Everything an e-commerce business needs to grow is on the other side of data. And usually, the more access a company has to quality and relevant data, the faster they scale and grow.
Businesses that regularly collect and analyze large amounts of data tend to make better decisions and fewer business mistakes.
And when online brands are looking for ways to harvest the data they need, they often pick either of these two methods; scraper APIs or proxies.
Both methods may help organizations gather the data they require, but they are not the same and do not offer the same services.
They are both important in their rights, yet not all scraping methods are born equal, as we will see shortly.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping or data mining can be defined as the process of using sophisticated tools to automatically harvest an enormous amount of public data from multiple sources.
These sources include websites, marketplaces, search engines, and social media platforms. The process needs to be automated to reduce the drudgery commonly associated with regularly harvesting a large expanse of data.
Doing it manually would take too much time and effort as the process is often repetitive. Similarly, manually scraping data means the brand would end up with outdated data that can no longer be used for making decisions.
Hence, web scraping helps simplify and hasten the process by quickly interacting with the target source and harvesting its data raw. The scraped data is then parsed, converted, and saved in a structured format such as Excel Spreadsheet or CSV file.
Why Data Acquisition is Important for Businesses
Businesses do not just harvest data; they do so for major reasons, and below are some important roles that web scraping play in business:
Brand Reputation Management
Nothing is more important to online brands than their reputation. Since most potential customers tend to read reviews and comments before patronizing a brand, keeping a pristine reputation is how brands attract customers.
Businesses need to regularly collect a large amount of data to monitor reviews and attend to them early enough.
Online brands, especially retailers, need to collect data to monitor the prices of a similar commodity across different markets.
They use web scraping to interact with their competitors and other retailers’ websites and harvest product data and pricing. Then they compare the results with what they have been doing to adjust and perform better in business.
This strategy is one that businesses across the globe use in fixing flexible prices and arranging different prices for different markets and seasons.
For instance, this strategy can increase prices at peak hours or sell at a higher price in a more buoyant market.
Ultimately, it helps a brand win new customers, retain old ones, and increase its profit margin.
Web scraping can also generate leads – which is how brands build new and potential customers.
A brand can easily build a list of potential customers from simple data extraction from Google Maps or AngelList companies.
And suppose the data is of high quality and accurate enough. In that case, this simple move can put even a new business ahead of older businesses that do not take web scraping seriously.
What Are The Two Main Options For Performing Web Scraping?
As described above, there are two standard methods for extracting data from their sources. The method you choose could depend on the type of data you require and determine how easy you get data.
Using Scraper API
A scraper Application Programming Interface (API) is a tool or software developed to allow effective communication between two or more programs.
When built into a platform like a website, a scraping API allows users to extract the data on that platform by connecting to the API.
It is mainly used by major platforms that offer products and used chiefly to extract product data. But this is a little different from how a typical web scraping is done.
Scraping with API generally begins by sending the URL of the website you intend to scrape from your API key to the scraper API. Once this is done, the API will return the request data in an HTML format.
Proxies are intermediary software that individuals and businesses can use to harvest a large amount of data from any data source.
They function by representing the user, accepting requests and returning responses quickly and effectively.
By representing a user, we mean they use their details instead of the users. That way, the data source only sees the proxy and not the user.
This can conveniently help any user from any part of the world collect whatever data they need. And because proxies can effortlessly switch internet protocol (IP) addresses and locations, they can be easily used to evade blockings and restrictions.
Proxies can be combined with web scrapers to get the job done. This combination doesn’t only make the job easier, but it can also be done in a straightforward way.
Making a scraper bot doesn’t have to be complete, as simple solutions such as building bots with Python libraries already exist. For instance, the lxml library by Python can be used to make basic scrapers that work efficiently to harvest both HTML and XML documents, and you can learn how to use it by taking a short lxml tutorial to get acquainted. An lxml tutorial would introduce the basics of finding specific elements, reading existing documents, and creating XMLs.
What Are The Pros and Cons of These Options?
As mentioned above, a scraper API and a proxy may both work to harvest data from a data source, but they do not do this in a similar manner. Below are some of the pros and cons of both options.
Pros of Scraper API
- It can connect very easily.
- It can be used to harvest particular data types
- It can be used as a stand-alone tool
Cons of Scraper API
- Scraping is not done anonymously
- Data extraction is limited to 2MB per request
- Scraper API can only be used on very few platforms that allow it
- You can only harvest specific data using this method
- Public data cannot be gathered using scraping API
- Most of the data that APIs pull out are mostly not up to date
Pros of Proxies
- Proxies can scrape any amount of data automatically and have no size limitations.
- They can be used to scrape any publicly available data
- Scraping with proxies produce more quality and consistent data
- Proxies can be used to scrape even restricted content
- It allows for anonymous and private operations
Cons of Proxies
- Using proxies may be more expensive as you would need to combine them with a scraper bot.
If you are looking to extract data from a source like all serious-minded businesses do regularly, then you may choose to use either a third-party scraping API or a proxy for web scraping.
Both methods may help generate data, but one has more limitations than the other, as described above.
This and the type of data your business needs will help you decide which of these options to choose.