One of the most sought after real-time information in e-commerce is pricing as it used to dictate policies. It allows you to shape your strategy so you can be successful. Consumers have lots of options when shopping online and competition is ever so high. A report from Eurostat shows that the most significant increase in e-shopping was recorded among young internet users. Customers also indicated that one of the factors that encourages them to make purchases is the ability to compare prices online. BigCommerce carried out research on the top three factors that influence where Americans shop and the results are 87% for the price, 80% for shipping cost and speed, and 71% for discount offers. It goes further to show that over 855 consumers compare prices before making any purchase and about 78% of shoppers go for a cheaper price tag over an expensive one.
One of the goals of scraping is to give you an edge over the competition in the market. Getting the prices from your competitors will enable you to do market research and put some distance between yourself and the competition. As effective as price scraping is, it can take a lot of time. The long delay is mostly because of mistakes people make while scraping and your efficiency can be greatly improved upon if you follow the right steps and do what is right. The tips that will be discussed here will make it easier for you to extract data on competitive pricing and utilize it in improving your own business but before that, you have to understand what price scraping is.
What Is Price Scraping?
Price scraping is a type of web scraping that is done on e-commerce sites. It involves the use of software and bots to extract price data and other relevant information from the sites. It is the only way you can extract price data from a website apart from getting the data directly from the owner and this is most times not possible.
The sound of it makes the whole process seem easy and involves just a minor technical detail but in reality, if you do not get the price values from the various HTML properly, you will face challenges as you proceed.
Why Should You Scrape Competitive Prices?
If you are at the beginning of your price scraping years, here are some of the reasons why you need to scrape prices and do it well.
E-Commerce Competitor Monitoring
The world of e-commerce gets more competitive by the day as companies keep searching for ways to raise margins, cut expenses, and display to the public, prices that increase their overall revenue the most. Doing this is where competitor price monitoring comes in. it is common for online retailers to monitor competitor prices daily in different ways as it is one very effective way to have an edge over your competitors. Price monitoring cannot be done effectively without price scraping as you can have access to real-time data from millions of price points regularly.
Price scraping is very useful in brand monitoring. When your brand has products on various online platforms, you need to scrape the websites to maintain price compliance for your product as it is as important as keeping an eye on the price of your competitor. It is ideal that you scrape the web pages of your resellers as well as your competitor’s pricing data to ensure that your prices are up to date and in par with what is obtainable. Doing this will help you maintain a competitive price and keep the pricing policy violators in check.
If you are doing any form of e-commerce market research, then you need to scrape prices. Price scraping is more effective for extracting the data whether it is a one-time research or an ongoing one.
The Fastest Way to Clean Price Strings
You can make use of an open-source library for price scraping at Scrapinghub or find it on GitHub as price-parser. This library is capable of extracting price and currency values from raw text strings.
Two most important reasons why you need to use this library are:
- Robust price amount and currency symbol extraction
- You don’t have to struggle with decimals and thousands of separators
Pip install price-parser
1 . Select the HTML element that contains the price
Price_string = response.css(‘span.price-tag’).get()price_string
- Use this open-source library to clean up the string. Normally you would at this point need to write a custom function so as to obtain the numeric value from the string with regex or python code. However, if you are using price-parser, you don’t need to go through all that but just import the library and use the same function every time.
From price_parser import price
Price + Price.fromstring(price_string)
Then to retrieve the amount and currency values you use the following attributes:
Decimal(’22.90’) #numeric price amount
Price.amount_text #price amount, as appears in the string
Price.amount_float #price amount as float, not Decimal
Price.currency #currency symbol, as appears in the string
This library has been tested with more than 900 real-world price strings to prove that it is effective and efficient. Some of the supported cases can be found here.
Competitive Pricing Scraping Tips
1 . Have a Plan
One of the most common mistakes web scrapers make is to begin the process without a plan. They take every data and this slows them down. Have a plan and know what you need so that during the competitive price scraping process you will know exactly what to extract.
If your reason for scraping is to make sure you are offering competitive prices, then you need to get only the price. That way you can find out if you need to lower your price or raise it and still be competitive. If this is your reason for scraping, there is no need to get any more data than this. It will only slow your scraping process down and make it difficult to be efficient.
If you are starting a new site and are crawling for the purpose of getting pricing data for the addition of products, you will also need the product descriptions. Copying descriptions is a plagiarism of course but having it will help you in starting yours. If you are in this category, you need to extract more than competitor pricing and extract the description as well. It is also good to get the product image so you can get similar images for your own use. Have it in mind that you can’t use the data on your own website but only use it as a guide for your own database.
From these instances, it is clear that before scraping, you need to bear in mind the reason for scraping and how you intend to use the data. Set your scraper to take the amount of data you need and nothing more and this will speed up your scrapping process. The more data you take, the more time you consume.
2. Cache the Pages You Scrape
For increased efficiency, it is important that you cache the pages you have already scraped. This will save you a lot of time in case you need to go back to that page for any reason as going back to the page won’t put much load on the servers and speed up the process. You can delete all cached pages once you are done with your price scraping task.
3. Keep an Updated File of Scraped Pages
It sometimes happens that you will scrape from start to finish without facing any problems. This, however, doesn’t happen at all times and you need to be prepared for any glitches on the way. Keeping an updated list of the pages you scrape as you move on will help you know what is left so you do not have to do any work twice.
There is a good chance you will encounter no problems and won’t have to use your list, but since you can’t predict the future, it is better to be prepared than sorry.
4. Choose Proxies with Care
The mistake most people make when choosing proxies is to go for the cheaper options. Web scraping can get very slow if the crawler is paired with a wrong proxy and so your choice of proxies must be carefully made.
Firstly, it is a bad choice to consider using a public proxy. They are slow and often get banned before the process even begins. Using them is almost pointless and will make the whole process frustrating for you.
Private proxies cost more but are the best options for you if you want to scrape for competitive prices. When choosing a private proxy, however, you need to take note of some factors to make the choice that is best suited for you.
Consider the location of data centers when choosing a proxy. If the proxy has datacenters in your location, then you will get good speed for your process, but if the data center is far away and has to travel across borders to get to you, there will be a lot of lag that will slow down the entire process.
Also, consider the proxy’s speed limits in your location. Some proxies can go as fast as 1 Gbps but have limits in a particular location that prevents this from happening. Choose a proxy instead with unlimited bandwidth and threads so you can have fast speed when scraping.
Check for a company that has good customer service and can quickly replace banned proxies. There is always a chance of the IP you use getting banned and if it happens, you don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting to have it replaced. If you choose a company with good customer service you can get back on track with only a little time wasted.
Limeproxies provides you secure connections that ensure you stay anonymous with low risk of getting detected and banned. You get fast speed and around the clock customer service to help with any issues should there be any. You have different locations to choose from and the high-performance concurrent threads take care of time out issues. If you want to scrape for competitive pricing, this is a great choice to ensure efficiency.
5. Have a CAPTCHA Solver in Place
CAPTCHAs are used by websites to prevent scraping and the use of bots on them. If you hit a CAPTCHA while scraping, your scraper will skip the data or stop entirely and this defeats the efficiency of scraping entirely. It is not every time that you will run into a CAPTCHA but what if you do? That’s why you need to be prepared.
You will have to make up your mind on whether you should add a CAPTCHA breaker to your scraping software or not. It is worth it to help you get important data even if it will cost you some money. Before you make up your mind, visit the websites you want to extract data from before you start your scraping tool. Visit the ones that are important and check if they have CAPTCHAs in place. If they do, you need a CAPTCHA solver before you begin but if they don’t, you can begin.
6. Choose a User-Friendly Tool
Using a user-friendly scraping tool will help you extract data easily and will also help you organize everything. Easy Data Feed is a great tool for price scraping as it efficiently extracts data lie pricing information from competitor sites. It can also track inventory and extract invoices from suppliers for you. You can use it to manipulate data and if you are running a huge e-commerce business, this is the perfect choice for you.
7. Have a Plan to Check Back Often
To keep track of price changes from competitors, you have to make a plan to check back often so you will know what to do at every point in time. Price changes often especially during promo sales and you have to keep up with these changes if you must continue selling.
You can’t spend all your time scraping but you do need the data, so you need to come up with a plan on the frequency of scraping. Once a month is great but try to do it during the holidays so you can know when to have sales or raise your prices. If you are too high when your competitors are low, obviously your sales will drop.