What is Price Scraping?
Price scraping is when someone creates a scraping bot to monitor prices on a target website, or a number of target websites.
This data isn't just limited to the price - it could include changing titles or SKU codes, stock levels or anything else which is displayed on the target site.
This bot may behave and look like a user in order to trick anti scraping technology into revealing the data.
The data will often then be used for competitive analysis and used by a company to undercut prices. It can be a valuable way to make intelligent decisions about price strategies.
Why do Companies Engage in Price Scraping?
Generally price scraping is used by companies so they can offer more competitive prices.
For example, they might change their e-commerce stores prices every friday depending on the data they have obtained with a web-crawler about their competitors.
This gives them a huge economic advantage as customers will always know where the cheaper prices are.
Using automated tools to obtain this data means they can achieve mass-scale collection that would be impossible manually - what would take months now takes hours and can potentially be updated in real-time.
What are some Price Scraping Tools?
There are many free and premium price scraping tools available online (also known as web scraper tools).
For programmers, almost any programming language can be used but python's beautiful soup is a popular one. Some prefer golang with their built in http parsing packages, and some prefer to use an app with a GUI.
Generally speaking it's cheaper for companies to outsource their data requirements as even if they do have the skills to develop a scraper, they often run into trouble at scale - for example if collecting critical data daily they will need to develop some form of unblocking technology to ensure their scraped data is delivered regularly without issue.
Is it Legal?
Price scraping is generally not illegal however the same techniques if a bot is unethical could be used to 'DDOS' your web page, and hence it is a grey area legally.
If a bot runs too many threads from too many proxy locations it will become illegal.
Furthermore, price scraping can be a violation of a websites terms of service. Although this doesn't necessarily make the price scraper illegal, it depends on the situation.
How Can I Prevent My Competitors from Scraping my Prices?
Businesses can use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) with anti bot technology to attempt to protect their data from competitors.
They can also engage in 'Cloaking' their data: when a company identifies a scraper bot, it can show them fake prices. This however is not without risk - if for example real users are mistakenly identified as robots they will view incorrect prices.
What Can I Use Scraped Pricing Data For?
Scraped pricing data is one of the most common types of data from your competitors which is generally easy to obtain and can offer a huge advantage as businesses keep their prices competitive.
This could be on a daily or weekly basis which means updating their price information, staying competitive and reducing the risk of loosing customers.
Often extracting pricing is simply used by businesses to offer the best possible prices on offer.
Can I See my Competitors Pricing in Real-Time?
Most price scraping tools including Data as a Service will enable you to receive price update notifications so you can almost see the prices on the target website update in real time.
What is an Example of Scraping Prices?
An example could be a business owner who sells car parts. The warehouse does a stock-take every Friday and updates prices.
In their state there are five competitors. They might outsource a data collection solution or use scraping software which scrapes product prices from all five competitor website's product pages and sends them a spreadsheet every Friday morning.
The business can now ensure they are offering the lowest prices in their state with weekly updates.
Of course this is just an example and there are plenty of other use cases - such as more frequent updates, real time pricing notifications and more.