Covid-19: the driving force behind the data revolution in the e-commerce industry

(Image credit: Shutterstock / carlos castilla)

For all businesses, one consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the dramatic increase in the use of digital technologies driven mostly by a need to reduce human interaction and safeguard public health. These include consumer-facing applications such as grocery and food delivery services, business-to-business e-commerce innovations, and video conferencing solutions that seem to have penetrated both consumer and enterprise worlds alike.  

The result has been a dramatic uplift in global traffic on e-commerce platforms, with 22 billion visits in June 2020 compared to 16.7 billion in January 2020, according to Statista. But as more consumers go online, companies are looking to new technologies and strategies to capture their attention. So, the real question is, how are they doing this?

Now is the time for innovative, agile businesses to transform their e-commerce marketing strategies and increase brand awareness through the effective use of ethical web scraping.

About the author

Julius Cerniauskas is CEO at Oxylabs

Get access to reliable data

To understand today’s e-commerce landscape and consumer you need access to reliable data – and a lot of it! For e-commerce platforms trying to operate in a Covid world, a cost effective, quick and accurate solution is essential - enabling platform providers to constantly monitor competitors for pricing/product catalogues, best sellers, and even shipping information, to name a few.

But there is a sea change in what kind of data is valued and the way this data is collected. When you think about it, the fact that data is out in public, in essence, already makes it valuable, but it’s imperative to perform web data gathering following the best practices and in an ethical manner.

Web scraping simply means getting vast amounts of public data from websites. This data can be sourced from multiple different webpages and the process itself can also include cleaning up and transforming the data in a suitable format. With access to this variety of insights, an organisation is able to understand its competitor’s movements, regardless of where they are in the world and use that knowledge to stay ahead.

Why web scraping is important

What makes web scraping so important today is the fact that the entirety of the world’s knowledge exists on the Internet. In most cases, a piece of data is stuck on a web page but in order to process the data sets, businesses need to gather each of those pieces and pull them all together. Individually this data is not of much use but when enough data is collected it can be put together in a usable format, providing important information that allows an organisation to stay ahead of its competition.  

Retrieving this data involves multiple processes and there are many companies that hire staff specifically to manually gather data from the internet. Their primary role is to browse websites manually, and copy/paste data from one or more websites into a spreadsheet or form every day. There are many disadvantages with this approach including: paying for labour, lower accuracy of data, and time constraints.

Datacenter and residential proxies make in-house data scraping possible by acting as intermediaries between the requesting party and the server. The choice of either type depends on the business use case and/or specific geographic locations.

Not every company has the resources to conduct data extraction in-house. In those cases, outsourcing a trusted solution is ideal because it can free up resources to focus on data insights rather than being overloaded by challenges associated with data acquisition.

Get an edge over on competition

Since most businesses set their prices based on the laws of supply and demand, flexibility over pricing is crucial. That way, it’s easier to remain competitive in the market while bringing in as much revenue as possible. If a business fails to price its products appropriately, it is likely to miss out on potential revenue to its savvier competitors.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way, as data gathering services can be used to set an effective dynamic pricing strategy, meaning it automatically retrieves the latest pricing information as opposed to acquiring it manually. Once this data is attained a business can then set the price for its product or service appropriately, depending on the conditions of the market.

Web scraping should be the norm

As businesses have adjusted to Covid, many have fast-tracked their digital transformation journeys. Ethical web scraping is quickly becoming integral to these programs as they automate data collection, enabling them to become more agile, cost aware and consumer focused. Retrieving this valuable public data through ethical web scraping will help businesses better tailor their marketing strategies, improve their target messaging, and upgrade their e-commerce offerings, automating a once manual and time-consuming process.

Data is all around us, which means web scraping is worth the effort, as many companies have built successful businesses around the ability to gather public data and serve it where it’s needed most.

Julius Cerniauskas, CEO, Oxylabs.