A scene all too familiar : a customer buys a gift for his girlfriend, about to depart to a far, far away country and it needs to be there by Wednesday. So you ship as quick as possible; and just after the parcel disappeared into the delivery van the customer calls again. “Oops, I have made a mistake in the address”
The parcel company does not take a change of address, despite your best efforts. Ten days later the parcel returns to your doorstep. You need to refund the customer, service is everything, and take a penalty charge for sending it to the wrong address.
Time for a technical solution — no more wrong addresses. In Holland several companies offer software to validate a Dutch postal code + house number combination to a full address. Most cost money, but one of them is actually free of charge and that is the one we will look at here.
PostCode.NL offers a Magento 1.5+ plugin that validates Dutch postal codes. You can sign up for a free API key that comes advertised with 10,000 free validations a year. After I asked for detailed pricing PostCode.NL confirmed that there currently is no limit. As long as your use stays within their fair-use policy.
Installation is straightforward. You can either download the plugin and copy it into your (test) environment by untarring the .tar.gz or download it and install it through the Magento Connect Manager. Then go to the PostCode.NL website and sign up for an API key. After this just enter the keys into the configuration panel.
At this point I expected things to go wrong but instead I was pleasantly surprised. We use the CheckItOut plugin to provide a one page checkout experience. Amazingly enough the plugins did not clash and as I entered new test orders I only had to enter postal codes & house numbers to get full address completion. For overseas addresses the module disables itself.
I have reported this as a bug, so hopefully it gets solved soon.
The second minor point was that some of the translations are missing. The module is written in English and it provides a translation file. However some texts and error messages are not properly translated giving English messages and errors in what is otherwise a fully Dutch checkout page. You can add missing translations to the following file:
Help! End user confusion
Address completion is now as simple as entering the postal code and a house number. But it might too much friendliness for our customers. Within an hour after we had enabled the module a customer called. She complained that she could not enter her address as the address lines are now grayed out. She could not work out that she had to enter the postal codes first and then the house number but instead tried to click directly on the address.
Technically the module works, the module’s free pricing is better than fair and so far it works without fail. However, we will evaluate the use of automatic address completion further as even a small amount of user confusion might result in lost sales. Whether this is this better or worse than the occasional returned parcel is the question we need to answer next.
After this post, and a discussion on WebWinkelForum (Dutch) I was contacted by PostCode.NL. They have made several changes to their module that should solve the problems I have mentioned. When I have a moment I will put it through its paces and blog about it.