Price Scraping Bots: How to Stop Them Spying on ECOM Sites
Unveiling the Threat to Your E-commerce Empire
Consumers often buy the cheapest commodity product with zero brand loyalty. Price is obviously a huge factor for many customers online. It is not all that surprising that businesses seek out an extra and possibly illegal edge, to step on top of their competitors, in the form of price scraping bots. These sneaky bots are, for example, programmed to target the pricing section of a competitor’s site and extract pricing information which other businesses can use to their advantage (to the detriment of the competitor’s site.
Price scraping crosses an ethical line by spying on the competition and trying to undercut their pricing strategies. The main aim of the bots is, to essentially divert loyal customers away from the competitors and luring them towards their own business.
Price scraping tools are often commercially available as SaaS services - Bots as a Service. These services often combine a scripting engine with residential ISP proxies, which evade the old school signature detection bot technology, and even pass CAPTCHA. You may find them under the moniker of ‘price scrapers’, ‘pricing bots’ or ‘pricing intelligence’ see our bot database for details. Whatever their spy names are, it is undeniable that an entire industry has evolved around the use of automated bots dedicated to extracting copious amounts of data from online retail sites. Particularly pernicious are the shipping cost comparison bots, which data mine the entire database or API service to find the total costs of goods and shipping for each postal code. These involve millions of lookups and greatly inflate cart abandonment rates.
Unveiling Different Jobs in the Undercover Spy Network of Price Scrapers
Let's delve into the five most prevalent forms of data scraping activities that online retailers frequently encounter:
1. Price Scraping
As previously mentioned, bots target the pricing section of a site and extract pricing information to share with their online competitors.
2. Product Matching
Bots go undercover to gather and consolidate extensive datasets from retail sites to create precise matches against a retailer's extensive product catalog.
3. Product Variation Tracking
Bots scrape product data meticulously, accounting for multiple variants within a product or product line, such as color, cut, and size.
4. Product Availability Targeting
Bots extract data on product availability, enabling competitive positioning based on inventory levels and product availability.
5. Continuous Data Refresh
Bots make regular visits to the same online retail sites to ensure the scraped data remains up-to-date and relevant.
6. Shipping Costs & total cost of good sold
Consumers often buy the cheapest commodity product with zero brand loyalty. Fighting back, ecom vendors will offer their products at the cheapest net price, exclusive of shipping. Bots that track shipping costs can be extremely hard to stop, but also consume massive server resource. Effectively, these bots data mine the entire database, or API service, performing lookups for each postal code with each product SKU code - performing millions of lookups. These bots will then look for arbitrage in the shipping costs, or display price comparisons based on total price with shipping so their brand is the cheapest.
Price Scraper Spies are Challenging to Catch!
Preventing price scraping bots from spying on your online business is a challenge. They are pretty skilled at staying in the shadows and are often commercial services designed to avoid detection by using residential ISP proxies, and botnets.
Here’s how price scrapers slip under the radar:
- Like many spies, they have Elusive Origins. Identifying and prosecuting bot operators is an arduous, time-consuming, and costly endeavor. Price scrapers can originate from virtually anywhere in the world, often from well-established hosting providers and networks trusted by organizations.
- International Challenges. Many of these illicit bots originate from international locations, leaving retailers with little or no legal recourse once the bot operators are identified.
- Legitimacy Masquerade. Astonishingly, although price scraping is often illegal depending on your location, most bot technologies are not considered criminal. Some vendors even publicly list reputable businesses as their customers.
Price scraping is a competition within a competition. It begins with the competition between online businesses for loyal customers, leading to the initial use of price scraping bots. And then, further competition among the vendors ensues, as they battle to provide the most advanced price scraping and product data scraping solutions. For online retailers, this translates to an urgent need for a comprehensive bot defense strategy that can adapt to the evolving threat landscape.
'Pricing Intelligence Solutions': More Powerful than Price Scrapers? (the M of the scrapers)
Termed 'pricing intelligence solutions,' these bots use advanced features in their attacks on retailer websites. Expanding on traditional price scraping capabilities (as discussed above), the ‘pricing intelligence solution’ products are able to integrate additional elements to extract and leverage retail site data. Basically, they can cause even more scalable damage to your E-Commerce business.
Their advanced scraping techniques include:
Crawling from residential proxies and IP / UA rotation
Dynamic and custom-built bots continually crawl a retailer's website, specifically targeting product pages and scanning every product, while hiding in residential IP proxies and rotating IP and UAs
Bots disguise themselves as data extractors that adapt to changes made on the retailer's site, ensuring their ability to penetrate even the most complex sites.
Bots collect vast amounts of data to create exact matches with a retailer's products. They extract pricing, inventory, and availability data from shopping carts and other site sections.
Leveraging semantic analysis and data mining, analytics engines sift through bot-scraped data to identify price and product matches, even when the scraped data isn't an exact replica. These advanced analytics empower recipients of scraped data to make strategic competitive moves that erode their rivals' advantages.
Don’t Let Bots Spy on Your Business!
The consequences of this sophisticated approach to retail site scraping can be dire for many online ecom retailers. To safeguard your business from these malicious attacks you must fight data scraping bots before the damage escalates. Otherwise, you risk losing ground, as competitors employ advanced analytics to dismantle their online presence, product by product. Don’t let the pesky pricing scrapers get the better of you! Start your free trial at VerifiedVisitors.com