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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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Spotlight on Brazil and Electronic Identity Verification

Next month the eyes of the world will once again be on Brazil, this time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Despite all its recent turmoil  – the trifecta of political, economic and health issues – I’m optimistic that Brazil will put on a fun and safe show for us all. More importantly, I’m optimistic about the country’s overall prospects.

The turmoil has kept many companies away from Brazil. But over the long run, businesses with ambitions in Latin American will have no choice but invest there. It is, after all, the world’s sixth largest country by population and seventh largest economy by GDP. Ignore it during this short-term instability, and you might lose your chance to participate in the long run.

The big eCommerce marketplaces recognize this. The financial press prints story after story of Alibaba, Rakuten, Amazon, Mercado Libre and others investing heavily in Brazil. Why do this in the face of the country’s current instability? Because competition among them is brutal. If any of them cedes market share today, competitors will be all too happy to take over relationships with their sellers and buyers.

GDC got the chance to see this competition firsthand earlier this year. We launched a Brazil electronic identity verification service to help eCommerce marketplaces onboard sellers quickly.

Verifying the identities of merchants before they can begin selling goods on marketplaces has become common practice in the industry. Without it, bad actors are quick to infiltrate a marketplace with counterfeit goods and other forms of fraud. Using identity verification – asking the seller to provide information proving he is who he says he is – stops fraudsters from registering under false pretenses. They never get access to buyers, so fraud goes down and customer satisfaction goes up.

One of the big eCommerce marketplaces recently started using the Brazil electronic identity verification service. Previously, they had a clunky seller onboarding process. It leaned heavily on a manual workflow, used multiple data reference sources, and required new merchants to provide a lot of personal information. For example, applicants had to scan and submit photo ID’s to a document verification service as part of the process. The whole thing was time-consuming, inconvenient for sellers, and expensive for the client to maintain. Worst yet, they were losing sellers. The friction of onboarding had legitimate merchants abandoning their registrations before they could be approved.

GDC was glad to help. Our Brazil electronic identity verification service consolidated their entire process into a single registration form. When a seller submitted his name, address and national tax ID, a single API call to our platform queried multiple sources of credit, government, commercial and consumer identity reference data from our in-country Brazilian partners. The various sources cover over 95 percent of Brazil’s addressable adult population, and we were able to help our client match and approve nearly 75 percent of all applications within seconds.

We streamlined their process, limited the need for manual intervention in the workflow, and reduced their dependence on document verification and multiple data services. Most importantly, we got rid of the friction that had so many sellers abandon the registration process.

This is what GDC does both in Brazil and in the many other countries integrated into our global electronic identity verification platform. We give you one point of access to instantly verify the identities of customers, partners or counterparties no matter their country of origin. We help you bring in the good customers quickly while weeding out the bad ones.

If your business is expanding into Brazil, and you need help with verifying the identities of your customers, let’s talk. In the meantime, enjoy the Olympic show Brazil has prepared for the world.

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Paul

Paul Dryden
Global Data Consortium
paul@globaldataconsortium.com

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Our Report Card

Today is a memorable day for GDC. 18 months ago our first customer went live with our Worldview product, relying on GDC and Worldview to provide Address Verification. This client took a chance –to meet their needs for the best verification rates possible, they had to embrace a new model.

When we first speak with clients we explain our model – we find, qualify and integrate local companies that have the best address processing technology in their country. We harmonize our partner’s technologies and serve up all of that global value with a single OnDemand API. We understand that this model differs from other companies who build a single product, from a single data source, delivered the same way year-after-year.

Our clients embrace Worldview for innovative use cases. Companies validating address information as a key component of Identity Verification. eCommerce companies supporting cross-border commerce. Global organizations verifying and locating millions of points of interest. Delivery companies testing addresses to de-risk their logistics processes.

Now that we have been live for 18 months we can test the assumptions we made at the beginning. We had certain beliefs at the onset, how did we do? Let’s look at 4 of our initial suppositions.

Local Partners = Local Insight

We believed at the beginning that local partners would understand their country best and three themes have emerged. Within their country our partners handle regional variation, bad data patterns, and multilingual challenges better than anyone else.

Local Partners = Access to Unique Local Data

We thought that our partners would have insight on accessing, integrating and utilizing additional local data into their solution. GDC partners understand how to blend unique data into their solution, and they have the time and focus to do this work. Over half of our partners are using some form of data that is not being used by a global player.

Local Partners = Battle Tested Technology

Great address technology only gets great because it gets utilized; no one starts with an A+ product. We surmised our partners’ technology would be battle tested. For example, one partner’s offering is used by their country’s national post, and is accessed over a million times per week; the national post validates the goodness of their technology. This is representative of all of our partners – their technology is great because it gets used in-country, by clients that demand the best results.

Local Partners = Awesome Responsiveness

We knew our partners would be responsive in many ways. Our partners react quickly to new use cases and new address forms. Last month one of our customers had an issue with how a certain address suffix type was being handled, a pattern that would never be used in-country. Our partner enhanced their behavior and a correction was available the following day. Our partners are creating the next required services. A great example is our India partner that launched an advanced service. Our partners must continuously innovate; they don’t have the luxury of only revisiting their technology once a year, or when enough complaints for their country have piled up.

Where Are We Now?

After 18 months we have proven our beliefs at the beginning of this journey. We have worked with partners and clients that are willing to challenge conventions for how global address processing gets done. We continue to add countries to Worldview, and continue to tune Worldview to handle innovative eCommerce, Identity Verification, global point of interest, and delivery logistics use cases.

So that’s where we are 18 months since going live. Let’s see what the next 18 months brings. As always, we enjoy speaking with clients about how we can help you solve your business problems. Give us a shout and let’s see how we can 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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Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Accessing the World’s Best Identity Data through One Source

Next week I’ll be at MRC Vegas, the big annual meeting for Merchant Risk Council. It’s a trade group for eCommerce payment and risk professionals, and everyone will be talking about how to grow their international business while minimizing the impact of fraud.

Fraud prevention and global identity verification data go hand-in-hand. But that debate has long been defined by this “either-or” mindset. EITHER you choose the best data to power your fraud prevention efforts (but you have to find all these specialized providers, do the hard work of integration, spend a bunch of money, etc.) OR you choose a single point of access that rolls a bunch of data together and gives you a single vendor to manage (but you get poorer data and it’s not updated very often).

“Either-or” has been the only option for a long time. But now there’s the option to have the best data from many different sources AND access it through one system. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

More on that in a moment.

Talk With a Global Identity Data Expert at MRC Vegas 2015

First things first. It’s easier than ever to integrate with local sources for identity information and to use it to improve your fraud mitigation efforts. If this subject interests you, and you’re going to be in Vegas next week for the conference, let’s talk.

Shoot a quick note to bill@globaldataconsortium.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Now, here are some of my thoughts on ways every eCommerce business should be considering locally-sourced identity data to help with fraud.

Fear of Fraud is Slowing Your Growth

Fraud is no small problem for eCommerce. Cross-border trade represents all this growth potential. Countries like Mexico, Brazil and Turkey and regions like Eastern Europe have this tremendous appetite for online buying (each fueled by an exploding middle-class with newfound disposable income). But shipping across borders presents real risks that start with this very fundamental question…

Is that person trying to buy your merchandise really a customer, or is he a thief?

The growth opportunity is exciting, but when you don’t see the actual credit card (CNP or Card Not Present) the problem of fraud is very real.

There are a lot of tools out there to help merchants figure out this question. Silicon Valley seems to launch bigger-better-faster fraud prevention startups every day. But it all must start with determining whether that customer on the other end of a computer (or, as is more often the case, tablet or smartphone) is a legitimate person or not.

Solving the problem of fraud in cross-border eCommerce starts with identity verification.

The Best Sources for Identity Data are Local Providers

The best sources for identity data are local providers, experts in their own markets who know the nuances of their home countries better than anyone else and who are committed to keeping data constantly up-to-date.

Take Mexico, for example, where the combination of paternal and maternal last names are used in the performance of an identity check. And where there are multiple identity numbers in use (RFC, IMSS and CURP). The Global Data Consortium partners in Mexico supply 361 million unique records that provide identity verification (some combination of name, national identity number, address, date of birth and more) for 110 million individuals.

It’s an enormous amount of identity data, maintained by businesses that use it for identity verification purposes within Mexico, and that invest in it by adding new data and continuously refreshing what they have.

Mexico is only one example to highlight these points: Local sources have more complete data to share, they update it more frequently and they bring to bear their local expertise to help you understand important nuances like the differences in RFC versus IMSS versus CURP.

The Problem with Accessing Local Data

The problem with accessing local data is that jurisdictional issues around privacy laws mean each country tends to put strict controls over who can do what with identity data. So the best sources are almost never global services where the data is shipped across borders and aggregated onto a big server. Most governments don’t like this data leaving their countries.

So what you want to do integrate with the in-country data of local providers via the cloud where an API call accesses the data on the local source’s servers. This gives end users exposure to more data because governments and IP owners feel more comfortable when the data never leaves the country of origin.

Of course this sort of cloud-based integration isn’t easy to do. For most eCommerce businesses, there are simply too many complexities based on communicating in different languages, surmounting legal issues, development costs to build and maintain access to various systems, and all sorts of payment headaches.

And so the “either-or” mindset kicks in. Many of the eCommerce companies decide instead to rely on aggregators of global identity data, services that bring together a lot of information but require their clients to sacrifice quality for convenience. They provide one point of access for a lot of data, but they fall far short of the standards set by in-country local sources.

Going Beyond the “Either-Or” Mindset

So here’s the question I’m testing next week at MRC Vegas…

What if you could have both?

What if you could have the best available local identity data and get it through one point of access?

That’s what we’ve done with our Worldview system. It provides:

API Management. With one point of integration –to Worldview – you get full access to the world’s best local identity providers without the development costs or headaches.

Legal + Compliance. GDC complies with the EU-US Safe Harbor Framework to protect personal data. We vet our data partners through rigorous legal and compliance checks so you don’t have to.

One Language. There are 6,500 spoken languages in the world. GDC talks with identity data partners in many of them. But you only need to know one to access their data through Worldview.

One Place to Pay. Vendor management is complex when dealing across languages, borders and currencies. GDC simplifies that for you: one payment in one currency when using Worldview.

When you go global, going local can help you reduce fraud and improve your view on who your real customers are. Get a local view on your global transactions. Try Worldview.

Is this important to your business? If so, let’s connect next week in Vegas.

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

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

In 2010 my address verification company was having trouble with Brazil’s postal operator, Correios. For ten years they had refused to provide updates of their address data to foreign businesses.

For the past 50 years building a global address database meant a company (like mine at the time) had to gather information from the world’s various postal agencies. Since addresses are in a state of constant flux (new apartments going up, old buildings torn down, office spaces partitioned into suites, etc.), we took updates once or twice a year in an attempt to keep up with the changes. Think of it like a subscription to the old encyclopedia Britannica: you would pay them to send a replacement volume periodically so your research information didn’t get too dated. Bi-annual updates were the norm. Waiting ten years, however, meant our Brazilian data was desperately outdated.

For years I had tried to break this logjam with Correios to no avail. Finally, I decided it was time to take action. I flew to Brazil one week that summer, hoping that being in country would convince them to finally meet with me.

Alas, no. They weren’t budging, and they had no interest in talking with me. But all was not lost. Rather than sitting in my Sao Paulo hotel room, I made a sales call on a direct mail marketing company. The owner and I hit it off and spent most of a day together. I explained to him my frustration with Correios. He laughed, telling me he had no problems getting updates. Then he hesitated, got a quizzical look on his face and asked me, “But why would you want their address data. It’s garbage. You should use mine instead.”

He explained further: Like most postal agencies, Correios was not very good at keeping track of its addresses. This entrepreneur had discovered that fact years ago as he started building his company. He saw an opportunity to make a reputation for himself as having the best address data in the country. Having the most accurate addresses meant more of his mailers would be delivered by the postal carriers accurately and more quickly (no need to rely on the local delivery person to fix your mistakes). This would be a competitive advantage against other direct marketing businesses.

So he built his own database, taking Correios addresses (which, because he was a Brazilian, they would update at normal intervals) and enriching it with his own efforts. He created an information network throughout Brazil, ensuring he would get notice of new and changed addresses. If a new apartment complex was coming online in Brasilia, he collected that information and made the updates. In places where data was particularly hard to get, he literally hired people to walk the street and gather address information themselves. He even created an immediate feedback loop to correct bad addresses: When an envelope was returned as undeliverable, his people would quickly update the database.

Most impressive of all, he created enhanced postal rules to account for local nuances and expectation. If a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood called itself by a name not recognized by Correios, say for vanity reasons, his system caught that and during verification would suggest a change more likely to get the mail delivered quickly and in a format the recipient expected to see.

As a result of his innovations, he had created a competitive advantage for his business. It was thriving. Other businesses needing accurate Brazilian addresses were seeking his help. Courier services, utility companies, even retail stores (who needed better address verification in order to extend credit to people living in the working-class favelas). Correios addresses weren’t good enough, and my new friend had established himself as the superior alternative.

While he had focused exclusively on serving domestic Brazilian companies with his address solution, he was open to finding a way to help me solve my Correios problem.

This was my “Eureka!” moment. This business had found a way to incorporate local intelligence into the address verification process, and he had feedback loops in place that guaranteed rapid data refreshes. If going through Correios was like subscribing to the encyclopedia Britannica, going through him was like having a team of experts building a maintaining our own personal Wikipedia for addresses.

If this worked in Brazil, there must be similar services in other major countries. And if I could find a way to bring it all together on a single technology platform, we could solve that eCommerce cross-border problem. We could bring local intelligence into the address verification process.

Next: We create the blueprint for the Global Data Consortium and begin building Worldview.