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Tech innovations for small business

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How a groundbreaking system makes it possible to describe precise locations easily, and helps your business deliver better customer service

The idea behind the what3words system is so simple you could write it on the back of a postcard. Yet the applications are endless – from saving lives to delivering pizzas.

Don’t let your business lose out because of poor addressing

Co-founder Chris Sheldrick came up with the idea for what3words when he was working in the music industry. Frustrated at bands getting lost and equipment going missing, he saw there was a need for a more precise and efficient addressing system.

He enlisted the help of two friends, Jack Waley-Cohen and Mohan Ganesalingam and, between them, they devised and built a startlingly simple but effective solution.


Grocery shop in Rye with what3words address

A simple, three-word address for any location on the planet

They divided the world into three-metre squares and assigned each one a three-word address. Every front door, entrance or location can be identified with just three words. For example, ///bunks.turkey.workbench is the three-word address for the entrance of Fforest Fields Campsite in Wales, and /// is the entrance to Borola Café in Mexico.


Man holding a sign with a what3words address
Will at Fforest Fields and his three-word address sign for his campsite

How what3words is helping small businesses across the world

The applications for what3words are endless. In rural places, postcodes cover large areas, making it difficult to indicate precise locations – like the entrance of a campsite, or a specific spot in a field.

In cities, duplicate street names (like the 14 different Church Roads in London), cause confusion. Digital pins don’t point to specific entrances, new builds take time to appear on maps, and many places have no address at all. All these issues disappear with what3words.

Imagine, for example, you have a stand at an exhibition, or a stall at a festival. You can use a simple three-word address to let your customers know exactly where to find you. If you have a fast-food delivery service, you can deliver to any location your customer chooses – even to a designated spot in the park. What’s more, it’s already been shown to work better than traditional street addresses for couriers.

London on-demand courier, Quiqup, tested three-word addresses against traditional street addresses over 20 deliveries. The driver using three-word addresses found that they reduced the overall delivery time by 30%. This means that businesses can save time and increase the number of house calls or deliveries made per day.

How to use what3words

If you’d like people to find your business more easily, you can discover your three-word address on the what3words map or using the free app.

Enter a postcode, street name or area in the search bar – zoom in so you can see the grid, then move the map to select the exact square of the location you’d like to share. The three-word address for that location is displayed at the bottom of the screen. You can add it anywhere you list your contact details and you can even order a custom sign from the what3words website.


Website with a what3words address included
Adding a what3words address to your website is easy

If your trade requires you to meet customers on-site, ask them to send you the three-word address for their front door or entrance using the steps listed above. You can also share this video to show them how to find a three-word address.

When you receive a three-word address from a customer or client, simply type it into the app or map search bar, then tap ‘Get directions’ to navigate there.

From a chiropractor in Durban to a boutique hotel in Lisbon, thousands of small businesses have added three-word addresses to their website contact pages, TripAdvisor profiles and directions to make their address information more precise and help customers find them easily.

Connecting people for a better future

The what3words system has some hugely positive social benefits, too. Emergency services are already using three-word addresses to help them respond to incidents more quickly.

In many places in the world, people live in large communities with no addresses at all – this leaves them outside the political and welfare system. The what3words system can help with this issue and many more.

Scott Petty, CTO for Vodafone Business, says, “Our mission is connecting people for a better future. The what3words system shows how a simple idea can become a real game changer – and is a fantastic example of how a connected world can help everyone.”

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