Web Scraping eCommerce through Brands
With digitisation advancing exponentially, data plays a pivotal role in the digital landscape.
Data including competitor insights, market trend analytics, consumer behaviours, and more help new businesses gain the competitive edge they need to survive the rising tide of online brands.
Access to competitor analytics can help organisations grow by adjusting their strategies and improving operations to meet consumer expectations.
Here’s where web scraping comes in; it allows all industries access to data, including product catalogue, pricing, sales, promotions, and more.
That said, in this article, we’re going to dig into what is web scraping and how you can leverage it to your advantage.
What is Web Scraping?
When you copy and paste data from a website, you are manually web scraping on a much smaller scale than a web scraper bot.
The term is defined as the art of collecting website data and storing it in a visually structured format.
Nowadays, the plethora of free data extraction tools allows automated scraping and exporting of the extracted data in a convenient format like Excel sheet or JSON.
Businesses can use the data to gain insights into market trends, consumer shopping habits, preferences, competitor strategies, and more.
With analytics at your side, you can also ensure data-driven decision-making for optimising company operations and planning future strategies.
Pros & Cons of Web Scraping
Now that you understand web scraping, here are some pros and cons to give you an idea of what you’re getting and what you might need to compromise:
- Simple to execute – With tons of online tools available, web scraping is possible with a single click.
- Inexpensive – Whether you choose software or hire professionals, E-commerce product scraping is the most budget-friendly technique to get competitor insight.
- Accurate – Manually extracting data can lead to errors, which can be disastrous later. Web scraping tools are much more accurate in their data extraction.
- Fast – Most web scrapers are not only accurate but fast, allowing you to extract data from multiple pages simultaneously.
- Downloadable structured data – Web scrapers provide visually structured data that you can store locally on your computer or cloud database in a .csv file or another preferred format.
- Steep learning curve – Web scraping doesn’t include just one definite way to extract online data. Multiple tools and methods exist, each with their difficulty level, depending on the users’ knowledge and understanding.
- Data extraction isn’t data analysis – The extracted data is in a machine-readable format that is HTML code, which can be challenging to decipher without another software to guide you.
- Anti-scraping techniques – It’s one of the challenges of web scraping that we’ll discuss in detail later. But it means websites can adopt techniques to prevent your crawlers from extracting their data.
- Regular Maintenance – Website structures change regularly. Meaning, crawlers need to be updated periodically as well. Otherwise, they may break.
Challenges of eCommerce Web Scraping
Among the cons of online data extraction, there are challenges you’ll face during the scraping process. Here are some of them:
Frequent Structural Changes
Web scrapers are customised to a website’s unique structure.
That said, when sites frequently alter their UI, add more features, upgrade security protocols, and more to keep up with advancing technology, web scrapers must also be upgraded.
Not every change in structure will impact a web scraper, but it can lead to data loss. Thus, it’s recommended to keep an eye on website upgrades.
Getting blacklisted means the target website has blocked your IP address.
In case of multiple requests from the same IP within a short time, there’s a significant chance the target server will identify you as a crawler and block your IP, hindering further data extraction.
That said, an intelligent web scraper will know how to bypass such preventative measures without crossing the thin boundary between ethical and unethical scraping.
Anti-scraping techniques are strategies a website may adopt to prevent scrapers from crawling its web pages. Here are some of the common tactics that will come your way:
Standard Anti-Scraping Techniques to Avoid
- Captchas – It is what websites use to tell apart bots and humans. Captchas are logic-based that require human intelligence to solve. Since bots don’t possess such intelligence, it makes data extraction difficult.
- IP Address Tracking – As mentioned before, multiple requests from the same IP address in a short time are an indication that the IP is a crawler and not human. In that case, the IP address is blocked, preventing further web scraping.
- User Agent – UA is a website header containing information like the operating system, version, browser, CPU type, and more to identify a user. If a crawler contains no header, it would be recognised as a python script and be blocked by the target website.
- Log-in – Social websites, for example, show data after logging in. Thus, the scraper needs to stimulate similar steps and login to the website to crawl such sites.
- AJAX – Emerging websites are built with AJAX that allows developers to update the site asynchronously. Meaning, instead of updating the entire website, only minor changes occur within a web page, making data extraction time-consuming.
Practical Use Cases of Online Data Extraction for eCommerce
Price Tracking and Optimisation
Price monitoring and comparison is one of the uses for data extraction.
With the digital marketspace growing crowded, it is challenging to research competitor pricing strategies the traditional way.
Web scraping cuts down the time to gather data and ensures accuracy, which is vital for the success of your eCommerce store.
Plus, with a significant percentage of online shoppers’ purchase decisions influenced by-product prices, businesses need to optimise their pricing strategy.
Product costs, shipping, and delivery rates all play a role in a buyer completing the purchase.
Online data extraction allows you the opportunity to adjust your pricing strategy in real-time, based on changing market trends and consumer demands.
Besides improving product pricing, web scraping also helps you find new product ideas that generate leads.
Using web scraping tools, you can scrape competitors’ social profiles and forums to interact with their audience.
It’ll help you understand what the customers’ think about the competitors’ products.
Knowing the consumers’ concerns, you can fill the gap in demand and supply and eventually attract more customers.
Analyse and Predict Market Trends
Market trends and consumer preferences drive the eCommerce market space. Thus, it’s essential to keep up with the changing trends to survive the competition.
To ensure consumers’ interest, you need to know the best times to launch new products, the cost, and more.
Web scraping can play a role in helping you analyse and predict market trends.
With data-driven analytics, you can make smarter decisions when planning the best time to launch products, make announcements, and at the best prices for budget-conscious consumers.
As mentioned before, web scraping can help you gain insight into your customers’ preferences and their thoughts on the existing products in the market.
It can also help understand factors that influence them in making purchase decisions, enabling you to improve your sales and marketing strategies.
How Does Web Scraping Work?
So, we know that web scraping can help improve our business strategy, give us a competitive edge, boost ROI, and more. But how does it work?
The process can be divided into the following steps if you scrape websites yourself:
- Identifying target website(s).
- Collecting URLs that you want to scrape.
- Sending a request to the URL servers for the HTML code.
- Analysing, translating, and collecting the data in HTML.
- And finally, saving the data in a CSV file, Excel sheet or any other preferred format.
It looks straightforward when you list the steps, but the process requires knowledge of software programming. You need to understand coding to extract, collect, and analyse the data you need.
That said, several tools now exist that simplify data extraction for non-programmers.
All you need is to launch the software, provide the targe URLs, and the web scraping bots will extract the data you can save locally or on a cloud database without coding.
From open-source tools for coding a custom scraper to crawler plugins, there are several types of web scrapers with varying degrees of difficulty based on your knowledge of python programming.
Alternatively, there are professional web scraping service providers who can do the job for you.
Instead of learning the ins and outs of the scraping tools and software, you can hire experts with experience in python coding and ensure the accuracy and quality of extracted data.
So, let’s have a look at some of these different types of web scrapers available:
Types of Web Scrapers
Installable software are tools you can download to your PC or laptop. Several downloadable solutions are readily available that are less convenient than extensions or plugins but offer more diverse and advanced features.
Most downloadable scraper software is compatible with multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, and more.
If you don’t want the hassle of installation, there are cloud-based software that you can try.
It is considered the most robust option out of all web scraper tools on the market.
Since you do not need to install, all you need to provide is your data requirements and plan. The rest, the software, can handle itself.
It will extract your required data and present it in a downloadable format. Plus, there is no limit to the amount of data you can extract, making it the most reliable solution for large-scale web scraping.
As the name implies, these web scraping tools are browser extensions or plugins.
Much like cloud-based software, you don’t need to install them locally on your computer, instead just add them to your browser.
You can scrape data directly through the browser if you prefer and download it locally in CSV file, JSON, or Excel sheet.
That said, while extensions are easy to use, they have their limitations. They are not ideal for large-scale projects.
Crawler plugins can scrape one page at a time, making it ideal for small projects. So, if you need to extract a large volume of data, then it is not your best choice.
Open-source Web Scrapers
If you understand python programming, then you can also code your web scraper from scratch.
There are many open-source web scraping tools on the net and tutorials for python programming for you to get started.
That said, the learning curve for open-source web scrapers is steep, making it challenging for beginner programmers. It is ideal for professionals and web scraping companies with a python tech stack.
Professional Service Providers
Alternatively, you can hire professional web scraping service providers if you don’t want to scrape data yourself.
They would have the expertise and experience needed to ensure the accuracy and quality of extracted data.
But with tons of web scrapers out there, it can be challenging to decide which one is the best fit for you. It would help if you considered their product catalogue, data quality, and services offered.
They should have the expertise to tackle anti-scraping systems, scalable software, transparent pricing plans, customer support, quality, and extraction speed.
Bonus: Best eCommerce Web Scraping Software
If you choose to go with pre-built web scraping software, consider using Octoparse.
It is a free, robust e-commerce data scraping tool that offers a user-friendly interface and multi-platform compatibility for Windows and Mac users.
Plus, you’ll find many pre-built templates based on major e-commerce websites like Amazon, Walmart or social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
You enter the keywords and URL and wait for the results.
Data scraping is an excellent, emerging technique to gain insights into competitor strategies, consumer preferences, market trends, and other essential data needed to make intelligent decisions to improve your business operations.
Ecommerce businesses can leverage data extraction to gain a competitive edge and discover the best practices that guarantee results.
That said, I hope the blog helped you understand what web scraping is and how it can help develop the eCommerce market.
So, will you try data extraction to gain the upper hand over your competitors? Which web scraper are you going to choose?