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Portugal: A Population of Global Explorers and Diasporas

Vasco da Gama Bridge

Vasco da Gama Bridge

I am sitting in a nondescript office in the harbor sector of the city of Lisbon looking out at the beautiful Vasco da Gama Bridge. This bridge is the longest bridge in Europe spanning over 12 kilometers across the Tagus River in Lisbon. While this bridge is a modern wonder, the discussion taking p
lace inside the office is also a bit of a wonder in the world of global identity verification.

I am reviewing the results of a test file with our Portuguese Data expert. We had originally processed his file and achieved somewhat lower results than desired. The timing of the file processing and my trip to Portugal allowed for me to sit down directly with him and a colleague to review the results and better understand why the results were so low.

One of the first things we discovered about the data is that a percentage of the data was made up of foreign names meaning non-Portuguese in origin. As a result, these people were likely not citizens of the country but might still be residents. Portugal is unique in Europe because it has a large and growing population of ex-pats who retire there from the United Kingdom and France. The way our expert described it is that Portugal was a country where “many people are passing through”. Some stay for a little time and some stay forever. Given the temperatures, the beauty of its beaches and the great cost of living I completely understand this.

So while we could not accurately validate those people with our Portuguese Identity Verification we were able to architect within our system to run those people who did not validate in Portugal through our UK and then French Identity Verification providers all within the same system. This “waterfall” approach allowed for us to gain some immediate lift in the results and better validate the ex-pats that had settled in the region.

The next data validation challenge that was unique to Portugal (and likely unique to Brazil) was what I dubbed “The Maria Effect”. A large number of the women in Portugal are named Maria. This is a statement made by a guy who has spent more than 20 years working with consumer data in Portugal so I am going to choose to believe this statement of fact. Many of the Marias have secondary first or middle names which create differentiators (example: Maria-Theresa). Additionally the last name of her family and/or the last name of her husband might be used when completing some types of documentation thus Maria becomes possibly Maria Theresa de Salvo Carlos de Herrera. This a complete legitimate full name. At 32 characters this name likely would not even fit into most online data entry fields but that is the smaller of the concerns. Maria may also express her name as any combination of the above depending on how she choosing to distinctly represent herself. So she might be Theresa de Salvo or Theresa de Herrera or Theresa Carlos de Herrera. In all of these examples Maria may be substituted for Theresa creating a database of Marias that may or may not link back to a known identity in Portuguese data systems. This is where customized and localized fuzzy matching and rules logic are needed to ensure the best possible match result when attempting a identity verification for this country.

The next example of local data uniqueness is the “da Effect”. Many last names in Portugal have a preposition of da or de associated with them. Names can thus be represented in systems as Vasco da Gama or Vasco Gama. In both cases they are the same person. Many identity verification systems may choose to work with a hard 1:1 match and thus this would not generate a match on this particular name. Other systems may elect to drop the da/de as extraneous characters and not recognize them as part of the last name thus corrupting the name and likely generating a poor response.

After reviewing all of these examples we were able to ensure that we tuned our inputs to properly parse data going into our platform for Portuguese nuances. This allowed for us to create a better result and improve the overall match rates. This in turn helps satisfy our customer’s needs which at the end of the day was the goal of the conversation.

The above is a great view on how hyper-local knowledge and skills will produce quantifiably better results for global eKYC and identity resolution efforts. Whether it is mobile customer onboarding at BBVA or HSBC; or fraud risk analysis at Kreditech of fulfillment of European 4th Money Laundering Initiative compliance regulations between customer transactions. At GDC we enjoy learning these nuances from our local partners and much like the vision of da Gama we seek to spread this knowledge throughout the world.

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Why trust is your eCommerce company’s competitive advantage

“If there is a significant human potential that has not been realized, I believe mutual trust and credibility is the biggest undiscovered fortune. Only when we pay attention and care about ‘honour’, will we ‘honour’ ourselves.” — Jack Ma

As the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma wants the same thing we all want in our relationships: trust. He understands that all beneficial human interaction is built on this single fragile currency.

He values trust and honor so highly that he once fired his top two salespeople for accepting bribes from vendors (a common practice in China at the time).

In so doing he walked away from 60% of Alibaba’s revenue.

Why was he willing to do this?

Because bribes are against his values. He and the early team decided they’d rather go out of business than compromise their principles.

Over time this thinking proved to help the bottom line as much as it strengthened their culture. Trust is the fundamental key that has propelled Alibaba to the levels of success it has achieved in the Chinese market and beyond.

Trust in an eCommerce Marketplace

Like any marketplace, Alibaba’s Taobao relies on 3rd party sellers. Like all marketplaces Taobao suffered from a ‘chicken and egg’ effect early on.

They needed to find quality 3rd party sellers to list new products while also stimulating consumer demand for those products. The only problem was that no sellers wanted to sell if there were no buyers, and no buyers would purchase if there were no products.

Jack knew that a very small number of negative customer experiences in the early days would significantly limit the company’s ability to grow both sides of this marketplace.

Unscrupulous sellers introduce all sorts of risk into eCommerce. They are more likely to sell counterfeit items, faulty products, or illicit goods. They are crafty at finding ways to bilk buyers out of money and inject fraud into exchanges. This leaves the marketplace left cleaning up the mess and salvaging the trust in their brand among consumers.

Jack realized that Taobao could significantly reduce the amount of fraud and seller deception if they optimized seller onboarding for trust. The first step in building this trust was to simply be able to prove that sellers are who they say they are.

So to verify the identities of sellers in the early days, the team sent agents out to the actual places of business of the seller applicants. It was only after an Alibaba agent physically verified him that the seller could begin selling on the marketplace. This worked well enough for some time, but it quickly became unwieldy as they scaled.

Scaling Up Identity Verification

Alibaba is growing well beyond China. They’re building a massive international business spanning dozens of cultures and economies. They’re doing it in a highly competitive and fast-paced climate with Amazon, Rakuten, Walmart, and eBay all fighting tooth-and-nail for the same dollars. This expansion presented the Alibaba team with a new challenge: how to verify sellers at scale.

The team noticed that other eCommerce marketplaces had created Trust and Safety teams (modeled largely off Risk and Compliance teams in financial institutions). The point of these departments is root out the unscrupulous sellers, keeping them off the platform. But the reality is that many of these sellers evade detection by inventing new identities or using someone else’s information to create a new account. They act as highly adaptable bacteria that evolve to sneak past any defenses that marketplaces mount against them. This is not good enough for a company who is as passionate about trust as Alibaba.

This is where real-time global electronic identity verification fits in.

How Electronic ID Verification Works

As part of the seller onboarding process an eCommerce marketplace using electronic ID verification takes information provided in registration (usually name, address, and phone or name, address, and date of birth) and checks it in real-time against independent reference data in the seller’s home country.

If the data elements match, the seller is able to proceed through the registration process quickly and with no additional friction. However, if the data elements don’t match, the application goes into exception processing. For most marketplaces this means prompting the seller to produce additional documents to prove his identity.

This creates variable friction in the onboarding process for potential sellers. It lets the proven vendors pass through effortlessly while adding checks for those sellers who can’t produce a match.

More importantly, it gives the eCommerce marketplace a quick and simple way to catch anyone pretending to be someone they aren’t. Companies like Alibaba find this approach allows them to trust each seller while still being able to scale quickly.

Trust: Your Competitive Advantage

Trust is modern currency. It is what brings customers back, it’s what drives repeat revenue. As a marketplace the trust of your brand is tied to that of your vendors.

It takes years of hard fought work to build trust. But a single bad seller can snap a customer’s trust in you forever.

At Global Data Consortium, trust is our business. Our real-time global identity verification solution gives eCommerce marketplaces the peace of mind that sellers are who they say they are. We’re protecting brands from being compromised by untrustworthy 3rd party sellers, and we’re doing it reliably at scale for customers all over the globe. Our technology allows any eCommerce site to verify sellers as accurately as giants like Amazon and Alibaba.

Like Jack Ma, we know that trust is a value that you can’t compromise. If you agree, feel free to send me an email.

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The GDC Way on Data Partnerships

Quick note: GDC is expanding the country reach of our real-time global electronic identity verification platform. Today we have over 45 partnerships with best in-country providers of identity data, each integrated into our system. We are growing to 150+ as quickly as possible. In this post, I’m writing about our approach to building deep relationships with our data partners. If you are the owner or controller of data that can be used for electronic identity verification in your country, let’s talk. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this post with more information.

Off the Beaten Path

I was in South America not long ago on one of my frequent international jaunts, meeting with Global Data Consortium partners. We had been corresponding with one business for some time, and its data was particularly interesting to GDC customers. I won’t name the country this time (that would be a dead giveaway), but suffice it to say this trip involved prop planes and multiple “camioneta” buses. Off the beaten path would be an understatement.

But once at my destination, I spent a full day with the business owners. I met the management team, toured their offices, talked with local clients, and had dinner with the president in his home that evening. Here’s something he told me that really stuck in my mind:

No one has ever made the effort to travel to visit us before. Everyone wants access to our data, but they only want to talk through the phone or by email. That is not how we build partnerships in my country.

He thanked me. He was legitimately touched by the gesture of my in-person visit. Needless to say, he is now a GDC data partner, an important member of our Consortium.

The Trust Factor

We have lofty ambitions at the Global Data Consortium. Our goal is to be the one point of access for business that use global electronic identity verification, offering the most countries with the deepest coverage and most data elements possible.

The foundation for this is our data partner network, those businesses that collect and maintain identity information in their home countries. They are our Consortium members, and without integrating into their services, we could not meet our goals.

Here’s the great insight at GDC: the owners of companies we want to partner with are fiercely relationship driven. Many of the businesses are still run by their founders. They are proud of what they have spent their lives building, and they don’t want to work with just anyone. They want to work with organizations they know they can trust.

So we invest in the relationships. It’s the only way to build mutual trust.

How do we do it?

The GDC Way

GDC creates clear expectations with our data partners for what their services must be able to do for our customers. We ensure high quality by testing what they have. We help them with enabling technology if they need it.

But we also make the relationship a two-way street. Not only do partners provide us with access to their data, but we also let them use the full GDC platform so they can offer a wider set of products to their own customers. This opens up new revenue opportunities for them.

That’s all part of the GDC Way.

But most importantly – and this is the thing our cohorts don’t seem to get – we take the time to meet our partners face-to-face, in their offices and sometimes even in their homes. We break bread together. We make the extra effort to get to know them and to let them know us, too.

That Extra Ounce of Effort

Sir John Templeton, the legendary investor, famously said that it’s the final extra ounce of effort that counts the most. For GDC, this seemingly minor detail of meeting our partners in person is the extra ounce of effort. It counts so much when building a real-time electronic identity verification platform that relies on a broad network of global suppliers.

It’s part of the GDC Way and a big part of the reason companies with valuable data assets choose to partner with us…to become members of the Consortium.

We recently put up a new page on the Global Data Consortium website describing how we work with our data partners. Take a look at it. For potential data partners, feel free to contact me through the form there, or send me an email at bill@globaldataconsortium.com.

http://globaldataconsortium.com/data-partners/

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New Advanced Address Verification Services in India

At GDC we are continuously searching the globe for new partners, new countries and new services for our customers; we enjoy telling the stories about our discovery and availability of these services!  We also work with our Partner Community to add additional capabilities to existing Worldview countries, and we are excited to announce the availability of Advanced Address Verification for India.

Our global expertise tells us that India is the most challenging country to provide great Address Verification due to the size of the country, the complexity of address information, and the regional variations of address information.  We hear from our customers and read recent studies that project tremendous opportunity in India for companies that are using the best available Address Verification solutions for eCommerce, Finance, and Logistics business problems.

Working with our premier Indian Partner, our Advanced Address Verification for India provides you with the most reliable solution for interpreting Indian Addresses.  Do you know that across India there are over 400 different building descriptors?  We do.  Our highly configurable solution reliably parses, interprets and verifies all of the components of an Indian address – road differentiation, sublocalities, localities, pin codes, buildings, building numbers, wings, floors, and more.  We can turn on additional custom capabilities to meet the needs of your business problem – delivery flags that set shipment expectation, corporate address indicators, and rural/urban coding.

We are always excited to open up additional services for our Worldview customers. If you want to understand more about Advanced Address Verification for India and discuss the challenges of addressing in India, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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GDC Onboards France’s Best In-Country Data Provider

This week at GDC we’re thrilled to add a new partner from France, bringing the best in-country data solutions for French address verification. This is an important addition for us; at 62 billion dollars in eCommerce sales, France is the sixth largest eCommerce market worldwide. On top of that France is a wired culture, and nearly 89% of the country’s internet users are shopping online, with individual purchase rates going up. From both a local and global perspective, France is an important player in the market and eCommerce companies need to have a reliable solution when it comes to French data.

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But the value of having our best in-country data provider goes beyond just meeting the market. When it comes to culture, French consumers place a high value on service quality. A DPD survey of online commerce habits showed that one in five deliveries in France was problematic, and 49% of the time this was because the delivery was late. They go on to show that French consumers overwhelmingly (84%) prefer things delivered directly to their home, rather than to post offices or other pick up sites.

 

eCommerce companies recognize the implications in this. They want to be able to attract new customers in France by offering convenient, on-time door deliveries. They also want to retain customers by making sure that they can follow through on that promise. After all, nearly 70% of customers said they wouldn’t buy again from a website that didn’t deliver on time.

 

This is a challenge in France. Delivering to secluded cottages in Champagné can be just as difficult as delivering to a one-room apartment off of la République in Paris because of how address information is used and changed. Generic data, which might be managed anywhere in the world, is never going to be able to effectively keep up with the dynamics of French society. That’s where our local data solution can provide the most ‘lift’.

 

The Dynamic French Landscape

 

Last spring, I visited a friend in Paris while checking up on some of our local European providers and I needed a couple of books. They happened to be on Amazon.fr, and I asked for the building’s address so I could get them delivered to me while I was there. My friend told me that it was better to send them somewhere else, since most of the packages for that apartment had never showed up at all.

 

Being in this business, I got interested and dug a bit deeper. The apartment did not have a number, which is common, and that the name used for deliveries was of a prior leaser, not my friend’s name, which is also common. The process of updating address and identity information with La Poste, the French postal service, can be prohibitive and so data can often be left outdated. In this case, the “address” of the apartment was under the name of a woman who had been leasing it 4 years ago. It’s like if I wanted to send something there, I would have to know the history of the apartment ownership to do it.

 

The reality of these deliveries is that the package might show up at the right building, but after that it’s anyone’s guess. It might end up at the right apartment, it might end up at another apartment, or it might not get delivered at all. In the end, I sent the delivery to an office in town that said they had no problems with deliveries. But if I had wanted to send it to that apartment, I would have had to write several names down on the package to get it to the right place. Depending on how that package changed hands it might still have gotten misplaced.

 

Local Data Knowledge as a Solution

 

This is obviously not the optimal way to do things, and that’s where GDC’s unique approach to address verification comes in. When we set out to solve this problem, it was apparent to us that generic datasets can be useful but are inherently problematic. They aren’t managed by people that understand the context of the data and they can often go without updates. At GDC, our team fans out across the globe to find the best LOCAL providers of knowledge, and then puts those companies through rigorous testing to make sure that their data is up to scratch. The result is what we call the ‘intelligent stack’. We take an address and redirect it to the best in-country data source in our consortium.

 

The results of using these local data sources are impressive, and our new partner in France is a powerful example of this. They combine data from marketing databases and private commercial sources that has coverage all across France and can have better resolution than other datasets. Our partner is also updating this data constantly, receiving information from sources constantly and applying address and verification rule changes at least once a month.

 

This kind of data and refresh rate prevents problems like the one I had in Paris, and can improve delivery reliability overall. Companies know this is critical to the French market, and they know just how fickle consumers can be if deliveries aren’t right the first time. It’s a survival need, and for a dynamic like France, generic data just doesn’t cut it. Businesses need local data for France, and with our newest French partner, we are pleased to deliver for our Worldview customers. If you are looking for a more reliable solution to delivering in France, or anywhere else in the world, please give me a call. We’d love to help expand your worldview.

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GDC Integrates Best Turkey Address Partner into Worldview

This week we announce the integration of Turkey’s best address intelligence service into GDC’s Worldview platform. Our partner, an Istanbul business with over 10 years of experience working closely with the Turkish government, demonstrates the command of local nuance needed to be the country’s most reliable address resource. As I discovered on a recent trip, if ever there is a country where local details make a difference in getting the right address…it’s Turkey.

The Turkish Opportunity

Istanbul straddles the East and the West. Standing on a bridge watching ships traffic the waterways and listening to the call to prayer in the background brings into stark clarity – I have ventured into a brand new cultural world. While Turkish commerce maintains its traditions of merchants peddling wares in the Grand Bazaar, it has evolved to also include the most sophisticated forms of cross-border eCommerce.

The world’s great brands recognize that Turkey is an exciting market. eCommerce has grown over 500 percent since 2009, most of which has come from consumers buying goods that are shipped from out of country. And the youth are driving the economic boom. Less than 15 percent of the population is over 55, meaning a tech-savvy and brand-conscious generation is defining the country’s new buying habits.

But when it comes to addresses, businesses shipping product into Turkey are going to need a lot of local help.

My Address Confusion in Istanbul

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While in Istanbul I had a couple of key experiences that highlighted the difference and difficulties of address verification in a city in this region.

The first was getting to my hotel. My bus dropped me off in the city’s famous Taksim Square, a tightly-packed area with nearly 20 hotels all within a few blocks. I tried to use my phone to navigate to my hotel’s address, but the map could only get me to the center of the square. It could not find the location with any greater precision, so – in an effort to triangulate my way to the proper destination – I resorted to stopping into shops and asking clerks to point me in the right direction. Even though I had the proper address, the mapping technology was not able to provide the granular result I needed to find my hotel.

Then I had to get to our local partner’s office. Istanbul is massive with many districts and neighborhoods. I gave the taxi driver the office address, and he immediately honed in the district, then found the proper neighborhood and upon “arrival” he starting asking locals where to find the final destination. Why? Because the address I had was missing a crucial piece of information…a proper cross street. As I came to discover, in much of Turkey you need to provide cross street information both when getting directions and also to ensure prompt and accurate delivery.

These kind of details are often overlooked by global address verification systems that rely on generic, international standards for formatting and validation. As I’ve found over and over again in my long address intelligence career, you simply cannot know the nuances of a country unless you are working with partners that live there, speak the language, and provide address services to local businesses that rely on accuracy. That’s the power of local intelligence in making sure you get your addresses right.

Dinner on the Bosphorous River and Reflections on Local Intelligence

On my last night in Turkey the founder of our partner company squired me out of Istanbul, bringing me north along the Bosphorous River. We traveled until the road ended at a quaint fishing village, and we sat outside on a chilly evening, dining on some of the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life.

At dinner we spoke at length about his company and how they apply local knowledge to help businesses get Turkish addresses right. He talked in length about serving Turkish companies, taking their feedback, and constantly improving his address data and rules. We spoke about the growth opportunities that his clients were experiencing in Turkey and beyond. We discussed the expansive world of international commerce and yet how so much of success depends on getting things right on a local level.

As I peered out into the night, I saw the flashing red lights of a freighter cruising up the river. My colleague pointed out that around the bend, and some miles away, the Bosphorous empties into the Black Sea. I couldn’t help but reflect on how close we were to Crimea and Ukraine, countries that had always seemed to me to be so different from Turkey, but are so close and so connected.

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GDC Integrates New Russia Address Partner into Worldview

This week GDC announces the newest member of the consortium, a Moscow-based data business that specializes as Russia’s best in-country source for address data.

 

Let’s call a spade a spade: This one was tough. It was tough to identify the right Russian partner. It was tough to “lean in” to a Russian solution during a time of uncertainty when so many eCommerce businesses are avoiding that market. And it was tough to work through the technical aspects of making the best in-country Russian solution work for a client base that knows very little about Cyrillic-based alphabets.

 

After a few months of working through these challenges, we now see why other global address services have struggled so much to offer a quality Russian solution!

 

But that’s what makes this Russian address solution such a valuable addition to the consortium. Through rigorous analysis and testing, the GDC team has verified that this new partner offers true benefits. Its combination of wide geographic coverage, extensive data records, and sophisticated business logic provides a superior source of “lift” over what you can get from any of the global generic address solutions.

 

In the end, the “tough” is worth it. We can provide our Worldview customers with address information they simply haven’t been able to access before. In the process, we are helping open up Russia to eCommerce merchants, platform companies and delivery services that previously saw these same obstacles and couldn’t find a way around them.

 

With Russia fully integrated into Worldview, we now offer best available address services with localized intelligence for 35 countries (see the list here) in addition to the full global service from our postal-based generic address partners. We continue expanding with up to three new local providers each month.

 

Let’s consider briefly what that Russian opportunity represents for eCommerce, then we’ll highlight the specific challenges of transliteration, and finally we’ll share a little more about this partner and why we chose them.

 

The Russia Opportunity for eCommerce

 

There’s something about companies that lean in to promising growth opportunities even when the headwinds are strong. They take on some risks, sure, but if everyone else goes away than they also stand to make all the gains.

 

We’ve been seeing elements of this in Russia over the past year. There’s no question the country has promising growth prospects for cross-border commerce. According the The Paypers, Russians buy over US$16.5 billion in eCommerce goods each year, and that amount is compounding at nearly 20 percent year over year 1. Yet with all the uncertainty there (slide in oil prices, rampant inflation, military action in Ukraine and pockets of civil unrest), many Western companies have pulled back investments. They haven’t had the appetite for all the near-term risk.

 

But other companies have taken the lean-in approach, doubling down in Russia because they believe the opportunities there trump today’s risk. A recent report by China Securities Journal says that eCommerce firms like Alibaba and Taobao have taken advantage of Western firms pulling back to grab 70% of Russia’s annual US$3.5 billion cross-border spend. 2
As Russia stabilizes, will it be too late to win back market share from the Chinese eCommerce giants? For the companies now pulling back, the long-term risk seems to be missing out on the chance to build deep relationships with Russian consumers. One you concede that, it can be very hard to get it back.

 

The company OZON.ru gets the lean-in mentality better than most. Under the guidance of its French CEO, Maelle Gavet, OZON has been relentless about grabbing market share in Russia. Guided by her belief that the country will ultimately have one hegemonic eCommerce platform (like Amazon in the US, Alibaba in China or Mercado Libre in Latin America), Gavet has consistently invested for aggressive growth irrespective of Russia’s economic climate. While Amazon and eBay have dabbled a bit when the business cycle was at its best (but retrenched as the economy soured), OZON keeps plowing capital into inventory, warehouses, payment systems and its own courier service for distribution. 3

 

For Western eCommerce businesses to have a chance in Russia – be they platforms, individual merchants or all players in between – they have to find ways to invest now. Even as conditions seem so volatile for cross-border trade.

 

GDC has taken a lean-in approach to Russia. To help our clients gain a toehold in this important market, we’ve invested both in this address partner and in the technology necessary to support complex transliteration from Latin script alphabets to Cyrillic. We’ll turn now to a brief overview of that challenge and how it allows us to fill the gaps in Russian coverage left by the major global generic address systems.

 

The Challenge of Cyrillic

 

The transliteration and transcription challenges are tough, and that’s a dirty secret global address solutions don’t like to talk about.

 

It’s hard enough to move among all the languages that use the Latin script alphabets, but at least the letters stay the same. The bulk of the work is in creating ways to cross-walk, for example, the English word “street” to the German word “strasse.” You create the transcription elements, you program rules to cover the occasional diacritics issue, and then you fine-tune the logic to make sure the output presents in the ways locals expect to see it. That’s oversimplifying, of course, but it captures the basic idea. When you run into problems, it’s pretty easy to find solutions.

 

But when you’re dealing in different alphabets, the challenges are compounded. You can’t even transcribe until you’ve transliterated. For example, when someone inputs the Latin version of “Moscow,” you have to transcribe it to “Moskva” and then transliterate it from Latin to the Cyrillic script. The same is true for all elements of the address like the country names in the Russian Federation, the region names, the cities and villages, and all the streets. Now add to that abbreviations, short-hand and common misspellings.

 

There’s a lot to account for going from Latin to Cyrillic and back again, and it’s anything but a precise science. But if you’re creating an address intelligence service for clients looking to expand their business into Russia, you must invest in doing this.

 

Again, it’s tough. But Russia is an important trade lane and presents a lot of growth opportunity for eCommerce. Our Worldview clients have told us they want it, and so we’ve leaned in, making the investment both in finding the right Russian in-country partner and in developing a transliteration engine to move the addresses smoothly between Latin and Cyrillic.

 

About Our Russian Partner

 

Finally, a little about our Russian partner. While we provide our clients with access to generic global address verification through our Worldview API, we recognize the significant gaps in these generic services. So our model is to go into key countries, identify companies that provide best available address intelligence for those markets, and test the in-country providers against the generics. If the in-country providers demonstrate significant “lift” over the generics, we start the process of making them available through Worldview.

 

Country by country, we are filling in the gaps left by generic services. As we mentioned before, we have 35 best in-country partners now, and are expanding that number by integrating three new countries a month.

 

We found our Russian partner after a lot of searching. The company has spent over 10 years building and refining their data sets and business logic, and they has earned the trust of Russia’s largest companies in banking, insurance and retail. When they need to send parcels or critical documents to Russian businesses or homes, they first verify their addresses through this service.

 

They offer wider coverage of Russia than the generics, both in terms of geography and population. They pull data from a wide range of sources, spreading beyond postal and mapping data used by most generics. They offer sophisticated business logic for verifying and enriching Russian addresses. And they refresh the data frequently to ensure it’s as up to date as possible.

 

Most importantly, they offer that “lift” over generic services when it comes to Russian addresses, qualifying them to be part of Worldview.

 

So, we welcome our new Russian partner into the Global Data Consortium. We’re excited to open up access to Russia for Worldview customers. And if you’re looking for help in Russia, or any other country in our global platform, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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GDC’s Integrates New India Address Partner into Worldview

This month GDC welcomed to the consortium a best in-country address validation solution for India, an exciting addition to the Worldview global platform. India is the world’s second largest country in terms of population, its consumer class is growing by leaps and bounds, and rising income is creating an appetite for eCommerce goods. Internet orders are literally doubling every few months. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, Indian online sales will grow from US$3 billion in 2013 to US$100 billion in 2020.

But its address infrastructure is notoriously under-developed, and this creates massive headaches for eCommerce companies that want to ship products to Indian customers. They’re afraid of the risk that comes with the unreliable address services they get from the generic global verification systems (a topic we covered in detail in my Open Letter last month). They want to sell their goods to this massive consumer class in India, but they’re hesitating because of the costs that come when you can’t verify addresses with confidence. Like mis-deliveries, ship-backs, lost shipments, credit card chargebacks, and frustrated customers, to name a few.

That’s why we’re excited to offer this new data partner in India. As a Mumbai-based business, it’s a truly LOCAL solution providing LOCAL intelligence. The company has enriched India Post address data by layering in alternative sources and adding business logic that helps resolve the most common address mistakes. Our own tests of their data demonstrates significant lift over what’s offered in the major generic global systems. And they are constantly refreshing the information to keep ahead of the quick pace of construction as India’s economy keeps building new homes and apartments and demolishing old ones.

In particular, this partner is able to provide more granular delivery details in more cities, suburbs, and villages. While the generic global systems rarely provide verification below the city or post code level, this partner is able to verify many more addresses to the street, premise or even delivery point level.

This is what LOCAL address solutions do, and it makes a big difference to eCommerce businesses (both the big platforms and the individual merchants) seeking growth in the Indian market. Let me explain…

The India Address and Delivery Challenge

Last month Wall Street Journal reporter Sean McLain shadowed two motorcycle deliverymen as they hauled eCommerce goods through the streets of some of India’s largest cities. One worked for Flipkart, an enormous Bangalore-based online marketplace, and the other for Amazon.

Each would pile as much as 150 pounds into their backpacks and fan out through the cities, suburbs and villages to deliver such sundry goods as laser printers, coffee makers and six-packs of Coca-Cola. They’re expected to make at least 45 deliveries each day, but the address infrastructure in India makes this no easy task.

Delhi, for example, is a city of nearly 17 million people. Addresses are a combination of neighborhood names, block numbers and house numbers. Many house numbers aren’t even arranged sequentially along a street. Three houses in a row might skip from 225 to 657 and back to 301. The complexity of it means deliverymen spend a lot of time asking for directions. When following the Amazon driver, the

reporter noted that each delivery “involved at least four stops to ask cycle-rickshaw drivers, security guards or roadside barbers for directions. Each time the response was the same: an outstretched finger and a one-word answer: ‘Straight.'”

Neither Amazon nor Flipkart trust India Post or other traditional delivery services to get their parcels to customers. They’re investing huge sums of cash to build their own delivery infrastructure. This is how desperate they are to build local intelligence to make sure packages arrive on customer’s doorsteps quickly. Even then, it’s all terribly inefficient.

There’s a better way.

The Difference in LOCAL Intelligence for Address Verification

Even though they want to expand their businesses into India, eCommerce merchants are wary of the address and delivery challenge. Generic global address services aren’t helping. In most of India they can only verify addresses to city or district level. Think about what that means. They expect you to ship products – potentially expensive products – to an address about which they can tell you nothing more than “we know the city exists.” It means you have to ship first and then hope the deliverymen figure out the neighborhood, street and house number portions of the address. That creates too much uncertainty for merchants.

With our new data partner in India, GDC is able to flip that equation around. Rather than sending the package and hoping the deliveryman’s local knowledge is sufficient to find the address, we use our partner’s local intelligence to provide address detail to the street, premise and delivery point levels. We can also tell you if an address is not deliverable. It’s like having the local deliveryman in Delhi tell you the address exists before you ever ship the package.

For eCommerce merchants holding back from the Indian market, this should give you reason to reconsider. There’s a massive growth opportunity there, and in using our local intelligence for address verification, you can be confident your parcel will arrive even when you’re using local delivery services.

For the big eCommerce platforms – even those that have invested so heavily in these armies of motorcycle deliverymen – there’s an opportunity for you, too. With this local intelligence for address verification, you can stage your orders for more efficient delivery. If the goal is 45 packages a day per deliveryman, imagine how much throughput you could get if he started with better address information…if he didn’t have to stop four times to ask directions for each package!

So, we welcome our new India partner into the Global Data Consortium. We’re excited to open up access to India for Worldview customers. And if you’re looking for help in India, or any other country in our global platform, give us a call. We’d love to help expand your Worldview.

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Post-Script – The Innovator’s Dilemma and Local Disruption

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

Part I: History Lessons

Part II: A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

Part III: Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

Part IV: Post-Script – The Innovator’s Dilemma and Local Disruption

In 1997, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen published his landmark book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. His guiding questions: why is it that innovation always seems to come with disruption? True innovation rarely comes from market leaders with established products. It always comes from an upstart with little to lose and a scrappy mentality.

The minicomputer didn’t come from IBM, Christensen instructs us, though IBM had the deep pockets, experienced sales force, and engineering know-how to make it happen. No, IBM kept clinging to the profits from its dominant mainframe technology before Digital Equipment Corporation (and a host of other upstarts) swooped in and launched the better, faster, cheaper alternative.

History will show the global address verification market is going through a similar disruption.

On the surface, it’s baffling that the older global address companies aren’t pushing local intelligence into the verification process. The new model makes so much more sense. But looking at it through Christensen’s innovator’s dilemma lens, we can begin to understand why. They’re captive to their own success; to the demands of their big customers. Rather than look to the future of our industry – the rise of cross-border commerce, increasing parcel shipment, and consumers demanding ever faster delivery – they remain focused on protecting what they have.

It’s a hard cycle to break.

They aren’t doing it, and I don’t expect that to change. What I do expect is that Global Data Consortium continues leaning into this new and developing market. We will build a critical mass of data partners providing best in-country solutions; we will help our partners continue improving their data through faster feedback loops; and we will make our services less expensive with time (though, perhaps surprisingly, it’s already price competitive with the major global generics).

This is the way of disruption. Quality keeps getting better, prices keep coming down, and eventually even the most price-sensitive customers want the better service.

Five years from now I predict that most of the market has shifted to this model. We will no longer accept “good enough is good enough.” We’ll demand innovations that move local intelligence (that’s so rich at the delivery level) upstream to the address verification process. Rather than depend on local intelligence to fix it, our local data will prevent the problems that lead to mis-delivery and delays.

That’s when we can say the local disruption has truly taken hold. That’s the future that I want GDC to be part of.

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Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

I recently published an open letter to the address verification industry, a group to which I’ve belonged professionally for over 20 years. In it, I critiqued our lack of innovation over the years and suggested another way: making global address verification better by using local intelligence.

As hoped, the letter spurred a lot of interesting dialogue. In hopes to keep the conversation going, I’m posting a series of blog entries that dig deeper into the themes of technology, address data and how we can meet the needs of our most demanding customers.

Part I: History Lessons

Part II: A Fateful Trip to Brazil and My “Eureka!” Moment

Part III: Making Local Intelligence a Reality in Global Address Verification

In 2010, on a long plane ride back from Brazil, my mind was racing with ideas. Two years prior, an eCommerce executive had challenged me (read that story here) to solve the last mile problem of global address verification. In his world, every package had to be delivered and as quickly as possible. He couldn’t afford to ship to bad addresses, but existing global address verification systems weren’t reliable enough. They depended too much on local delivery intelligence to fix address mistakes. His criticism stung because I was COO of one of those businesses, but I knew he was right.

I had gone to Brazil to ask its postal operator, Correios, to give my company an update to its address database. That had not worked, but in a stroke of serendipity, I met the owner of a business that maintained more complete address data than Correios and that refreshed its addresses constantly. (See that story here.)

This was exactly what the eCommerce executive had been asking for! And if it existed in Brazil, there must be similar services in other countries. I began talking with my colleague (and eventual co-founder) about creating a better global address verification system; one that used the local intelligence of best in-country sources of data; one that kept up with the constant changes of addresses by constantly refreshing its data. If we could build access to a network of these data sources, we could create an entirely new (and more reliable) model for global address verification.

If we could build something that met the lofty requirements of eCommerce, where every package counts and there’s no margin of error for bad addresses, we could also help the companies on which the eCommerce industry leans for help (logistics, fulfillment and delivery). We could help data cleansing services that need more reliable results than the older global address systems provided. Perhaps we could even help software companies that do mapping and navigation based on addresses.

I began sketching the blueprint for a company based on these ideas. It would be complicated, no doubt. We would have to…

  1. Identify the Right Partners and Build Relationships

Just as the best address provider in Brazil had been hard to find (really, there was no small element of luck that I met him on that trip!), so would its counterparts in other countries. I would have to rely heavily on my network of friends in the address data industry to identify the right partners.

And I would need to keep my passport up-to-date…this would not be a job I could do while sitting behind a desk. I was going to need to spend a lot of time traveling to meet data providers, vetting them face-to-face to establish trust and to feel confident they play by all the right rules in collecting and sharing their data.

  1. Test to Verify

Most data providers say they’re the best, so frequent testing was going to be critical to finding the actual best in-country partners. We would need to create clear testing parameters to demonstrate these companies provided more reliable address results than postal operators.

  1. Build Sophisticated Technology

Finally (and it almost seems funny that this comes third), we would have to invest in a robust cloud-based technology platform for integrating with our data partners and providing our customers with a single place to access the world’s best address data. This would be the only way to take full advantage of their refresh cycles (the feedback loops that keeps their address data current).

This was the basic blueprint, and later that year my partner Charles and I formed the Global Data Consortium. In the five years since, we’ve been executing on the plan, step-by-step. I flew around the world finding the best data providers for key countries. I developed friendships that turned into trusted partnerships. We tested everyone’s data to verify its quality and reliability. And we developed the GDC Worldview product – an API management engine and data validation platform – to provide our customers a single point of access to the world’s most reliable address data.

We’ve come a long way since Brazil! Worldview now has over 30 countries covered by best in-country partners, and we’re adding up to four new ones each month.

It’s a solid start, and we keep investing in Worldview to make it better for our existing customers and anyone for whom the old global address systems just aren’t good enough.

Here’s my challenge to consumers of global address verification services: If you’ve found that the generic systems aren’t providing the results you want; if bad address information is leading to mis-delivery or slow delivery; if your service isn’t formatting addresses in the way your global customers expect to see them…there’s no reason to be captive to “good enough.” You can do better.

If that describes you, let’s talk. Let’s set up a test to see how our best in-country data partners use their local intelligence to fix problems before a package ever ships.

Let us improve your world view.

Next: My final thoughts in this blog series…The innovator’s dilemma and predicting the future of the global address verification industry.