Does the source of your ZIP code data really matter?
Why you should avoid the "$5 ZIP code database" and some international vendors
Have you ever heard that information is only as good as its source? Well, it's true - especially when it comes to data for your business.
Companies have been popping up on the Internet offering ZIP code data either for free or prices as low as $5. There are also foreign companies out of countries like Malaysia that are purchasing data from sources other than the USPS and reselling it. You might think that a zip code is a zip code so it really doesn't matter where you get the data from, but every ZIP code database isn't the same. If you are concerned with purchasing current data that is backed up by quality support, you need to do your homework.
It comes as a surprise to people, but ZIP codes data changes frequently. Every year there are thousands of changes to the USPS zip code records. Cities are added and removed. ZIP codes are created or discontinued. Boundaries change. Streets are added and street names change. Within several months, you can trust that there will be significant problems with the integrity of an outdated ZIP code database.
The impact of bad data on your business
Can inaccurate ZIP code data really impact your business or organization? Take the example of the American Red Cross in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina hit, the agency used ZIP codes to determine whether or not someone qualified for aid. Unfortunately, the Red Cross was using an outdated ZIP code list. The result was that residents of D'Iberville, Mississippi were disqualified from receiving the money they needed. The agency also ran into problems in Lake Charles, Louisiana because of ZIP codes missing out of its database.
Your business may be dealing with different issues than the Red Cross, but good data is just as important. Bad data will create many problems for your organization, such as the following:
- Make it difficult for customer to find their ZIP codes
- Create problems with order validation
- Increased cart abandonment rates
- Create difficulties with a 'nearest store locator' application
In any case, there is the potential for frustrated customers and lost sales.
Selecting the right vendor
Free and cheap databases are usually updated infrequently, if they are even updated at all; therefore, the accuracy and completeness of the data is questionable or unknown. Errors and missing data make these databases simply undependable. Always purchase ZIP code databases from licensed resellers of USPS zip code data.
If you decide to use the free or cheap data, expect to run into unforeseen problems. Select data vendors carefully. Start with the companies on this web page. All have been reviewed and were found to be dependable suppliers of USPS ZIP Code data. Make sure that your vendor supplies accurate, complete, and updated information monthly.
Before purchasing a ZIP code database, consider asking your vendor these questions:
- Are you a licensed distributor of official USPS data?
- How often is your data updated?
- How much support can I expect to receive?
- Do you guarantee the accuracy of your data?