Knowing the location of your customers is important both for organising events and conferences, and creating offers based on regional differences in pricing and currency. When targeting contacts by location, you are not just restricted to the address data they have provided, but can also use some clever tricks and techniques to gain a more complete picture of where they live:
1. Inferring location from postcode/zip. Using just postcode or zip information it’s possible to work out a lot about a customer’s location, including their town/county/state (US) and town/region/country (UK). This enables segmentation at a number of different levels – for example, allowing you to find all of your contacts in England, narrow your focus to the North West, and then ‘zoom in’ still further to target only customers in Manchester.
2. Searching by proximity. Postcode and zip information can also enable searching for customers by proximity – for example, allowing you to find all customers within 10 miles of central Birmingham. This is possible because each postcode or zip has a known longitude and latitude at its centre, which can be compared with those of neighbouring regions to create a surrounding catchment area.
3. Cleaning up ‘free-text’ addresses. Where addresses have been captured via free text fields in web forms, inaccuracies and spelling mistakes are common. Even where data has been entered carefully, two people living in the same street may have used different variants of the same address (e.g. St/Street, London/Greater London, UK/Great Britain). To help improve accuracy and consistency, it is possible to clean up the data by validating postcodes, counties, states, and countries and normalising them to standard forms.
4. Inferring country from e-mail address. Where a customer’s address is not known, it is often possible to infer their country from their e-mail address. Whilst addresses ending in ‘.com’, ‘.org’ or ‘.net’ don’t give much away, a customer with an address finishing with ‘.de’ is highly likely to be based in Germany.
5. Inferring country from IP. In cases where both address and e-mail address are unknown, and the customer is effectively ‘anonymous’, their country can still be inferred from their IP address. This is a unique number assigned to each user browsing the web that is associated with the ISP providing their internet access, and can therefore be used to infer their likely location. For example, a customer with an IP address that falls within the range assigned to ‘BT Internet’ is likely to be UK-based.