In today’s competitive market, any competitive advantage you can get is a competitive advantage worth seizing. Web scraping is no different. In recent years, more and more businesses and professionals have turned to web scraping as a way to find and gather information online. The information can be about anything, from market trends to prices on multiple retail websites. That last part is what we are going to focus on in this article. Web scraping is a surprisingly effective way to track prices across multiple websites. When used to find the best prices and bargains, you can save a lot of money without having to jump through hoops. Before you start using web scraping as a business tool to gather price data, however, there are a few things you need to know first.
The Importance of a Proxy
Let’s get one thing out of the way: web scraping is legal. The information you collect is information that you can access freely on the World Wide Web. However, web scraping may go against the terms and conditions of certain websites.
There is a good reason for that.
When you scrape websites for information, you are increasing traffic to the web server, but you are not giving anything in return. You don’t see ads, you don’t click on calls to action, you don’t engage with the content of the website directly; in other words, you are consuming server resources without giving anything back.
This is where proxies come in. Rather than risking your real IP address being banned by websites as you try collecting price information, you can use a web proxy to mask your real IP address. A reliable proxy provider like Smartproxy has a wide range of service packages that you can use for this purpose; you can even use residential proxies for maximum effectiveness.
With a proxy in place, the next thing to prepare is the web scraping tool. There is no shortage of options, but you want one that suits your needs perfectly. This means a web scraping tool that can recognize price data across multiple retailers. Some tools are made specifically for certain products – we will get to this in a bit.
Finding Deals and Best Prices
Once you get the web scraping operation running, you’ll be surprised by the amount of information you can gather online. Prices from multiple e-commerce websites can be collected in no time. Your database of prices can also be updated on a regular basis, which means you can use the same database to gain insights into market prices.
This is called price intelligence. Larger businesses use price intelligence to make sure that their products are priced competitively on the market. Today, price intelligence can also be used by small businesses and professionals to be more competitive. You can, for instance, time your purchase of office supplies to get the lowest prices and save on expenses.
To refine the web scraping process further, you need to identify the right sources of prices and define the scraping parameters correctly. Unfortunately, there is no formula for this. You have to identify the best sources to tap into based on where the products you seek are. eBay, for example, is good for finding rare items.
The same is true with scraping parameters. The best way to get prices is by looking at how prices are displayed, identifying the elements (i.e. the normal price and discounted price) and how they are displayed on the pages, and changing the way information is processed accordingly. You can refine your scraping operations in minutes with just a few tweaks.
The Era of Sneakers Reselling
One of the most interesting examples of scraping and bots being used to create huge businesses can be seen in the sneakers market. Sneakers reselling is now more than a hobby. Professionals and businesses are investing hundreds of thousands to make sure they get the best pairs and secure the biggest profits.
Sneaker bots are becoming more sophisticated. They still rely on a good proxy server to operate anonymously, but they have incredible accuracy. Adidas was able to sell 1,000 pairs of its limited-edition sneakers in just under 1 minute because bots are replacing human operators and making purchases in 0.2 seconds.
Sneakers reselling is a $2 billion industry, and web scraping is the technology that powers it. Thousands of people – and, once again, businesses – are entering the market with their own strategies, but they can never compete unless they have a reliable bot and a proxy server on their side. With the same two components, you can enter the sneakers reselling business too.
Web scraping is a great way to find superb deals and incredibly low prices. As long as you have a capable scraping tool, a reliable proxy, and the right parameters in hand, you can always score the best deal online.