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How E-Commerce Giants Battle it Out for Your Purchase

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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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Price Intelligence for Startups: What Is It? Why Do You Need It? How to Get Started?

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Finding a sweet spot between “too low� and “too high� prices can be quite tricky. That’s why price intelligence exists: It can help retailers come up with the correct pricing strategy to beat the competition and build value for their products. Here is price intelligence for startups. What is price intelligence? Do you need it? How to get started with your price intelligence.

In this article, we will take a look at this marketing approach and how you can develop a pricing intelligence system.

What is price intelligence?

Price intelligence is a marketing approach that includes gathering, tracking, and analyzing the prices of competitors to gain a better understanding of a current situation on the market and make data-based decisions on prices.

It is also a crucial part of the startup’s overall financial strategy. As retailers often change prices on their products and services, monitoring and analysis of these prices become a constant activity.

Why do you need price intelligence?

If your competitor lowers the prices, it doesn’t mean you should follow this example. So what’s the point in monitoring this activity then? The answer is, to understand how to act. For example, you can create a special offer or implement temporary discounts to get your customers excited and, perhaps, entice some of your competitor’s customers to switch to your offers.

So first of all, pricing intelligence will let you come up with a dynamic and efficient pricing strategy that will let you improve your reputation and attract more buyers. Wrong pricing has significant consequences.

Wrong pricing means prices that are too low will make your clients underestimate the products you offer, and too high prices will scare everyone away. Therefore, it’s vital to find the sweet spot between the two extremes.

Also, price intelligence will provide you with useful insights that will let you understand the plans of your competitors. Moreover, you will be able to predict certain trends as you begin noticing patterns.

How to create a sustainable price intelligence strategy

It’s not enough to just gather information about prices. You need to understand your goals, competitors, and target audience first. And only then you can start monitoring prices and making decisions based on the data you acquire.

Outline the goals

The aim of every business is self-evident — to make more money. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. This overall goal should consist of more feasible smaller sub-goals that will define your strategy. For instance, you can aim for:

  • Improving the cash flow,
  • Obtaining a larger market share,
  • Beating the competition,
  • Introducing a new product,
  • Increasing revenue per buyer,
  • Improving your market penetration,
  • Reaching a new segment, and more.

By doing this, you will make bringing your retail business to success easier for yourself and your team. Once you have a clear picture, you can move to the next step.

Understand your target market

Obviously, to succeed in retail you need to know your target market. But when it comes to price intelligence, you also need to know how your customers will react to the change in prices — their price sensitivity. To figure it out, you need to research:

  • The ability of your clients to search for alternatives. How easy it is for them to find another option and compare prices? And are there products similar to yours that are cheaper? If yes, will the customers switch to it?
  • Is the buyer the one who will use the product? For example, you’re selling toys for kids. Even if a child likes the toy, parents might not buy it because of the price. Or some of your buyers resell your products.
  • What’s the customers’ view of competition? Do they only focus on the price, so they’ll buy from you simply because it’s cheaper? Or do they have some other criteria that make them choose you or your competitor? Perhaps, they value your fast delivery, for example, and they will buy from you even if your prices are higher than those of your competitors.

Who are your competitors?

Knowing your competitors is at the core of pricing intelligence: You can’t monitor the prices correctly if you aren’t aware of your rivals. Being an online retailer, you have both pros and cons of your position when it comes to studying your competitors.

The advantage is that you can easily find all the other online stores that sell the same product as you — just search for this item on Google.

However, there is a complication — the number of your rivals might be quite large as there are a lot of online retailers, and you should also consider offline stores. But it might be hard to gather the prices of brick-and-mortar stores if they don’t have a website.

If you’re selling, for example, printed t-shirts, your rivals are:

  • Other stores that sell printed t-shirts
  • Stores that sell some other kinds of t-shirts
  • Clothing stores
  • Printing centers that offer printing on t-shirts

Once you gather all the competitors you find, you can proceed to the next step.

Automate the pricing intelligence process

When we were talking about competitors, you might have thought, “How am I supposed to gather prices from so many shops?� The answer lies in automation. In this section, we will introduce you to web scraping and proxies that will become your reliable tools in building a sustainable price intelligence strategy.

With automation, price intelligence becomes more advanced and can be considered a feat of the best FinTech products.

What is web scraping?

Web scraping (also known as data scraping) is a process of gathering data from the Internet. As this industry evolves, scrapers become simpler — and today you can find truly straightforward tools that will be easy for you to use even if you never had experience in data gathering. But, of course, it’s better to trust this process to professionals.

A scraper will go through websites you provide it with and gather the price data. Then this tool will process, structurize, and return it to you in a convenient format. That’s how price intelligence is made easy — by automating the data gathering and processing.

What are proxies and why do you need them?

Proxies are remote servers or devices to which you can connect to reroute your traffic through them. As you do so, you pick up the IP address of a proxy masking your real one with it. Therefore, you can remain anonymous, pretend that you’re located in a different place, and avoid restrictions.

You will need proxies for data gathering because e-commerce websites don’t want anyone to scrape their content. You can understand why: Their owners don’t want their competitors to easily access prices and other valuable information that can be used for gaining a competitive edge.

That’s why they implement different anti-scraping techniques on their sites. Such protection can detect bot-like behavior and block the IP address where the bot-like traffic comes from.

Scrapers gather data by sending requests to the website. And such activity looks very suspicious to the anti-scraping protection. By default, a scraper sends all the requests from the same IP address. But you’ll fool the anti-scraping system easily by applying proxies to your scraper.

Residential proxies, (infatica dot io) are the best choice for scraping as they’re harder to detect, and you can rotate them to prevent getting blocked. Infatica offers flexible pricing plans so that you can get what you need without overpaying. You can also ask us to create a unique plan that fits your needs.

Create your pricing strategy

Now that you’ve acquired price data, you can begin building your pricing strategy. The pricing intelligence you’ve gathered will let you see the strategies of your competitors. As you will spot certain patterns and trends, it will be quite easy for you to come up with the strategy that will let you reach the goals you’ve determined in the first step.

Remember to always stick to your unique aim — don’t just blindly copy the strategy of your competitors. Even if several e-commerce websites sell the same product, they’re still different when it comes to certain details. If you know your target audience well, you’ll understand how to tailor the pricing strategy to its expectations and needs.

Pricing intelligence became much easier with scrapers and proxies that allows retailers to automate this effort-demanding process. Although the setup process will require some time and energy, the payoff will be absolutely worth it.

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