Data and Security Data Collection e-commerce IoT pricing Sales Tech web scraping

How E-Commerce Giants Battle it Out for Your Purchase

ecommerce purchases

There is an invisible real-time data war taking place in the e-commerce world. Made up of numerous battles fought by soldiers, it is waged by major players competing for dominance in the highly competitive e-commerce environment.

The purpose is clear: to post the lowest price and make the sale.

While people don’t realize that this war is taking place, it’s still there and is getting more brutal as time goes on. My company – Oxylabs – provides the proxies or “soldiers,â€� plus the strategic tools that help businesses win the war. This article will give you an inside view of the battles taking place and techniques to overcome some of the common challenges.

Web Scraping: The Battle for Data

Spies are valuable players in any war as they provide inside information on the opponent’s activities.

When it comes to e-commerce, the “spies� are in the form of bots that aim to obtain data on an opponent’s prices and inventory. This intelligence is critical to forming an overall successful sales strategy.

That data extraction through web scraping activities aims to obtain as much quality data as possible from all opponents. However, data is valuable intelligence, and most sites do not want to give it up easily. Below are some of the most common major challenges web scrapers encounter in the battle for high-quality data:

Challenge 1: IP Blocking (Defense Wall)

Since ancient times, walls were built around cities to block out invaders. Websites use the same tactic today by blocking out web scrapers through IP “blocks.�

Many online stores that use web scraping attempt to extract pricing and additional product information from hundreds (if not thousands) of products at once. Sometimes these information requests are often recognized by the server as an “attack.� This can result in bans on the IP addresses (unique identification numbers assigned to each device) as a defense measure. This is a type of “wall� a target site can put up to block scraping activity.

Another battle tactic is to allow the IP address access to the site but to display inaccurate data.

The solution for all scenarios is to prevent the target site from seeing the IP address in the first place. This requires the use of proxies – or “soldiersâ€� – that mimic “humanâ€� behavior. Each proxy has its own IP address. Thus, the server cannot track them to the source organization doing the public data extraction.

There are two types of proxies – residential and data center proxies. The choice of proxy type depends on the complexity of the website and the strategy.

Challenge 2: Complex/Changing Website Structure (Foreign Battle Terrain)

Fighting on enemy territory is not an easy task due to the home advantage leveraged by the defensive army. The challenges faced by an invading army are especially difficult because they are simultaneously discovering the territory while engaged in the battle.

This is analogous to the terrain faced by web scrapers. Each website has a different terrain in the form of its HTML structure. Every script must adapt itself to each new site to find and extract the information required.

For the physical wars of the past, the wisdom of the generals has proven invaluable when advancing on enemy territory. Similarly, the skills and knowledge of scripting experts are invaluable when targeting sites for data extraction.

Digital terrain, unlike physical terrain on earth, can also change at a moment’s notice. Oxylabs adaptive parser, currently in beta phase, is one of the newest features of our Next-Gen Residential Proxies solution. Soon to become a weapon of choice, this AI and ML-enhanced HTML parser can extract intelligence from rapidly-changing dynamic layouts that include the title, regular price, sale price, description, image URLs, product IDs, page URLs, and much more.

Challenge 3: Extracting Data in Real-Time (Battle Timing)

Quick timing is essential to many types of battle strategy, and often waiting too long may result in defeat. This holds true in the lighting fast e-commerce world where timing makes a big difference in winning or losing a sale.

The fastest mover most often wins. Since prices can change on a minute-by-minute basis, businesses must stay on top of their competitors’ moves.

An effective strategy involves strategic maneuvers using tools and scraping logic to extract data in real-time. Also, the use of multiple proxy solutions so data requests appear organic. While it is possible to construct an in-house real-time data extraction mechanism, anticipate many hassles for it to work as expected. Instead, leading brands tend to outsource ready-to-use tools, allowing them to instantly draw insights instead of focusing on challenging real-time data extraction.

Ethical Web Scraping

It is crucial to understand that web scraping can be used positively. There are transparent ways to gather the required public data and drive businesses forward.

Here are some guidelines to follow to keep the playing field fair for those who gather data and the websites that provide it:

  • Only scrape publicly-available web pages.
  • Ensure that the data is requested at a fair rate and doesn’t compromise the webserver.
  • Respect the data obtained and any privacy issues relevant to the source website.
  • Study the target website’s legal documents to determine whether you will legally accept their terms of service and if you will do so – whether you will not breach these terms.

A Final Word

Few people realize the war taking place behind the low price they see on their screen. That war is composed of multiple scraping battles for product intelligence fought by proxies circumventing server security measures for access to information.

Strategies for winning the battles come in sophisticated data extraction techniques that use proxies and scraping tools. As the invisible war for data continues to accelerate, it appears that the biggest winners of all are the consumers that benefit from the low prices they see on their screens.

Image Credit: photomix-company; pexels

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Data and Security IoT Marketing ReadWrite Tech

Why Data Scientists are Becoming Future Marketers

data scientist marketers

The law of success in business states: the quicker you accept and welcome innovations, the further behind you leave your competition. That’s the reason why technical enhancements seem to be as frequent as coffee breaks. Here is why data scientists are becoming future marketers.

As big data is changing the status quo, the marketing sector is not lagging behind.

On the contrary, data scientists have shown that big data adapts data-driven methods to make smarter decisions.

Not to mention, the shift that is being caused by increasing accessibility to unprecedented amounts of publicly available information, which spurs data scientists to pick up the role of marketers.

Not surprisingly, in the face of the information revolution, marketers say that data is their company’s most under-utilized asset. The biggest challenge to data-driven marketing success is the lack of data quality and completeness.

Here is the bridge the knowledge gap between modern marketers and data scientists.

What type of data is actually useful and how do you use it? My goal is to make sure that after reading this article — you will be able to:

  • Understand why the ability to use big data in the marketing sector is essential for business survival.
  • Get a good grip on how to obtain the “rightâ€� high-quality information to craft an effective marketing strategy.
  • Learn 4 ways how company giants are using data gathering right now to stay in leadership positions.

Statistics predict the future of marketing

The value of using data science and analytics in marketing has been increasingly recognized. Currently, about 3 out of every 4 marketing leaders (76%) base decisions on data analytics. Globally, the budgets for data-driven marketing has also been increasing rapidly.

In 2019 reaching its highest point in six years. The overwhelming majority (73%) of marketing associations agree that this trend is expected to continue in the future.

This trend has been echoed by executives and CEOs worldwide. They confirm that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hyper-competitive global economy, as Forbes Insights and Turn report reveal.

Lessons from the best of the best

What do Disney, Apple, Uber, and Amazon have in common?

Apart from all being at the top of their game, these companies place customer experience as their top priority. Equally, findings from global market studies worldwide show that consumers are more likely to pay more for better customer experience. As a matter of fact, they even tend to prioritize trusting brand relationships over product quality.

Following this tendency, most successful businesses move from communication to conversation. And to catch this wave, I will tell you exactly how data-driven marketing can help companies get there.

Advantages of data-driven marketing

For someone who has been working in the business of information for over a decade, it is evident that data analytics is the backbone of marketing automation.

To develop any successful marketing strategy, there is a need for large amounts of information on the target audience. For example, their attitudes, behavior and experiences. Also, activities such as monitoring brand reputation, search engine ratings, and competitors’ behavior should be a part of marketing strategy development.

All of these goals are simplified ten-fold by automated data gathering. There are few data extraction tools available, most of which rely on web-crawling. It automizes long hours of manual labor spent on researching information. Also, it drastically reduces labor costs and expenses, while at the same time increasing productivity, quality, and the process itself.

How does web crawling work?

Web crawling, also known as web scraping, is the process of retrieving data from a website. It revolutionizes mundane, mind-numbing tasks of manually extracting data. Instead, web scraping uses well-calculated automation processes to retrieve valuable data from the internet.

Considering all the advantages that web-scraping offers, it comes as no surprise that this practice is growing in popularity. In fact, marketing is not the only department reaping the benefits. For instance, cyber-security, retail, and travel industries, among others, have been taking advantage of what data can offer.

The fascinating aspect of web scraping is that it is continually evolving. Indeed, industry leaders continually come up with more and more ways to use big data to reach their business goals. I am certain that there are still unexplored ways of how web crawling can aid companies across the globe to automate their processes and gain valuable insights.

4 Fool-proof ways to use data collection

Real-time public data scraped from the web has multiple uses and goals to simplify the marketing strategy. Here is to name a few:

Make your clients happy

Listen, listen, listen. In general, the needs and desires of the customer are the guiding stars for every successful business. In truth, people are giving valuable feedback to companies everywhere on the web: social media, personal blogs, news articles, comment sections, or discussion boards.

Unfortunately, most of this information never reaches the marketers’ eyes. Uninformed decisions then lead to the creation of products or services that people don’t really care about.

By effectively tapping into a constant stream of publicly available information, businesses can continually shift their marketing strategy responding to the latest industry trends. This gives a chance to adjust communications appropriately, offer products and services which clients genuinely want, and improve the overall customer experience.

Strengthen your brand

What are the highest valued companies in the market? The answer? The same companies carrying best-recognized brands in the world. I hope it is evident for everyone that it is no coincidence.

Strong and well-regarded brands are the result of not only great promotional strategies but robust defense systems against such possible threats as counterfeiting or copyright infringement.

Brands suffering from counterfeiting globally.

In 2017 alone, the estimated losses the brands have suffered from counterfeiting globally have amounted to staggering 323 billion dollars. Sadly, this grim trend is rising, according to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report.

Data-driven marketing can support the constant brand vigilance efforts to diminish the damages. As a response to the situation, luxury brands are employing proxies to crawl e-commerce websites, auction sites, and relevant marketplaces to spot the fraudsters.

Massive-scale web crawling also can support the prosecution process against these illegal activities by collecting all necessary data.

Know your competition

Being able to obtain and process large amounts of information about your market competition, gives an enormous competitive advantage. The traditional methods of doing market research, including the interviews, surveys, and focus groups, are quickly turning into a thing of the past, giving way for more time and cost-efficient web crawling.

Automating the market research for such routine processes as tracking changes in pricing, auditing the product line, observing presence online, public engagement, and other promotional activity through various communication channels gives an opportunity to react quicker and more accurately.

Be searchable

Visibility online is everything. Sadly, statistics are cruel on this matter. According to Protofuse, less than 10% of people advance to page 2 on search engines. This means that even the best products or services available will never reach the eyes and ears of the potential client. The regrettable fact is that the majority of businesses are struggling in this regard.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process that allows improving the visibility of the website among the search engine results. Not surprisingly, the web crawling tool is essential for monitoring changes in these ratings. Getting hands-on real-time and location customized data can serve the company to come up with the most effective strategies for increasing exposure instantly.

As the game is changing rapidly

The use of big data has been in the marketing world for a while now, and it is not going anywhere anytime. On the contrary, the data-driven approaches will continue to shape marketing, along with other industries. To emphasize this point, the global demand for data analytics has been continually increasing and is expected to rise in the future, as pointed out in the Oxylabs 2020 Trend Report.

In 2019, the market value has reached $49 billion. Concluding from the steady growth rate, it is expected to double in just seven years, reaching an impressive $103 billion by 2027.

It is fair to say that future data scientists will contribute their skills and technical knowledge in more diverse business sectors.

The trend is a serious signal for all market players to adapt and embrace the ongoing innovations. However, if they shy away from using the powerful insights from the big data, their competitors will outsmart them in every move, by betting on data-backed decisions.

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