Web scraping and purchasing data sets — the easiest way to get your hands on the world’s most valuable commodity

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Today, a growing number of businesses collect public web data through what is commonly known as “web scraping”, in order to gather actionable insights, in real time, deep down into the markets they serve for their customers. 

Simply put, web scraping is the action of collecting web data from various website sources, whether it be product details, pricing, SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) data or consumer sentiment spanning different markets across the world. Many companies are employing web data providers to either provide tools for web scraping or web data on demand.

About the author

Erez Naveh is VP Products, Bright Data

Web scraping tools range from no-code web scrapers (i.e. tools programmed to collect web data from certain websites) to data collection infrastructure designed to deal with the blocking techniques of many different websites. Websites tend to employ blocking methods, such as CAPTCHA, or return inaccurate web data if they detect an IP address visiting the same URL too many times. This is despite the fact that these websites are completely in the public domain, meaning they are not behind a sign-in or login and any average user can openly access them. 

These web scraping tools assist with the data collection process by sidestepping the aforementioned challenges and giving businesses lacking a robust data collection department the opportunity to level the playing field and openly compete with much larger market leaders. Deploying such easy-to-use tools helps businesses gather the same insights that the front runners have been using for years.

Many companies use web scraping tools to collect public data in real time on their own, but there are other options. For example, there are companies that specialise in collecting and structuring ready-made data sets for immediate use and purchase. This allows companies to still be able to use data without investing the time and resources it takes to collect it. Companies can buy public web data sets directly from these partners, who provide the full service and deliver data on demand. Whether it be for e-commerce, finance, stock market trading, or human resources, there is a data set for every industry.

What is a data set?

Data sets are large collections of information that focus on a single subject collected from either single or various other sources. These sets are then structured into readable tables or formats from which valuable insights can be easily drawn.

What is a public data set?

Public data sets, similar to data sets, are large sources of structured web data that businesses use to create static collections of information to answer important operational questions. This could include public information, such as company details, directories, search engine results, e-commerce web data, financial and stock market data, public social media web data, and so on.

Web Scraping vs. Data sets?

Web scraping

Web scraping is used by companies that need to collect data in real time. One prime example is in e-commerce, where companies can change strategy by the hour. One approach might be employing dynamic pricing, where companies will collect web data on similar competitor products as the hours go by, not only looking at pricing but also at consumer sentiment and product details. This information helps them change their product strategies in real time in accordance with the market, helping to maximise their exposure as well as increase profit margins. 

Data sets

Data sets are more static collections of public data, meaning that they are updated periodically, as opposed to in real time. Data sets can be more beneficial than web scraping when seeking the following four elements:

  • Coverage: Data sets are more comprehensive. They include entire records and data from target websites, such as all products from Walmart, all the jobs listed on Indeed, or all the companies on Crunchbase.
  • Quality: Both methods should be quality focused. When it comes to data sets, web data vendors monitor the collection of the web data to ensure the completeness of the data set. From there, the provider can monitor and refresh the data at sufficient intervals.
  • Enrichment: Many public web data providers include enrichment options in their original services. They can add information on top of the data collected from the websites to create more value.
  • Operational efficiency: Buying data sets, as opposed to collecting them using web scraping techniques, does not require any data collection infrastructure or in-house development team to collect and parse data, thereby saving time, effort, and money.

Although they are not updated in real time, data sets are becoming a viable option for companies that just want to set their data collection on autopilot.

How do companies use public data sets?

Data sets are used by companies to gather insights and discover emerging trends in the market. Web data, and public web data sets, allow companies to paint a complete picture of the markets they serve, as opposed to a sectioned-off portion of a particular market.

For example, retailers are able to deploy pricing models that can react to the ebb and flow of the market, discover new inventory or opportunities, monitor MAP pricing efforts, and better position their products, whether monetarily or through new messaging, to attract a larger audience and maximise profit margins. Additionally, financial institutions use public data sets to project the valuation of their investments more accurately. Whether it be product details to estimate profitability, company information, or a company's ESG objectives, using public data sets helps financial institutions better compare and understand their future and current investments.

Human resource managers are another example, they can leverage public data sets to greatly enhance processes tied to recruitment, development, performance, and compensation. They do this by pulling web data from websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor and Crunchbase, helping them peer into the looking glass of how workers seek employment and how organisations can attract and retain employees.

Investing in the right tools is key

If companies cannot heavily invest in resources to perform in-house web data scraping and analysis, or the emphasis is on more comprehensive data and not necessarily on the "freshness" of the data – data sets may be the suitable path forward. These companies simply need to turn to third-party data providers to purchase ready-made tools, infrastructure as well as public data sets to enrich their data storage, improve their decision-making process, and set their organisations on the right path for success.

Using the tools provided by the public data provider or purchasing data sets directly saves companies countless hours of collecting data in-house. It also saves money that would otherwise be spent on developing teams and infrastructure as well as even more time implementing these strategies from end to end.

Overall, web data providers are providing businesses with new cost-effective options to perform fast and reliable public web data collection at scale. These web data providers are also allowing smaller players to compete alongside the market frontrunners by enabling them to access and analyse the same information as everyone else and draw their own insights.

Erez Naveh is VP Products, Bright Data