Geocoding services are fast gaining popularity, and we are constantly trying to use its capability to benefit businesses and their operations. However, at some point, businesses must stop for a second and ask themselves, “how crucial is geocoding for their business operations?”
What is a Geocoding API?
Geocoding API is simply a service that provides you with geocoding of addresses. Most geocoding APIs also comes with reverse geocoding capabilities, which can also be highly beneficial for businesses. Once the geocoding API converts address into geocodes, it can then be used to mark these locations on the map.
Even though geocoding API is in its infancy, many businesses already use its limited capabilities to best use. However, not every business may be able to find the proper application for geocoding API because they are yet to evolve in a meaningful way. Geocoding API must evolve to accommodate meaningful functions that will allow them to serve businesses better and in a more holistic manner.
Reverse geocoding is where the input is given as geocodes or Latitude and longitude coordinates, and the system returns the address of the said location. A feature like reverse geocoding can be useful for businesses that do not have the address data but has access to the geographical location or geocodes.
You can use reverse geocoding to determine the address of places you don’t know and then use that for various operations, including marketing. However, there is no guarantee for the quality of such addresses.
The simplest example of a geocoding tool can be found in Google Maps. In Google Maps, you type in the address of the location, and it returns you with the coordinates of the location. However, you’d be wrong to think that you can simply use Google for geocoding instead of a dedicated geocoding API.
The most significant reason why you can’t use Google geocoding instead of a dedicated one is that Google tends to be unreliable at times. Just remember all the times’ Google Maps has taken you to the wrong end of the street or to the middle of nowhere, and you’ll understand how unreliable Google can be as a geocoding system. Therefore, it is best to use geocoding without Google API.
Geocoding And Its Requirements
Geocoding requirements of businesses can vary from each other, but there are some common attributes that all businesses look for in a geocoding API. Below we discuss some of the major requirements expected from a good geocoding system.
- ZIP+4 Centroid Geocode
- Interpolated Geocode
- Parcel Centroid Geocode
- Rooftop Geocode
- Reliability or Uptime
- Tech Support and Documentation
Accuracy is without question the number one concern when it comes to geocoding. A geocoding API that gives inaccurate geocodes can do more harm to businesses than good. The accuracy of the geocode can vary depending on the geocoding system or API you use. All geocodes are not the same, and while some may take you straight to the address’s doorstep, some others may just get you to the street the address is in. There are different types of geocodes, and the accuracy varies for each type.
ZIP+4 Centroid Geocode
The ZIP+4 centroid geocode makes use of the route taken by postal carriers like USPS. A postal carrier route typically contains ten to twenty addresses. What the ZIP+4 centroid geocoding does is to take a rough center of the specific postal code in question. As you can guess, such geocodes can only be accurate on a neighborhood level. However, this can come in handy if you want to understand the demographics better or if you just want to segregate neighborhoods. Learn more about Zip Code API.
The interpolated geocodes are calculated by taking two or more known locations and approximating the middle point of the two points. More often than not, the two known locations are the coordinates of the two ends of a street. Once we have the two points, it is relatively easy to determine, and you can have the math programmed so that there is no scope of error. Using a program enables you to feed in multiple points or known locations and determine its center easily without error.
Parcel Centroid Geocode
Parcel centroid geocodes are not really a popular choice for practical applications mainly because of their high cost. But despite being costly, the parcel centroid method is not always accurate either because there are various contributing factors involved. This type of geocodes is based on the properties outline boundaries. The outline of the property boundary is then used to determine the center of the property parcel.
Rooftop geocode is one of the most accurate geocodes available to us now. As the name suggests, rooftop geocodes are accurate to a rooftop level. Rooftop geocoding essentially uses the accuracy of parcel centroid and uses additional data, including building outline. The use of additional data enables rooftop geocodes to give you the geocode of the top of the building. However, getting so much additional data can be expensive, and hence the application of such geocodes is also limited due to the high price.
Reliability or Uptime
Now that we have covered the accuracy of geocodes, the next most important aspect businesses should look for in a geocoding API is its reliability or, in other words, its uptime. Reliability or uptime refers to how long your geocoding system can stay up and running. It is also important to note how consistent the geocoding system is with its performance. Closely examining this will tell you if you can depend on the system to do its job at any point in time when the requirement arises.
In other words, determining the reliability of your geocoding API is the only way to know whether you can depend on the system in case of an emergency. This may not be a significant consideration factor for businesses or users that are only looking for one-time use. But, for businesses that intend to use them regularly, this is a crucial consideration. Look for service providers that are willing to sign an SLA or Service Level Agreement.
The third thing you must consider when it comes to choosing a geocoding API for your business is its speed. With the advanced computational speeds that we have today, you might think that speed should not be a problem for geocoding. However, what you may not know is that often systems, including geocoding ones, are not allowed to run at full throttle because we may not be able to catch up with them as humans.
If your business requires heavy geocoding, then it is best for you to select a service provider that can meet such heavy requirements. The final constraint for geocoding is the presence or absence of batch geocodes. This is important because it can significantly affect the speed of geocoding APIs. Depending on your unique requirement, you need to decide whether you need a batch geocoding online capability or not.
The easy way to evaluate whether a geocoding API is right for you is not to check what it can do but to look at things the geocoding API can do. You need to look at the restrictions of a geocoding system to ensure that your business operation won’t be hindered by any of these restrictions.
For example, some geocoding may require data to be used in combination with certain programs. There may be several such restrictions in place for a geocoding API, and ensure none of them interfere with your business goals.
Tech Support and Documentation
When dealing with something as sensitive as geocodes, it is always best to go for a well-reputed geocoding API that comes with commendable tech support and documentation. However, this often goes overlooked by businesses and ends up paying a heavy price later on.
Good tech support means you can easily have any technical issues fixed concerning the API. Similarly, good documentation can give you good actionable DIY solutions to problems that you may face with their system.
Geocoding And Its Applications
The applicational potential of geocoding is still being explored, but there are numerous instances where they are already proving themselves to be useful. Let’s discuss some of the major applications of geocoding or geocoding API.
- Commercial or Marketing Operations
- Targeted Messaging
- Personalization Based on Location
- Distance-Based Marketing
- Business Intelligence
- Public Safety
Commercial or Marketing Operations
The commercial applications of geocoding are the most important ones as far as businesses are concerned. Geocoding enables businesses to directly factor in the geographical aspect of business and then have it incorporated into the business analytic process. Furthermore, it also allows businesses to monitor the shipping patterns of their customers and look closely into the sales pattern and develop strategies specific for that demographic.
Targeted messaging is one of the biggest advantages you get from geocoding. The truth is that the geographical location of your target audience plays a vital role in effective marketing. Some neighborhoods are ideal for families, while some others have a more hipster population living there. Using geocodes, you can map out areas based on demographic patterns or neighborhood characteristics. Then you can develop marketing campaigns based on this new data.
Personalization Based on Location
Having reliable data on the demographics and geographic characteristics enables businesses to develop personalized offers that are specific to that neighborhood or location. This same logic can also be applied in the opposite way too.
This could prove to be revolutionary for businesses, especially at a time when business-based geotargeting is creating success waves all around the world. The fact that users now broadcast their movement and location via social media and mobile devices only reiterates the need for geotargeting.
Geocoding provides you with the ability to figure out how close a customer is to your business’s nearest brick and mortar store. This is valuable data that can be used in various business operations, especially marketing. Using geolocation, you can calculate the distance between your physical store and your customers and then use that information to target service areas quickly.
With the data you get through geocoding, it is possible for you to perform advanced data analysis for specific markets or regions. Doing so will help you make better, well-informed decisions for your business and, more particularly, your marketing.
Furthermore, this will prove to be helpful in the long run, which is always desirable for businesses with a growth mindset. You can even make use of advanced tools like Geographic Information System (GIS) to explore the data visually or numerically and develop strategies based on your understanding.
Geocoding plays an important role in the health industry today, even though it is not necessarily visible to the user. Geocoding is used to assess the accessibility level to healthcare facilities in most localities. Furthermore, geocoding is also used in the study of epidemiology, particularly for tracking the patterns of an epidemic disease.
Another innovative use of geocoding can be seen in the finance sector. Geocoding can help you find the lending activity in a specific community. This means it includes important demographic data that can be crucial in assisting financial businesses with fair ending efforts. Furthermore, the data can also be used for marketing purposes later on.
Geocoding also plays an important role in the public safety sphere today. They are meticulously used to direct emergency response. For accomplishing this, it is typically seen that street files and E911 points are used.
One of the most important applications of geocoding is in the military, and it should come as no surprise considering the capabilities of geocoding. The NATO military has been known to use Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) as their standard geo-coordinate system. This enables the military to have the edge over navigational operations.
Benefits of Geocoding
Geocoding has several benefits, and it goes beyond just providing a list of geocodes. Below we discuss some of the major benefits your business can get by utilizing geocoding.
Identify Geographic Patterns
As geocoding allows you to view addresses as locations on a map, you can use the map to get valuable insights on the market trends based on their location. Once you have successfully geocoded enough locations, you will be able to identify certain patterns. At the same time, marketers or business owners use it for finding market trends. This can also be used by law enforcement and even environmental scientists in tracking crime or studying the landscape.
Manage Customer Data
The importance of customer data is never to be underestimated regardless of what kind of business you are in, and it needs to be standardized and managed carefully. Geocoding can help businesses to manage their customer data better by mapping the location of their customers. Once you develop the map that includes sufficient numbers of customers, you can use the same for advanced targeted marketing strategies.
Analyzes Address Data
There have been several instances where the local government officials turned to geocode technology for analyzing address data. When used in this context, geocode can help track the population growth of a specific geographic area. This information can later be used for other purposes, such as finding the ideal location for new public buildings such as schools and parks. The data on population can be used to figure out the need for such public spaces in different geographic areas.
Is Geocoding Really The Answer?
Despite its immense popularity, geocoding is not something that people have quite wrapped their heads around. The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates give you the precise geographic location of a place. Geocoding is the process that determines the precise location of a given place in terms of geocodes. Although geocoding can come in handy for numerous business operations, this can be easily implemented using alternatives.
Geocoding services are address verification software programs designed to provide you with geocodes for the addresses you feed the program. However, the data obtained through geocoding is also achievable through other advanced tools like fully automated direct mail solutions with access to the official address database of the USPS. Using an alternative to geocoding API with access to a reliable data source like the USPS further guarantees more accurate results for your marketing efforts.
Alternatives For Geocoding API
As far as businesses and business operations are concerned, geocoding API is one of the best tools that provide a holistic understanding of their processes. Even though several geocoding APIs are available in the market, including google geocoding API, their significance in the business world is not as high as one might expect. The truth is that there is no point in finding the best geocoder for businesses, at least not yet. Geocoding is still in its infancy and needs to grow in terms of functionalities and capabilities to become a primary marketing tool.
Address Validation API
There are much more advanced tools that can accomplish the same results as geocoding. One such solution that is an effective alternative to geocoding API is address validation API. Why are they better than geocoding APIs? Because they are much more effective than geocoding and have been optimized for getting the best results for your marketing efforts. An advanced address verification API like PostGrid can ensure that the address database of your business has only real and deliverable addresses in it.
You can easily verify bulk addresses to get access to reliable information that is checked against the official address database of USPS. At the same time, batch geocoding online can be troublesome as they are yet to be optimized like PostGrid. You can also use the verified addresses for international geocoding, and there are systems that let you do that directly via the international address verification API. It is also worth noting that an advanced system like PostGrid can even be integrated into your website’s CRM for better targeting your customers.
Address Validation API Trumps Geocoding API
Geocoding is an attractive tool and holds great potential for streamlining business operations. They have numerous applications but are majorly focused on the commercial and marketing goals of businesses. Although geocoding API is an effective marketing tool, it is yet to be perfected for that purpose. The truth remains that there are much more advanced tools like address autocomplete, address verification APIs that can just about accomplish everything geocoding APIs can and more.
Advanced address verification APIs such as PostGrid can provide you with verified addresses that are classified as real and deliverable by the USPS. Furthermore, the data is guaranteed to be clean since CASS-certified software like PostGrid can access the information from the official address database of USPS and the API can autocomplete addresses. You can also automate the entire direct mail process using PostGrid. More importantly, the data obtained from PostGrid can be used to generate an accurate map without using a geocoding API.