In this day and age, web scraping is becoming a less and less unknown term to many. It is a continually evolving and thriving data extraction method to gather a vast amount of publicly available intelligence in an automated way.
With Oxylabs being a premium proxy provider for over ten years, we are witnessing that now switched-on companies that are exploring web scraping techniques, and growing businesses that are already benefiting from what this practice can offer are asking the right questions.
That being said, what is the most efficient solution to kick off web data gathering operation? Or, in growing businesses case, how to optimize existing processes to increase the return on investment further, while minimizing costs? Read on to find out how to scrape prices from websites and drive additional growth to any online store.
Last month, we covered 6 smart ways to use proxies for business, which allows getting a basic understanding of how and which type of proxies should be harnessed for different web scraping business scenarios.
Whereas, this article aims to explore more in-depth on how to use proxies for pricing intelligence. Firstly, we will define the price scraper term. Secondly, we will discuss why price monitoring is essential for business with an online presence. What’s more, we will debate whether a company should build a price scraper in-house or buy an existing web scraping service. Lastly, we will touch on essential price scraper ingredients, and provide insights a business should be aware of when considering using proxies for price intelligence.
Strap in, as it is going to be an informative ride!
What is a price scraper?
A price scraper is a bot/software, which extracts prices from a website, along with other relevant information from the e-commerce sites.
Price scrapers might seem quite simple at first glance. However, let’s dig a little bit deeper to understand why price scrapers are necessary for businesses with an online presence.
The undeniable reality of the e-commerce game
The paradigm of e-commerce-based business strategies has genuinely evolved. Nowadays, real-time data is dictating the present and foreseeable successful e-commerce business’ policies. One of the most sought-after, real-time information is related to pricing, as it is a crucial aspect that allows to shape the strategy, and win custom. Finding out how to scrape prices from websites is quickly becoming of critical importance to success in the e-commerce business. This is where price scraper tools come in.
The strategies changed due to consumers being spoiled with choice when shopping on the web. Competition is ever so high, and consumers’ pricing sensitivity sky-rocketed. For instance, according to the Eurostat recent report, the most significant increase in e-shopping was recorded among young internet users (your future customers). Also, consumers indicated that one of the top factors that sway their decision to pass their credit card details is having a chance to compare prices online.
How about consumers’ purchasing behavior across the pond? Well, according to BigCommerce carried out research the top three factors that influence where Americans shop are the price (87%), shipping cost and speed (80%) and discount offers (71%). What’s more, over 86% of consumers compare prices on different platforms online before purchasing, and roughly 78% of shoppers will pick a cheaper price tag over an expensive one.
It is rather apparent what consumers needs and wants are. But how should businesses address it?
Well, to be price competitive and adjust your pricing strategies accordingly, businesses need to gather intelligence quickly on what their rivalry is doing. That includes pricing strategy, product catalogs, promos, discounts, special offers, to name a few.
Luckily, the knowledge is out there on the internet for the taking. All that a business needs is a price scraper. So, why not find the hidden value behind it, and drive growth to your e-shop?
Price scraper tools – build or buy?
It is a key question that should be raised yet sometimes not enough focus is placed on it by many businesses that are after price intelligence data. Whether a company is only starting to look into web scraping practice or in a case when a business has already chosen one path over another, considering and re-considering this question is a must.
Firstly, let’s cover a scenario where a business decides to build its in-house price scraper to retrieve publicly available data.
Building a price scraper
Just like with anything in life, the more you practice, and the more know-how is gathered, the easier it becomes to be successful at it. At first glance, price scrapers might seem like straightforward and simple tools. Of course, it can be, with the necessary knowledge and resources.
However, businesses have to be cautious that every investment needs to be maintained. The reality is that web scraping mechanism will have to updated, renovated, and adjusted to perform as expected. Hence the initial setup costs could differ from what was anticipated. Additionally, expenses might differ wildly based on the intended targets.
Online stores that have been around for a while understand the value of data extremely well, therefore they will often create roadblocks for price scrapers. These roadblocks will include bot detection algorithms, IP blocks or other tools that can prevent price scraping. Additionally, they will eventually update their bot detection algorithms which adds to the development costs of any price scraper tool.
On the subject of maintenance, a business will need dedicated and experienced professionals to oversee the whole operation. It is another cost that should always be included in the bottom line of this option.
What’s more, creating a process to extract prices from websites might mean that a business needs to monitor thousands of pricing intelligence data points. Some of them will be more challenging to target while some of them might leave the front door wide open. Either way, to collect all the necessary data, bring it under one roof in structured datasets, and to do it effectively business might need senior developers to use price scrapers successfully.
Of course, it is only the costs side. What about the time-consuming tasks on the price scraper, and lack of real-time data when a business needs to react promptly to dynamic pricing changes? Admittedly, this could result in lost revenue.
On the contrary, building an in-house data gathering solution means that a business can set it up as desired. It might take time, and sunk costs at first could be daunting. But as mentioned earlier, with the growing know-how, human capital, and most importantly, essential resources, it is more than achievable, and in a long-term could be a much more viable option.
Hopefully, essential resources caught your attention, as in this case, it is related to proxies. Our Account Manager’s Jonas wise words paint a picture quite accurately.
But then it comes to choosing the right ones. There are two main types of proxies the proxy market usually has to offer – datacenter and residential proxies. Of course, there also location based proxies such as USA proxies which are used whenever location sensitive data needs to be accessed.
What are datacenter proxies?
Datacenter proxies are private proxies that are not affiliated with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). They come from a secondary corporation and provide you with entirely private IP authentication and a high level of anonymity.
We covered in great detail what datacenter proxies are, and what advantages and disadvantages it can offer. Also, check out the video below:
What is a residential proxy?
A residential proxy is an IP address provided by an ISP to a homeowner. It is a real IP address attached to a physical location.
Choosing proxy providers
The critical point is that it is vital to choose the right proxy provider. Recently, Proxyway published an in-depth market research paper on global proxy service providers, and the report’s performance evaluation section emphasized that it is essential to check proxies for every data source, especially the widely popular ones.
If a business chooses not suitable nor reliable proxies to work with, it will more often than not result in the in-house data retrieval mechanism working unsatisfactorily. In other words, make sure that you fuel business’ data mechanisms engines with the right resources.
Buying the correct tools for web scraping
By now, you should have a decent understanding that price scraping requires immediate, real-time data to adjust pricing tactics and strategies accordingly.
If a company or business that already is practicing web scraping decides to buy a price scraper tool, there is no need to manage the infrastructure in-house. Consequently, this would allow to grab the desired data promptly and focus on the insights instantly.
However, the first hiccup that might scare away the business decision makers is that the price for these tools isn’t on a shy side. Proxy service providers continually invest in these tools, as well as have to cover on-going maintaining costs.
With that being said, the convenience of getting the data that is needed in a hassle-free manner might justify it. Might, because businesses should still be aware that they need to choose a product that provides exact data that they are after. In some cases, it might be impossible to adjust these tools to work as per business’ needs and wants. Hence, companies should look into flexible options, and most importantly think about the next step – in what format the data will be provided, and how effectively the data can be interpreted?
Here at Oxylabs, we have both options covered. In this instance, we would offer Real-Time Crawler.
What is Real-Time Crawler?
Real-Time Crawler is a data collection tool specifically built for data extraction from search engines and for e-commerce websites. It is a customized scraper designed for heavy-duty data retrieval operations.
Here’s a quick video on what Real-Time Crawler is and how it works:
We have gone into great detail all about what is Real-Time Crawler in our blog post.
Our Real-Time Crawler is an excellent SERP scraper and price tracking tool to meet even the most diverse business requirements. The beauty of Real-Time Crawler is that it allows to concentrate on pricing data in a required format immediately and take actionable steps to capture consumers’ attention online instead of using business’ resources on scraping prices from websites.
Here’s what our Account Manager Jonas had to add:
“Tracking prices online may be tricky – the complexity of such a process increases when more marketplaces are monitored. As with any other website, you’ll probably need a unique approach when retrieving the data, thus adjusting the proxies to the process. If there’s a need to scale the pages retrieved without further ado, I would bet on the Real-Time Crawler. Nobody likes it when proxies get blocked during a more intense crawl, right?”
Wrapping it all up!
Every experienced e-commerce player will tell you that numbers have a pivotal role to play in their trade. Needless to say, that in order to stay competitive with the ever-growing consumer pricing sensitivity, a business will have to identify those numbers and use them correctly to claim a piece of market share. Using a price scraper is the easiest way to access this share.
However, it all boils down to having the necessary know-how and a robust solution that will allow a business to price scrape efficiently and cost-effectively, which consequently would enable companies to outsmart their competition. Want to know more about how to build a price scraper? Read our Python web scraping tutorial!