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How can I use LiveAddress API for address suggestions?

Question

Last Updated: March 18, 2013

I need to be able to provide suggestions to my clients. How does that work? For example, if I put in an address that I know is wrong I don't get any results: INPUT: 3881 park wood Frisco, TX OUTPUT: No Results However, if I use a real address that is just missing a little data, your system will correct it by adding missing data and the full ZIP+4 code.INPUT: 3880 park wood frisco, tx OUTPUT: 3880 Parkwood Blvd Frisco, TX 75034-1928 Does your service return suggested addresses?

Answer

Our address verification engine returns valid address matches when using the LiveAddress API, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking. Try the following addresses and you will see how it works:

INPUT: 1109 9th Phoenix, AZ OUTPUT1: 1109 S 9th Ave Phoenix, AZ 85007-3646 OUTPUT2: 1109 N 9th ST Phoenix, AZ 85007-2734

According to the US Postal Service there are two address matches on that same street. One on the north, the other on the south:

At it's core, our system contains a list of every USPS deliverable address in the United States (although it's definitely not that simple). That is potentially very private information and we are given very strict conditions that must be met before we can disclose a positive match on an address.

If you enter an address that is accurate except that BLVD should be ST and there is only one match for that address in the ZIP code, we are able to offer the ST match as the most likely candidate.

INPUT: 1109 N 9th BLVD Phoenix, AZ OUTPUT: 1109 N 9th ST Phoenix, AZ 85007-2734

If you instead enter 1108 9th Phoenix, AZ we will not be able to suggest that perhaps you meant 1109 N 9th ST, or even 1107 N 9th ST, or any other addresses that seem to be obvious. The USPS makes great efforts to ensure that private data is not made available without legitimate cause.

Let me offer a few comparisons that I think will show the privacy issues here.

When you make a purchase on a website and enter in your credit card number incorrectly, would you like that website to suggest a few different credit card numbers that you "might have meant" to type? I would run from that website very quickly!

How about when you apply for a loan and you enter your social security number. If you type it wrong by even one digit, would you really want the system to suggest a few legitimate numbers that closely resemble your number?

That is the kind of security issue that we are dealing with regarding addresses. The USPS is the caretaker of a very private list of addresses, and we license it from them to use for address verification purposes. We have the same safeguards in place to keep your private address data secure.

In our upcoming LiveAddress release, we will be offering a lot more information to aid in getting the address correct. For example, if you enter 349 N Main Ephraim, UT we will be able to tell you that the city/state/ZIP and street are correct but the Primary Number is not a match. This will even better help your customers to ensure the address is entered correctly.

Keep in mind that addresses are very messy and we're wrapping up that complexity behind a simple API. Don't make too many assumptions about how the address might be wrong. If we come back and tell you and address is wrong, present that to the user and ask them. At the same time, you should generally allow them to use their answer but inform them of the consequences of doing so.

For example, Amazon will allow a user to use the address entered instead of the verified address. But they make it clear that doing so may result in additional shipping charges and the customer agrees to those charges.