Saturday, January 16, 2021

What Should You Know About Price Scraping?

 


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of e-commerce thanks to the shift of consumer buying preferences from brick-and-mortar stores to online platforms. Given that many companies sell products on these platforms - and more are likely to join - the number of competitors is only bound to increase.

Moreover, existing companies also need to keep track of the prices, products, and reviews of products they and their competitors offer. However, doing so manually, through copying and pasting, is not a feasible, let alone sensible undertaking, hence why large-scale web scraping, which uses software and bots, is necessary.

Web Scraping

Web scraping entails extracting specific information from a website, with the data being retrieved from one webpage at a time. Web scraping can either be manual, as stated earlier, or automatic.

The former is time-consuming since it requires a person to manually type a website’s URL, find the exact page that contains the information, and copy-paste the requisite data. Suppose the data is to be harvested from multiple web pages and websites. Such a process would take days to complete. This is why automatic web scraping is preferred for large-scale applications.

Automatic web scraping is carried out in two ways. The first entails using a web scraping software created by a service provider, while the second involves developing an in-house scraping tool using Python, a programming language. The second option requires a technical background to execute effectively. This implies that using web scraping software is the best choice because it’s practically plug-and-play.

Importantly, unlike manual web data extraction, the web scraping tools and software are fast because they analyze multiple webpages and websites and subsequently retrieve the information in just a few minutes. The only similarity between manual and automatic web scraping is that the focus is always on a single webpage at a time, in both cases.

Uses of web scraping

You can use web scraping tools for the following applications:

  1. Price monitoring

  2. News and social media monitoring

  3. Customer review monitoring

  4. Market research

  5. Lead generation

Web Scraping and Price Monitoring

E-commerce websites, which are expanding every day thanks to the changes brought about by the pandemic, are a hub of information. They contain data on commodities’ prices, whether certain products are in-stock or not, customer reviews, etc. For a company looking to undertake market research and compare data on prices among other business elements, e-commerce websites are an ideal source.

But as stated earlier, web scraping tools are a prerequisite for such an exercise to succeed. With these tools, you can seamlessly carry out price monitoring. But why is price monitoring/price scraping necessary for businesses?

Well, it all has to do with a term known as a pricing strategy. Pricing strategy refers to the method used to arrive at the most competitive price of a commodity, which, in turn, depends on having access to certain information. This info includes:

Notably, the competitors’ prices and demand can be retrieved through web scraping. The process of looking for and harvesting information about competitors’ prices is what is known as price monitoring or price scraping. You can find more information about price monitoring on the Oxylabs website.

Price monitoring is dependent on web scraping, but this dependency does not stop at that. Successful web scraping relies on proxy servers. Here’s why.

Challenges facing Web Scraping and Price Monitoring

Websites and their web developers do not fancy data extraction from their web servers. This is because, for one, the data contained in websites is copyrighted. Secondly, web scraping tools usually strain web servers preventing them from operating at optimum.

These reasons necessitate using anti-scraping tools, which include:

  • Blocking IP addresses

  • CAPTCHAs

  • Using AJAX, a format of building e-commerce websites

  • User-Agents (UA)

  • Log-in/registration requirements, etc.

Use of Proxy Servers in Web Scraping

Websites block IP addresses that make too many web requests. Given that web scraping is a request-intensive exercise, it becomes an easy target. This is why using proxy servers becomes a necessity when web scraping.

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your computer and the webserver. It is a computer that routes your web requests through itself and assigns all of them a new IP address before connecting them to the target websites. By giving new IP addresses, proxy servers add a layer of anonymity, security, and privacy that bolsters web scraping.

And that’s not all. Proxy servers suited for web scraping, i.e., rotating residential proxies and rotating datacenter proxies, change the IP addresses regularly, further making it harder for the websites to single out suspicious IP addresses.

Nonetheless, the use of residential proxies raises privacy-violation concerns. In this regard, datacenter proxies are the best option because they’re reliable and cheap. However, the right proxy management solution is needed for successful price scraping, i.e., rotating datacenter proxies.

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