The only way to ensure timely, predictable, and ultimate delivery of a mailpiece is with a complete, correct, and current address. That statement continues to ring true and is largely validated by the significant investment efforts in address quality solutions by the mailing industry and the expanded access to USPS trusted data. Address quality tools have improved greatly in the past several years, and yet Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail is still measured by the USPS in billions of pieces annually. This translates to billions of dollars in postage for extra handling which, in many cases, results in the disposal of Standard Mail pieces.

Any mailing claimed at an automation rate must be produced from address lists that are properly matched and coded with CASS Certified address matching tools. This requirement is specifically noted in the Domestic Mail Manual (section 708.3.1.2). With the USPS moving toward a Full Service IMb requirement in January 2014, it is imperative that mailers continue to use a CASS Certified solution as part of their overall address quality process. But address quality is just part of the larger data quality requirement any company needs to consider.

According to market analysts such as Gartner, the market for data quality tools amounted to approximately $950 million in software-related revenue at the end of 2011. This market continues to grow and underscores the importance data quality tools have in markets such as financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, and government.

Foundational to all data quality tools is arguably a solid name and address solution. From an accurate individual, family, or business address we can begin to append additional elements such as geographic data (longitude and latitude), demographic data (age, gender), and psychographic data (buying behaviors, interests). Collectively, this expanded data ensures accurate business decisions. This allows an appropriate message to be crafted and delivered to the right recipient every time.

Name and address parsing, standardizing, and correcting are the essential steps in any address quality solution. While CASS certification measures the accuracy of the final address output; it does not specifically test how software arrived at the final result. Thus, it is very possible for two CASS Certified products to arrive at a different result for a given address. Or put another way, not all CASS Certified products are created equally, though they are all expected to assign at least 98.5% of the 150,000 test input addresses at least once to be considered certified.

The USPS provides parsing guidelines in Publication 28. However, it is up to the software community to develop solutions to parse an address block into its discrete address components for proper matching and assignment corrections. Using the USPS provided data sets such as DPV, LACSLink, and SuiteLink are all required under CASS cycle N certification. A CASS cycle O is being planned, but is still being discussed with the mailing industry in the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.

Most mailers think of address quality as a batch process for lists of names and addresses, typically applied right before a mailing is sorted and inducted into the USPS. However, as noted earlier, address quality is foundational to data quality and thus companies are continuing to invest in data quality solutions that can be applied anywhere data is entered, edited, or enhanced.

Depending on the implementation and location of a data server (for example, within the boundaries of the United States), many of the CASS Certified solutions used for batch purposes can also be deployed as transactional tools to cleanse data anywhere within an enterprise. The most common application is the point of entry. Real-time address correction before the data is stored in the database is essential to ensure all downstream decisions are based on accurate information. And with the exception of the NCOALink data, used for USPS provided change-of-address information, many of the same data sets used with CASS Certified solutions can be leveraged at the point of entry, preventing dirty data from entering the enterprise.

Never before has so much data been available for companies to leverage for accurate business decisions. With powerful CASS Certified solutions at the heart of a sizeable and growing data quality space, mailers should continue to actively seek out, and invest in, applying address quality everywhere within their enterprise to ensure timely, predictable, and ultimate delivery of every mailpiece.

Christopher Lien is Vice President, Software Marketing, Bell and Howell