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The Role of Web Scraping in Modern Retail 

web scraping retail

Table of Contents


  • What is web scraping
  • Types of web scrapers
  • How do web scrapers work
  • Uses of web scraping in retail
  • How to pick a web scraping tool
  • Final word
  • Web scraping is often confused and used interchangeably with web crawling. While web crawling involves discovering URLs, web scraping is about extracting data from the HTML files and storing it for further action. Much has been said about the implications of web scraping for data privacy and security. 

    But here’s the truth. 

    Unless breaching implicit rules, it’s a necessary practice. Businesses need web data to compete and better serve their customers in the online market. This article takes a deep dive into web scraping. You will learn about the different types of web scrapers and their uses and benefits in retail. By the end, you will know how web scrapers work and which features make a solid retail analytics tool. 

    Let’s begin!

    What is Web Scraping?

    Web scraping refers to the process of extracting valuable information from a website. It can be performed either manually or using a software platform. Web scraping is a technique that works in tandem with data scraping, a method where a computer program pulls data from the output of another. 

    It is necessary because competitors need insights to create a successful GTM strategy. But most businesses don’t reveal their unique data via a consumable API or other accessible resources. They have anti-crawler systems that prohibit web scraping bots from extracting and downloading information. But robust web scrapers can tackle this challenge head-on and source data successfully.

    Types of Web Scrapers

    Market Research Future’s Web Scraper Software Market Research Report predicts that the web scraper software market will grow at 13.48% CAGR and reach $1.73 bn by 2030. Businesses across industries are adopting web scraping tools to drive growth. You can classify them under these categories:

    • Marketing and lead generation:

      These crawlers gather data from a large share of the visible internet and collect names and emails for email marketing and lead generation databases. Companies like Hunter.io and FindThatLead fall under this group. 
    • Search engines:

      The most popular, their crawlers index billions of web pages and rank them as per NLP and web graph algorithms. Besides powering their core search functionality, these crawlers also support related products and services like Google Ads and Google Maps. 
    google ads showing up on search keyword
    Image Source: Google

    • On-site search and recommendation:

      These third-party tools power the search box on your website. Known as “on-site searching,” they run web crawlers targeting one site and return results based on search queries. Examples include Algolia, Spectrum, and Swiftype. 
    • Search engine result page scrapers:

      They let you track competitors’ rankings in different geographies and optimize your marketing strategy. Some popular names in the category are serpstack, Zenserp, and SerpApi.  
    • Competitor and price monitoring:

      These web scrapers are relatively new. They gather content and pricing information on retail and eCommerce websites to help businesses offer competitive prices and optimize their digital shelf visibility. Intelligence Node belongs in this group.  

    Let’s zoom in on how web scraping works in the next section. 

    How do Web Scrapers Work?

    A web scraper is a software program that extracts data following these steps:

    1. Identifies the target website
    2. Gathers the page URLs to source information
    3. Sends requests to these URLs to obtain HTML
    4. Inspects the returned HTML for the required information
    5. Stores the data in a structured file format like JSON or CSV

    Web scraping tools can easily complete this process unless blocked by anti-crawler systems or faced with changes to the HTML structure of the target pages. But most crawlers are built keeping these challenges in mind and can adapt to the controls on target sites, adjusting their requests to collect useful data in a structured format. 

    But why is web scraping necessary in modern retail? Let’s cover that now. 

    Uses of Web Scraping in Retail

    The demand from eCommerce and retail has led to a boom in the web scraping software market. With eCommerce sales predicted to cross 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025, brands and retailers will heavily rely on retail analytics tools to:

    1. Identify price changes by monitoring competitor pricing

    Online retail and eCommerce grapple with price fluctuations daily. Without a dedicated platform to decode trends and adjust prices, they cannot compete in the digital marketplace. Web scraping software lets you track competitor pricing for exact and similar products and adjust your prices to win maximum wallet share.     

    price monitoring via web scraping software

    The image above shows Intelligence Node’s analysis of a branded t-shirt on a fashion website. It considers a pre-set threshold value and finds the exact match underpriced by $6.25 when compared to a competing retailer. This information helps the fashion website match competitor pricing to avoid losing sales. 

    web scraping product matching

    2. Rank higher on digital shelf by tracking product visibility

    Shoppers check features and read reviews for the products on the first page before completing their purchase. Feedvisor’s The 2021 Consumer Behavior Report revealed shoppers consider product images and title as the most important factors after pricing. Unless optimized, your listings won’t rank high on the digital shelf.

    Digital shelf technology by intelligence Node
    Intelligence Node’s Digital Shelf Solution Screenshot

    The above image shows how Intelligence Node helps you furnish these details to compete with top-ranking results on the search pages. It assigns a quality score to your content based on:

    • Product description
    • Product name
    • Image count
    • Image quality 
    • Videos

    Depending on performance, you can optimize SKU listings for any of these parameters to boost product visibility on digital shelf.  

    3. Preserve brand integrity by monitoring MAP violations

    Brands put a lot at stake when they sell on retail sites. A lack of infrastructure to go full D2C forces them to make concessions and forego control over their brand. But retail analytics tools help them limit the damage by tracking MAP violations. 

    The image below shows how Intelligence Node tracks MAP violations for a clothing brand. For a t-shirt with a $60 MAP, the tool notes its selling prices on different sites and flags violations when the retailers go lower than that value. It includes a real-time status report for the time window the MAP was violated and resolved.

    Intelligencenode tool tracks map violations

    Also read on : MAP Violations: How, When, & Why You Need to Monitor & Eliminate Them

    With that clear, let us go over the benefits of web scraping.

    Benefits of Web Scraping for Retail

    Brands and retailers benefit from extracting crucial information like content and pricing in many ways. It helps them offer better offers to customers and stay competitive by:

    • Saving time:

      Web scraping allows you to access vast data and direct attention to other challenging tasks of the job. It lets you parse information quickly and decodes the hottest market trends globally. 
    • Checking trends:

      Web scraping lets you engage in social listening and get a lead on prevailing customer sentiment. You can use these insights to improve your existing offerings or introduce discounts.
    • Being accurate and reliable:

      Web scraping reduces the chances of human error and generates usable information for tailoring cross-channel marketing efforts.

    How to Pick a Web Scraping Tool?

    Depending on the use case, the capabilities of web scraping tools in retail can vary widely. While some prioritize competitor price monitoring features, others like Intelligence Node also help you be on top of assortment and digital shelf analytics. To pick the perfect tool, outline your business objectives first.

    A startup looking to monitor competitor pricing should consider the tool’s database and its product matching accuracy. What does it guarantee in its SLA? But if you are an enterprise with a dedicated customer base, you must also consider its prowess for tracking your visibility on digital shelves and running availability and assortment gap analysis.  

    Remember, the above features need a formidable SKU database and fast refresh rates to offer the best value. If the tool cannot keep up with digital commerce’s dynamic and ultra-competitive landscape, it’s not worth your money. 

    core capabilities retail analytics
    Core capabilities that make Intelligence Node the best in the retail analytics industry.

    Besides these non-negotiables, check if your shortlisted tool comes with:

    • Ease of use:

      The web scraping tool must be intuitive and suitable for all operating systems and devices. It should not have a steep learning curve and easily fit your workflow.
    • Transparent pricing:

      It must not have any hidden costs. The pricing structure should be clear from the start and inclusive of all opted features and services. While some tools offer free plans, they don’t extract deep or at scale.  
    • Multiple data formats:

      CSV is the most common data format and a constant among web scraping software. But if you don’t prefer Excel, ensure the tool also supports alternatives like JSON, XML, and SQL.
    • High performance and speed:

      It should be able to set up APIs with any website and proxy. While that’s a must, it would be ideal if the scraping tool also has a browser extension and facilitates rotating proxies.
    • Reliable customer support:

      The customer success team should have a fast TAT and satisfactorily answer your queries. 

    Final Word

    The traditional research methods to monitor pricing and market trends are out of touch with the new digital reality. As brands gear up to stake claims on consumer wallets, they will increasingly rely upon insights from retail analytics platforms to inform their GTM strategies.

    Continue Reading : Understand the role of velocity, volume, and variety in competitive data scraping, standardization, storage, and eCommerce application.
    Exclusive Ebook: Harnessing the 3 Vs of eCommerce Data 

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