Would you believe that there are more than 26 million e-commerce shops worldwide? In such a fiercely competitive market, an average retailer must use any old trick to grow and survive, and one of the best yet is web scraping. Let’s see what it is and how it can help your online shop.
Why Is Scraping Important for E-Commerce?
First things first – what is web scraping, exactly?
Simply put, web scraping is the automated process of parsing and extracting large amounts of data from the internet. Using a specially designed tool, individuals and businesses from across industries can scrape useful data from multiple websites simultaneously – even letting you scrape eBay.
Web scraping is largely beneficial for e-commerce. It allows you to collect up-to-date information on competitor pricing and product launches, industry and market trends, customer needs and pain points, and any other type of data that can inform your decisions and help you grow.
The Pros and Cons of E-Commerce Scraping
As with any other growth hack, you’ll find that scraping for e-commerce comes with a few challenges. Luckily, the pros greatly outweigh the cons, especially when learning how web scrapers work. Here are the top reasons to implement scraping vs. some reasons not to.
- Web scraping is fast and efficient – Imagine having to sift through thousands of product pages on multiple sites to acquire quality data and then extract it manually. Your team would need weeks to collect the amount of data a scraper can collect in a few hours.
- It ensures a competitive advantage – Having the right information at the right moment gives you a substantial competitive edge. You can be the first to know about a critical price change, product launch, or a negative review.
- Scrapers can help generate leads – That’s right. A web scraper can even get you contact lists of potential buyers. That means you can put a big chunk of your lead generation process on autopilot.
- Scraping makes you clear-sighted – Web scraping can inform your every move, from product development to marketing campaigns. Whatever you come up with next, you can trust web scraping data to tell you whether you’re going in the right direction.
- Web scraping could be illegal – Extracting data from websites is legal only if that data is publicly available. If the website hides its content behind the password, you shouldn’t go there. Many websites have transparent documents detailing their scraping policies.
- Some know-how is required – That said, it takes some time for a beginner to get the hold of web scraping. You will have to learn when it is allowed, what sites you should avoid, and how not to raise any red flags while legally scraping e-commerce sites.
5 Tips and Tricks for Scraping in E-Commerce
If you’re not sure where to start, these are our 5 tips and tricks for e-commerce scraping:
Avoid Sending Too Many Requests
Say you want to scrape eBay. If you have a powerful scraper, you will be tempted to get as much data as possible during a single session. While this is possible, it requires your scraper to send too many requests. You should avoid this because it will trigger anti-bot systems and get you banned.
Add a Proxy to Your Web Scraper
The best way not to get banned, blacklisted, or rate-limited is to add a proxy to your web scraper. Proxies keep you anonymous online under a different IP – so-called rotating proxies can even rotate multiple IPs after every request. Proxies can also help you access geo-restricted online shops.
Use a Secure Browser for Scraping
If you’re planning to scrape at scale, you’ll need a special browser for scraping. These browsers effectively circumvent CAPTHCAs, as they can trick anti-bot mechanisms by imitating an authentic browser fingerprint. These browsers are also good for scraping dynamic sites.
Always Look For a Robots.txt File
Getting your tool banned aside, you should keep your web scraping sessions legal no matter what. If you are unsure whether it’s legal to scrape a particular site, look for its Robots.txt file. Robots.txt is a text file with instructions for search engine crawlers. You’ll find your answer there.
Pay Attention to the Data Format
Different web scrapers extract website data in different formats, the most commonly used being JSON, CVS, and XML. Pay attention to this before you choose a scraping tool. Also, ensure that your scraper can read the data format (HTML) on the website you plan to scrape.
Web scraping is a game-changing way to research, prepare, and strategize for the e-commerce market. It might take some time and experience to learn the basics and be successful, but it’s worth it. Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you get your first scraper on its feet.