24 Jul 2020 • 10 min read
24 Jul 2020 • 10 min read
Price scraping is a type of bad bot activity similar in its nature to web scraping.
The only difference between web scraping and price scraping is that price scraping bots target prices on different industry verticals. Such industries are e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, airlines, and travel agencies.
Price scraping is often performed to gain an unfair advantage in competitive industries. Counterparts use scraping bots to fetch dynamic pricing data and draw cost-conscious clients by offering cheaper deals than average baseline prices in the marketplace.
Since most platforms make their prices available for public use, scrapers harvest them and do not burden themselves with ethics.
The process of price scraping is like web scraping. It takes two steps - acquiring the page and extracting data from it.
To get the page, bot operators use crawlers, or as many people call them “spiders”. Spiders are the same programmed algorithms that Google uses to crawl and index new websites to its search results.
What differs web scraping crawlers from Google Crawlers is that they are using their crawling methods for different purposes.
When crawling a page for prices, scraping bots get access to stock-keeping units, product listings, historical pricing, and product catalogs. After that, hackers proceed to extraction.
Extracting data involves scanning the page and collecting prices from there. After receiving them, web scrapers organize prices into spreadsheets or databases to analyze and develop a pricing strategy that beats yours.
Price scraping aims to analyze marketplace base prices and set lower ones to draw competitors’ clients.
The lowest price in the marketplace gets the highest position in search ranks and beats you in the marketplace. The result is a significant decrease in conversion rates and the lifetime value of customers.
Online platforms lose market share to lower-priced competitors. As a consequence, the health of the businesses becomes extremely questionable and affects the share prices.
These factors lead to businesses experiencing difficulties in raising finance from investors.
Moreover, constant scraping bot activities cause unexplained website speed slowdowns, impacting your SEO and preventing you from ranking on search engines.
As a result, price scraping puts online platforms at a significant competitive disadvantage, and in the long run, it is a serious threat to the survival of businesses.
After the Linked In vs. hiQ case, the United States Court claimed that any information available for public use is free for scraping. If your prices are available for public use and you don’t have terms and conditions agreement that prohibits users from scraping your website contents or any other safety precautions, then your prices are vulnerable to scraping bots.
Since the US announced scraping to be a legal activity. Price scraping, together with web scraping, has become a whole new industry.
What used to be malicious hacker groups have now become legitimate web services offering business intelligence services, in our case - pricing intelligence.
At present, there are countless scraping services and tools offered at the market.
To prevent scrapers from harvesting your prices, you need to understand what tools and methods are being used. There are hundreds of different tools and services for scraping websites.
Analyzing their work principles and setting up safety precautions according to the requirements of your business is a task best outsourced to dedicated bot management & anti-scraping services.
Various industries use price scraping in the marketplaces; everything that involves pricing is their prey. But the biggest impact price scrapers have on are e-commerce, airline, and the tourism industry.
The airline industry suffers because their prices are scraped not only by competing airlines but also by third parties participating in the travel industry.
Unauthorized online travel agencies, price aggregators, and metasearch sites deploy sophisticated scraping bots to compromise pricing strategies and the business logic of booking services.
E-commerce price scraping enables competitors to alter prices in a flash. These activities bring the success of discounts and promotions down to nothing. Consequently taking advantage of the marketplace and ruining their business.
To detect web scraping, you need to pay attention to the following aspects of your website activity:
IP tracking is an old and reliable way of tracking any harmful activity on your website. Nevertheless, many tools make automated visits look like human ones. How can you find out whether they are automated or genuinely human? Here are some tips:
One way to stop scrapers from their activity is to set up a sign-up process with email confirmation. This measure might slow them down.
However, since bots can learn how to click links and fill out forms, this solution may not be as effective as it used to be.
Setting up a terms and conditions agreement where you prohibit scraping your website materials, especially prices, could help. However, it is not guaranteed that fraudsters motivated by financial gains will follow it.
Nevertheless, the agreement might work with individuals or companies who observe ethics.
Putting your price information into media objects such as images, for example, will make web scraper's task harder because the main type of content they are normally scraping for is text.
UA is a tool that helps identify the browser used, operating system, and other features when users enter a website. UAs can recognize java scripts and automated tools when they aren’t protected. Nevertheless, many bots have learned to hide their automatic features and bypass UAs.
Spider Honeypots place trapping links on the websites that are only visible to crawlers, not humans. They both detect web scraping bots and block them from accessing valuable proprietary information such as prices.
Placing captcha at your key engagement sections like sign up and purchase pages will help prevent bots from scraping the prices on your website.
However, remember that legacy CAPTCHAs are no longer effective against sophisticated bad bots in our day and age.
To effectively mitigate these advanced threats, the modern internet faces today, an AI-powered CAPTCHA such as GeeTest CAPTCHA.
Price scraping charges a huge toll on online platforms, and eliminating scraping bots from websites is vital for the competitiveness, profitability, and, ultimately, the success of your online business.
Considering anti-scraping measures is a must in our day and age. If you care about your business, it is necessary to keep your website safe from bot attacks, especially from price scraping.
You might think of using some in-house methods to do the job, but our best advice is to get them from specialists.
In-house methods are half-measures, and it is hard to keep them up to date with the pace of bots developing and learning. Bots are evolving at enormous speeds.
The best option for you is to obtain a bot management solution from GeeTest (link to the main page) or from other vendors specializing in the industry.
The use of these solutions is evolving beyond traditional price scraping cases. They can handle a great variety of diverse bot threats without affecting the flow of business-critical traffic.
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