The five key business benefits of ethical web scraping

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Recent research from BRC-KPMG’s retail sales monitor revealed retail sales in the UK increased by 6.1% in September on a like-for-like basis year-on-year. Additionally, over the three-months to September, non-food retail sales increased by 5.2% on a like-for-like basis and 3.2% on a Total basis. In the midst of the Golden Quarter, e-commerce operations need to be clear about why they need an ethical approach to web scraping to stay ahead in this overly competitive market.

As we move towards the holiday trading period and with some non-essential shops shut due to lockdown measures, those online or refocusing on e-commerce need to quickly prepare. The key to this is having a clearer understanding of their market. To do this effectively, retailers need the correct information and that in turn requires data.

The current economic climate has made it more important than ever to have access to reliable data, not just to get a better understanding of your customers but also of your competitors. The rise and popularity of the internet has created a new way of sourcing this information efficiently: through ethical web scraping.

About the author

Julius Cerniauskas is CEO at Oxylabs

Web scraping involves extracting 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. This process provides organisations with a more agile, cost aware and consumer focused method of attaining data. With this in mind, here are just some of the proven business benefits of ethical web scraping.

The top five business benefits of ethical web scraping:

Competitor analysis
Imagine being able to scrape product and price comparisons within minutes across tens of thousands of e-commerce channels, enabling you in turn to be able to influence consumer-buying decisions via data-driven pricing strategies and attracting price-sensitive customers. 

The main goal of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to increase website traffic and convert leads. With ethical web scraping, you can quickly collect critical data on relevant keywords, ranking positions in various geo-locations and ads, to name a few. Then, with this data you can adjust your own online campaigns and capture the lion share of search clicks.

Enhanced lead generation
As a business, for you to reach out to your prospective customers and generate more sales, you need qualified leads. That means getting the necessary contact details, such as the name of a company, street address, contact number and email addresses.

How data is collected is absolutely critical, but so too is its veracity. This is where ethical web scraping can support lead generation efforts. It collects public data from competitors’ websites, portals and forums, so you can find out who is following them and how they are interacting with competitors. From there, the collected data will have to be aggregated and analysed to provide insights and patterns.

Brand protection
Ethical web scraping is a weapon of choice that combines highly sophisticated data techniques with automation to continuously monitor the presence of a brand online, identify counterfeit products, copyright infringements, and so on. Traditionally, this was a very labour-intensive process – physically browsing the internet to find any misconducts that could harm the brand. However, with the help of web scraping, this information can be retrieved in seconds, aiding in removing these sites from the internet and ensuring retailers can protect their brand's integrity, as well as a hard-fought market share.

Anyone who sells online knows the pivotal importance of brand-power and how consumers perceive it. The internet is awash with opinions on your business, drafted and posted by consumers on a daily basis. It is publicly available and that is why you need ethical web scraping to automate this process of intelligence collection. Once absorbed, the data can create new opportunities and allow companies to differentiate in highly competitive markets.

No time like the present
Data centre 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, with residential proxies being most suitable for more challenging data targets 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.

The time has come for the practice of ethical web scraping. When done ethically and following the best practises, it can identify and extract vital public data which will help any e-commerce operation. With many shops closed, e-commerce is the only route for many businesses to continue trading throughout this time. It is vital online retailers have insights into their customers and competitors if they are able to secure their share of customers wallets and succeed through the Golden Quarter and beyond.

Julius Cerniauskas is CEO at Oxylabs