regarding the use of these “parcel lockers” are quite ingenious.  The systems can be used for both delivery to the consumer, and return of purchases to the merchant, with the merchant paying the postage both ways. It is possible in some countries for the consumer to deposit a properly-assembled parcel in a pack-station which calculates postage for the size and weight of the parcel, its destination  (taking into account level of service requested) and even prints the address and the “postage paid” sticker. Some countries are even extending this capability to international parcel traffic, notably in the smaller countries on the Baltic.

Some of the issues being addressed at the UPU include refinement of current operations, and updating of services such as track and trace, advice of what is coming in the next airplane, and sharing of information necessary for security and Customs.  But perhaps more remarkable is the agenda of “ECOMPRO”, which is derived from  “Accelerating integrated actions to facilitate e-commerce – UPU E-Commerce Program”.  This is a postal world call-to-arms to modernize international parcel traffic.

The program is now fleshed out in significant detail, and work assigned to various committees and its promise is significant. Most of the problems that need solving were identified in an E-commerce Forum at the UPU in March of last year. While the promise of significant traffic is significant as on-lining purchasing of goods expands at a dramatic rate globally, the barriers and difficulties to cross-border e-commerce growth are numerous. They range from overly-complicated postal offerings, to inadequate infrastructure to ancient and inefficient postal/Customs/transportation processes.  All of these topics are under study, and processes and programs being developed to help make the global postal network more efficient so more countries will benefit.  We will cover developments and topics arising from ECOMPRO though a series of posts over the next weeks.

First, coming tomorrow, the general outline of the program and its elements.

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Official launch of new Sharjah postal code system – Yahoo Maktoob News.

GIS-based addressing system is being installed here. For it to work for the average citizen looking for an “address” he/she must have a mobile phone.  One would imagine that most major roads would have names, which is a blessing for the community. It would be interesting to know how much consultation took place with the public before the “experts” made the GIS decision.  While we are happy there will at least be a coherent identification of locations, we still are skeptical about the utility for those not armed with a digital device. What’s your address?  “61.8354690”.  Memorable and descriptive, isn’t it?

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UPU Universal Postal Union : Efficient postal networks critical to e-commerce success.

Slowly, but surely, the postal-policy community is acknowledging that a critical component of the formula for the development of thriving e-commerce marketplaces will be home delivery. But half of the world doesn’t receive home delivery, and those who don’t receive home delivery are most likely to not have an address.  E-commerce development includes developing efficient delivery mechanisms, which includes getting products to people who are located in a locatable place.

The bottom-line issue is that building an address system the standard way is a time-consuming and expensive process. (It is also often a political hot potato-think of all those streets that need to be named and all those politicians wanting to appear on street signs!)

The UPU’s Addressing Group with its competition for new address system implementation ideas has had this subject on its plate for a long time.  Stay abreast of progress and developments through the blog at  Look for news about the Fall conference at the UPU where the winning ideas will be show-cased.

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Carriers and shippers can collaborate using data quality best practices to deliver e-commerce orders accurately and on time.

This industry-focused piece underscores the critical importance of an accurate and current address for everyone in the delivery value chain, from shipper to the guy leaving the truck and handing a parcel to the recipient.  113,000 changes of address in the US EVERY DAY.  And the USPS has to get them right.

Well, the USPS does a pretty good job, and there are excellent vendors out there who will help you get it right, but we smell an opportunity for a a “direct look-up” opportunity for an industry leader who can build the infrastructure. The goal is real-time data-base look-up address validation through constant referencing to the primary sources of changes of address, and any other sources available.  Which is to say that we’re drawn to the idea of not assembling large databases from multiple sources in one place, but building links to them and processing the data about an address available from all of them to select the most current and accurate, in the blink of an eye. Not “Big Data”, but “Big Collection of Databases”.

Picturing this in the international realm comes easy. There are ready-made “nodes” of data in each country.  Moreover,  many countries now won’t let “personal data” (a term without a standard definition, by the way) out of the country without individual consent. Since your parcel addressee probably has never heard of you, he probably won’t consent.  But from a legal standpoint, in such a case, perhaps a “yes””no” query would give a carrier enough comfort with the address  to proceed.

Such a project would take a very far-sighted firm to accomplish. Who would like to try?

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A Town Without ZIP Code | WAMC

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A Town Without ZIP Code | WAMC.

Or, How a mail delivery efficiency tool takes on greater and unintended purpose!

It’s not the fault of the USPS that the boundaries of 12065  don’t match those of the town of “Halfmoon”. In the ’60s when the “zone improvement code” system was implemented, there probably was a “town” of “Halfmoon” (named after Hudson’s ship, the first European vessel to ascend the Hudson), but I suspect that town had no real center.  The area was home to farmland and meandering small roads linking a succession of “hamlets” at the crossroads where there would be 5 or 6 homes, perhaps a small store and a garage and farm implements sales/repair shop.  Somewhere there would have been a telephone office.  There might have been a larger town perhaps within Halfmoon’s boundaries, perhaps not, which had started life as the market town in the late 18th or early 19th century, and it would have the high school and larger businesses, and many homes.

But I suspect the geographical area called “Halfmoon” was an area without a focal population center.  I also suspect that what folks called “Halfmoon” could be nicely chopped up into 4 pieces and those pieces would fit nicely as part of ZIP areas centered on towns that were much larger, and which housed the USPS final delivery stations for those geographic areas.

But now Halfmoon has more people, more activities, more homes, and its own emergency services.  Probably a lot of those road intersections now have many more homes and small businesses, and identity has become more important.

And the Zipcode has taken on new functions, unanticipated and non-postal. The Zipcode’s function has been expanded by the public to now support community pride, community politics, civic self-identity, emergency services, and geographical location.

I’m sure the USPS will do its best to make the changes the citizens want (especially with a US Senator at their side). But have a little patience with them. It’s being bent to a purpose never intended for it.

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Print Bounces Back to the Top of Direct Mail Marketing.

The Green Alliance, an environmental organization committed to sustainable forestry and responsible care of the environment, finds a resurgence in letter mail and catalog marketing. More people, consumers and marketers alike, are beginning to find that online marketing doesn’t cut it. Your mailbox won’t get hacked. There are no hidden viruses in a letter or catalog. No power grid failure will prevent you from reading a letter. No pop-up ads. And no spam box capturing messages you actually want.

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