According to the National Retail Federation, online retail will grow 8 to 12% in 2017, up to three times higher than the growth rate of the industry overall. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retail is only expected to grow by 2.8%, slower than the average rate of growth for the overall industry.
This is good news for ecommerce retailers poised to grab a piece of the growing online market. But it also means customers will demand more than ever from their ecommerce shopping experience, and the competition will only grow. That can make it tough for ecommerce stores to compete in a rapidly-changing industry.
When it comes to building a thriving ecommerce store, you could be costing yourself both time and money by trying to reinvent the wheel. The information you need – from competitive pricing to lead generation – is already online and waiting to be tapped. The problem is finding an efficient way to gather the information you need; doing it all manually and relying on outdated technology could be costing you big.
Enter ecommerce web scraping – data scraping used for extracting data from websites. Web scraping can help everyone – even non-technical ecommerce store owners – improve their sales, shorten and automate some of their processes like updating product information, and ultimately revolutionize their business.
Here are eight ways to get started.
1. Build a Responsive Supply Chain
The ecommerce retail industry moves at lightning speed and requires constantly staying on top of the latest data in order to compete and survive. Fashion retailer Zara used data scraping to compress the cycle between jumping on a new design and getting it into their stores for sale. Instead of a few months, the cycle was shortened to just a few weeks – a dramatic improvement.
Bloomberg took notice of how Zara was “shipping fresh styles to stores twice a week. Guided by daily data feeds showing what’s selling and what’s stalling, the teams develop fashions for the coming weeks.” Zara relies on those daily data feeds to show them what’s selling and what’s not to immediately develop fashions that are likely to sell. Zara’s data disrupting business model has paid off, and they are rising above their competition. While Zara continues growing, American Apparel declared bankruptcy and H&M saw profit losses.
2. Conduct Deeper Market Research
Get a leg up on your competition by figuring out exactly how they’re pricing and attracting customers. Leading classic and race car finance company Classic & Sports Finance uses web scraping to delve deep into market research. The UK-based company scraped through auction, sales and dealer pricing data to not only view real-time competitive pricing structures, but also to stay on top of the latest market trends.
Classic & Sports Finance turned the collected sales data into heat maps to quickly see if cars sold well or fell flat compared to estimates. With a better understanding of classic car prices and values, Classic & Sports Finance could better anticipate the trends in the market and blend them with their own data. Their efforts helped their customers and other lenders make more informed decisions about their collector cars.
3. Automatically Update Your Product and Inventory Data
Sales reps have the opportunity to generate more sales in the field, but they can run into issues if the inventory isn’t up to date. However, receiving inventory information and sales prices in real-time requires using sophisticated web scraping to import the latest data.
RepZio populates their own outside sales reps’ data from multiple manufacturer websites to get the correct information. RepZio’s data fills their partnering ecommerce sites with high-end furniture product data and pricing, manufacturer IDs, product features, descriptions and image URLs.
Ecommerce stores can harness a similar approach to web scraping, even if it’s hidden behind an image, to get the market research information they need to build their sites in real-time. Automating your web scraping process with a tool like Import.io can ensure you’re using the latest product images on your own site and keeping your sales reps up-to-date.
4. Combine Revenue Data with Google Analytics
When Google Analytics came to import.io to get insights on web scraping to add to the data for their clients, we realized their Data Import feature could be used in tandem with web scraping. The end result could create a more powerful view for ecommerce and online businesses.
However, the kind of scraped data your ecommerce store should be importing isn’t always straightforward. Start by looking at the factors that drive profit to your bottom line. For example, cost data combined with refund data can give you a better understanding of where your profit margin really lies.
Meanwhile, figuring out the geographic data of your sales could give you more insight on where to run Facebook ads. Ecommerce store owners can dig a little deeper into geographical web scraping to figure out where their best-selling affiliates are located.
5. Track and Adjust SEO
SEO ranking is king when it comes to ecommerce sites. According to Entrepreneur, the first four online results get clicked around 83% of the time, and everything else only gets a paltry 17%. Web scraping helps fine-tune the process to get the data you need to make adjustments on what’s working and what’s not.
Start by figuring out where you’re ranking by scraping through search engine results pages for the keyword you’re looking to rank for. You can take the same approach to your competitors’ keywords to see how they’re ranking, and what type of content they’re producing to earn their search position.
Use web scraping to pull together a list of websites that write about the types of products you sell. For example, a Shopify store selling lightweight sling hammocks can look for related articles. They’re likely to uncover hot trends and current events, like city dwellers in Minneapolis setting up portable hammocks in public parks to lounge in for the day.
6. Engage the Right Followers on Social Media
There’s no need to grow your social media audience from scratch when your competitors can supply insights on your target market. Collect data on your competitors’ social media channels to get a glimpse of their strategies and followers. You can also use scraping tools to see which followers engage with them the most – and target them for engagement yourself.
What social media followers are actually commenting on can also offer valuable information. Look to see if your competitors’ media-rich blog posts on current fashions are driving comments and shares, and incorporate a similar approach into your own content.
You can also study how your competitors respond on social media to better shape your customers’ user experience. You may find that your competitors are responding lightning-fast, offering flash sale discounts that keep followers continuously checking in, or highlighting and thanking VIP followers.
7. Create a Better User Experience with Online Reviews
Online reviews are now a must-have for ecommerce store owners looking to scale their business. Research collected from Big Commerce Trends reports that 42% of online shoppers want more testimonials from ecommerce sites. But aside from the potential to boost sales through social proof, you can also web scrape your competitors’ reviews to see what they’re doing right – and wrong.
Data scrape online reviews and compile a list to look at everything from how people are using a similar product, to common complaints about durability or pricing. Consider how you can incorporate the essence of those comments and pain points from your scraped reviews to make your own product better. Incorporate common language from the reviews to better shape your ecommerce store’s web copy to make it highly relevant to your own audience.
8. Make Your Sales More Predictable with Lead Generation
Leveraging web scraping can help make your sales more predictable and create a pool of prospects in your sales funnel. Soap bubble entertainment company Bubbly uses scraping to pull together marketing research to see competitors’ pricing and new product developments. By keeping an eye on the trends, Bubbly can research product viability before ever launching something new. They also use it to tap into potential customers by gathering contact information freely available on various websites. They then use this information to help grow their customer base and market share.
Ecommerce store owners can use a similar technique by targeting where customers hang out. In Bubbly’s case, some of their clients are interested in STEM education. Scraping STEM websites, educational programs and after-school centers could be a valuable source of potential clients, as contact information can be easily scraped and stored as potential leads.
The same idea goes for a soap bubble company targeting festivals: combing through upcoming event listings and websites can pull together a list of relevant contact information to help get product seen and purchased before the next festival comes to town.
There are dozens of ways to use web scraping to better shape your ecommerce business. If you need data already available on the web, chances are high web scraping can deliver the information you need.
While you may often gather this information manually, there are limitations for non-technical ecommerce store owners who need to get behind an image or into the code to grab the data. Consider upgrading to a web scraping tool like Import.io to help streamline your efforts quickly and efficiently without needing to comb through thousands of websites yourself. The extra help could impact your bottom line for the better.