By James Lawson
Since its launch in 2012, Capture+ has led the way in addressing, and after over a year working on improvements Postcode Anywhere has released the latest version, with improvements in match quality, reliability and speed.
Capture+ changed the whole nature of rapid addressing on its introduction in 2012 – and the competition is still struggling to catch up. Using the latest auto-complete technology, it replaces multi-field forms with a single field. Users simply start typing their address and suggested matches start appearing, with the remote server sending modified suggestions with every subsequent keystroke. Once the right answer appears, they simply click on it to populate the form or keep typing until Capture+ has enough information to narrow the choice down to a single address. Fast and intuitive for customers, this Cloud-based application also minimises effort for business owners.
Used by companies like Hotel Chocolat, BT and The Guardian newspaper, Capture+ is compatible with a wide range of browsers and can be added to a website in minutes via its automatic set-up feature. Per-click charging simplifies administration and, with the addressing engine and reference data held remotely, it requires no maintenance.
We last reviewed Capture+ in early 2013 but the Postcode Anywhere development team have been tweaking and refining it over the last year. Updates have been mostly UK-focused, incorporating learnings from the development of AddressComplete, the address capture and validation solution deployed for Canada Post in early 2013.
The last revision saw a completely new addressing engine introduced that gave a serious speed boost. As of this April, that became fully operational and has helped slash query response times to a mere millisecond or two.
Most of the recent changes have been subtle, with the aim of shaving milliseconds from response times while reducing the amount of data that customers must enter to return the correct address. For example, intelligent local caching helps ramp up speed: if a user searches for something twice, Capture+ will not need to make another request for the same information.
Ignoring redundant information is also a way to minimise look-up requests to the back-end engine. If a user types “london” quickly on a slower connection, Capture+ will skip the requests for “lond” and “londo” if is still waiting for the results for “lon”. Likewise, if a user types “Wil” and all the returned suggestions start with “Wills”, the software will not make another request if the user types “L” and “S” because they do not help refine the results.
Other changes maximise search accuracy and help avoid “dead end” queries where user mistakes stop Capture+ finding the correct match. So where previously customers had to type in most address elements in the correct order, the application can now handle far more words entered out of sequence. With altered weightings and extensive new reference data, Capture+ also deals well with commonly confused words and text strings, includes typos like “HHigh Street” and over 500 other new frequently interchanged or misspelt words like “Brooke/Brookes Street” and “tenth/10th.
It works for business names too: “First Direct/1st Direct”. By introducing what is effectively predictive cleansing, it makes it more likely that a customer will find their address despite a catalogue of entry errors.
The new version is also more proficient at searching for UK addresses within buildings holding multiple occupants. Lowered weightings for common “noise words” like flat, suite or apartment within the matching algorithms again means they are less likely to throw a search off if they are entered in the wrong part of the address – a common occurrence with this type of residency. That means it’s now possible to enter a building number at any part of the address and Capture+ should find it.
Postcode Anywhere built comprehensive international coverage into this product from the outset, with more than 120 different address formats across 240 different countries in a variety of languages and characters. In this release, the company has focused on improving European reference data, with national postal files for Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland and Italy all seeing upgrades. Europe has been the priority so far but the development team is now working on sourcing extra data for countries further afield.
Capture+’s stand-out ability to cope with multilingual postcode and address searching has been further improved. Previously it was possible to search in French or Welsh but the results would still be displayed in English. Now, if you start typing a postcode, the address appears in italicised text on the right-hand side of the page in the correct language for that postcode.
In the UK, that might mean receiving results in Welsh instead of English or, in Canada, French results for Vancouver addresses. In a similar vein, typing in Welsh to find a Welsh address returns results in that language. Impressively, Capture+ can now deal with all three languages in use in Belgium: French, Walloon and Flemish.
As before, the default country is chosen based on the location given by the user’s IP address and is denoted by a flag on the search bar. This selection determines the reference data set employed and also the language and character set.
So if the IP indicates a user is in Edinburgh and they type in “High Street”, results will be biased towards that city. Where IP location isn’t helpful, the developers have made sure that it doesn’t confuse the search engine.
In the past, mobile users could use their GPS location to prioritise results for their local town but, though this is still an option, the IP-based location is now the default. By cutting out this extra step in the data entry process, the goal again is to speed up searches.
As well as getting to choose between IP and GPS-generated location, clients can now customise many other aspects of their implementation. For example, a pizza delivery operation or an estate agent using Capture+ on their website would likely want to prioritise address matches for their home town over results from elsewhere in the country. Again, it’s all about getting to the correct address as quickly as possible.
Clients can also choose to employ extra reference data sets like Royal Mail’s Multiple Residence and Not Yet Built files in addition to the PAF. By paying a little extra and ticking a couple of boxes within the account management function or the API set-up, they can maximise the chances of an early match to the precise address for their customer. Where a supplier only works in B2B markets, it’s possible to force Capture+ to return only business addresses – and the same option is available for residential addresses too.
The user experience has been improved, with the addition of responsive design. That new interface is also now an option for client customisation. It’s possible to alter the font, colours and the extent of the results displayed to suit the look and feel of the website it’s hosted on, making it a seamless part of the shopping experience rather than obviously a third-party tool.
Capture+ was already an excellent product and, by streamlining processing and error correction, the recent fine tuning has improved match quality, reliability and speed, especially for the UK. It remains the simplest, fastest way to gain full control of your registration form and give your customers the very best chance of swiftly entering the right address – first time, every time.