By Hitesh Mistry
Web data collection is an uphill battle for retailers, but they keep struggling to find out the items that a store carries, followed with what is sold and for how much. What is the buzz around these products, if yes – whether it is positive or negative and if not – why? How many more competitors sell the same merchandise, and at what rate, and how much of it? To understand how to compete in the dynamic market and gain a leg over contenders, understanding what they are doing, helps retailers to make appropriate business decisions.
You as an established online retail brand are likely to have hundreds and thousands of competitors across the web. It also means you should stay abreast, account for, and analyze all their products, purchases and the equal amount of reviews. To attain this you need to scrape information, aka web scrapping, from online retail websites and gain product as well as pricing intelligence.
Online retailers have never looked back in spending millions of dollars and equivalent efforts for establishing their brand presence online and garnering customer loyalty; the customers who represent the lifeblood of the retail business. Still, there are retailers who work really hard to collect data from the web that can help them steal customers from competition and permanently win their businesses.
Data collection through web scraping has proved its worth for web indexing, data mining, data harvesting, monitoring changes to websites and changes to contact information are widely famous and used. Of these, price scraping, and product data scraping have always been in high demand by online retailers.
Seven ways web scraping helps retailers:
- Product pricing/pricing strategy
In a spree where 80% of shoppers compare prices online before shopping in stores, it is quite evident that prices matter the most to consumers. If they get a chance to save a dollar or two, they would not hesitate taking a leap, to visit numerous other destinations to compare prices before making the final purchase. The penetration of this thought process is such that, comparison shopping engines powered by web scraping technologies came into existence. Dedicated to collecting product information including prices and descriptions, their sole motto is to help retailers provide consumers the best deal possible.
In order to conclude how to price products, with best margins, will need you as a retailer to consistently reevaluate and adjust your pricing strategy according to changing market trends, customer review and behavior, inventories and several other factors. Imagine if you are equipped to pull product and pricing data of all the products, across all brands for all your markets – and that too every hour.
Web scraping solutions exactly do this for you. Now you can run that data through analytics to gauge market trends and make appropriate pricing decisions. It enlightens you as to how much you should be charging for your products, which all features can help you charge a premium, and also the time of the year or day you should announce discounts.
- Campaign monitoring
Ecommerce or online retail industry works at neck-breaking speed, as products come and go out of the industry or marketplaces in a blink. In order to keep pace with this, several retail brands are adopting creative mediums to promote their products and services. With increased penetration of sites like YouTube, the trend of video marketing has picked up the pace like anything. These sites are apt at providing easily measure bale statistics like the number of views, but do these numbers indicate whether a campaign is successful or not? The answer is NO.
As a retailer, you are required to know more than this, like what do the viewers’ think and feel about the video. To do this, a retailer should extract customer comments made on the video, and run that data through for analyzing sentiments such as opinions, moods, and feelings. The same exercise can be done for third- party websites, social media mentions on Facebook and Twitter and many more. This empowers retail organizations with flame detection (bad rant), new product perception, brand perception, reputation management etc. If it’s on the web and a customer wrote it, you should miss the opportunity to collect it.
- Demand analysis
Projected demand, as to how much the product your customers will like; happens to be one of the key factors that help you decide which products you invest your time and money on. Initiating with own sales figures is a good thought, but there are full chances that by the time your customer lands on your website – they change their mind. Instead, having an idea about what would be in demand before you launch your product – is a better option and widely used. What’s the fun investing your dollars and efforts in a product which does not reciprocate to concurrent market dynamics?
Using data collected through web extraction or scraping will help you monitor the rate and pace at which products of a particular category are posted; and then you can leverage it to prioritize products, regions, and categories you should ideally focus on.
- Channel partner management
Observing the minimum retail price is as such a challenge as mentioned above, but it increases many folds when you are selling your products indirectly through channel partners. We all know that pricing for online retail at times change hourly, as in your channel partner may hold a flash sale for a particular item for an hour, only to return product prices to normal before you as a wholesaler or manufacturer get enlightened as to what is happening.
Sites like Amazon at times agree to upfront margin, where they sell products at $100 which they would have bought from retailers like you at $80; and in case they are compelled to give competitor discount – they would happily levy the difference on you. This kind of discounting may help Amazon – but will damage your bottom line adversely. But leveraging data scraping solutions empowers you to monitor all your channel partners’ websites on a real-time basis, which in turn keeps you informed if any product is being sold in non-adherence to the MRP.
- Grey market policing
Web data mining or scraping, really has helped retailers who are into selling products via resellers. Usually, these resellers have to abide by to not to sell products through third-party sites like eBay, Flipkart or Amazon. Manually searching these sites for every single product, to check if they are; is the only option which is really very time consuming and ineffective.
Automated web data extraction supports the process of product search for faster and more efficient results. That way the legal department identifies resellers operating in the grey market to issue enforcement notices on the go. We helped an FMCG company examine the impact of illicit trade on their brand image and revenues. Ultimately, the client succeeded in assessing the damage to their brand name and finances because of illicit trade of their merchandises to take corrective actions accordingly.
- Review recon
May it be consumers or the merchants, reviews play a major role in the retail industry for both; as they help in bringing the pricing strategies, availability and consumer confidence – to the table. Checking on Yelp how people are talking about your brand or a specific brand is convenient and ok; but do you really think such sites put across the complete picture. At least we don’t trust it completely. The fact that more than 52% of consumers were influenced by Facebook for making purchases online and offline; makes it clear that social media reviews have gained immense traction – and are here to stay for long.
Importance of social media mentions and reviews is not limited decision made by consumers and merchants. It impacts the SEO – search engine optimizing team of the merchant’s establishment too. Tracking reviews and mentions on thousands of websites is a mammoth task for sure.
Web scrapers make this process a convenience for retailers. With web extraction services on their side, brands can scrape reviews from across the internet in no time. This exactly is the miracle that several businesses are looking forward to when competing with eCommerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart.
- Real-time revelations
Brands are empowered to entice buyers only if they have real-time information on their hands about the effectiveness and popularity of their store. The eCommerce industry is known for its dynamism, and hence such data insights prove really invaluable.
Such information helps brands identify CTA related issues and reach out to pain points of why high-traffic areas are giving low conversions. This type of data also helps them to find out if external as well as internal links are performing exactly the way they are required to, and if not what and where the fix is required.
However; harvesting such data on the move needs a small battalion on their toes, but web scraping companies can get your retail store, this kind of intelligence on a real-time basis. It will help the retailer to spend more time making improvement instead of gathering loads of data.
With help of web scraping experts, your brand increases the chances to collect the data it needs to do better business, sales, inventory and marketing decisions. Analyzing web data helps you glean insights as to how to increase traffic and sales, manifest ideal conversation rates, and ultimately, save your business.
Hitesh Mistry is one of the key members at HabileData, contributing to lateral growth of the company since its inception. He single handedly manages data processing, customer support, marketing, administrative and people management activities in addition to handling our websites editorial responsibilities.