Now, more than ever, small businesses need an edge to outperform their larger competitors. Web scraping — the process of automating data extraction from online sources — provides that edge. It is an essential tool that can help you create, monitor, and refine business strategies. More importantly, it can deliver insights that help small businesses compete with larger competitors.
How Web Scraping Works
Web scraping allows users to send automated requests to target websites and extract publicly available data from them. You could also gather such data manually, but doing so would take an unreasonable amount of time and effort.
Unlike humans, advanced web scraping tools can send thousands of requests per second. The scraper then extracts the required data and delivers it in a format you can read and analyze.
Let’s say you sell hiking backpacks and want to learn which brands the large online marketplaces are selling. To get that information, you can use web scraping to automatically search for backpacks on any e-commerce site and acquire the brand-specific data that any search request returns.
5 Benefits of Web Scraping
Marketing-specific information extracted via web scraping can provide insights into customer feedback, new trends, and preferences. Here are five ways in which businesses can use web scraping for better marketing results.
5 Benefits of Web Scraping for Small Businesses
- Product and category development.
- Product data optimization.
- Marketing strategy.
- Dynamic pricing.
- Competition monitoring.
1. Product and Category Development
Web scraping enables you to extract critical insights into popular products and categories from larger competitors. Obtaining that information then helps you refine your own offerings to maximize sales. Smaller businesses can use web scraping to identify high-volume items by extracting product stock levels from other companies.
2. Product Data Optimization
Web scraping enables you to obtain a quick overview of all content in a specific product category. This information helps you update product listings that require optimized titles, descriptions, and images.
In addition, marketers often use web scraping to find missing written meta and product descriptions on large websites for SEO purposes, which could be daunting to find manually. Besides improving rankings, this data helps smaller businesses refine their product pages to include information that draws in more customers and helps maximize sales.
In the past, marketers often researched this data manually. Web scraping massively accelerates this process, enabling any business to analyze thousands of pages in a short period of time.
3. Marketing Strategy
Building products and services is just one part of the business cycle. Whatever you sell eventually has to be made visible to the consumer, most of which is done through marketing. Developing a marketing strategy, however, is a highly complex process because consumers can quickly change habits, sentiments, and ideas about which products and services they need or want.
As such, web scraping serves as a great supplement to any existing marketing strategy. Businesses can collect consumer sentiments that have been made publicly available through comments, reviews, or any other medium as long as they’re not acquiring any personal information.
Additionally, savvy businesses can look towards larger competitors that sell similar products or services. These established companies will offer a treasure trove of information, which can point to common pitfalls, drawbacks, or dissatisfaction points. Analyzing and fixing problems before they arise will allow you to jump ahead of the competition. You’ll make better products and services without having to invest a lot of time fine-tuning them once they’re already on the market.
4. Dynamic Pricing
Nearly any business can benefit from a dynamic pricing strategy that sets prices based on competitor pricing, supply and demand, and numerous other factors. Some businesses, like ones with a naturally limited supply (e.g., concert or plane tickets), can benefit additionally through a more advanced dynamic pricing strategy.
The specific mechanism of action used for dynamic pricing depends on the type of strategy used. There are two types: price-matching and supply-limited dynamic pricing.
Price-Matching Dynamic Pricing
Frequently used in the retail industry, a price-matching dynamic pricing strategy uses algorithms to match and/or beat competitor prices. You can use scraping to extract product and pricing data from target websites and then maximize sales by repricing products or services in line with demand.
Price-matching dynamic pricing is typically used for consumer goods like electronics, apparel, and other high-volume items.
Supply-Limited Dynamic Pricing
Supply-limited dynamic pricing is useful when supplies of a product or service are limited or time-constrained like cinema or concert tickets, hotels, and flights. Availability and time constraints are the primary factors used to calculate the highest price possible that you can charge in line with demand.
5. Competition Monitoring
Monitoring other businesses is critical to staying competitive, especially in today’s highly volatile consumer environment. Web scraping enables companies to compete with businesses of all sizes by extracting competitor data that includes:
- Pricing data
- Best-selling products
- Optimal categorization
- Comments and reviews
- Sales and promotions
- Brand mentions on social media
Monitoring the competition is as old as commerce itself. Web scraping simply amplifies the process by enabling organizations to extract data from hundreds of competitors worldwide and in real time.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
No legislation dealing directly with the process of web scraping itself. There are, however, data protection regulations and case law that guide us toward understanding its legality. So, in a general sense, there is no law stating that web scraping is illegal. On the other hand, there are restrictions on what data can be acquired through web scraping and many other means.
Out of all restrictions, two of the least debatable types are placed on personal and copyrighted data. Personal data refers to any information that can directly or indirectly identify an individual, such as names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and more. Various data protection laws and regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), enforce strict guidelines regarding the collection and use of personal data.
Copyrightable data follows a similar vein to personal data. Gathering copyrightable data without authorization from the owner of copyright can consitute a violation of the applicable laws.
You should be careful to scrape only publicly available data unless you obtain explicit consent from the target website. Publicly available data refers to information that is accessible to anyone without any restrictions or without requiring a login to access the website.
Of course, in many cases, data acquisition is not as clear-cut as in the above two examples. It’s always best to consult with a legal professional before engaging in any web scraping project.
Web Scraping Can Help a Business Maximize Its Potential
Web scraping was once the domain of large businesses, but smaller companies are increasingly using it to stay competitive and thrive in today’s highly challenging e-commerce environment.
With the ubiquity of web scraping providers online, there’s no longer a need to take up the task of developing such a solution all by yourself. There are plenty of businesses that offer ready-made solutions with plug-and-play features, enabling even single individuals, to acquire massive amounts of public data.