What is Web Scraping Used For?

Posted by Vlad Mishkin | February 5, 2023

The internet is quite simply the largest and most useful knowledge repository that our world has ever seen. It is unparalleled in terms of its scale, ubiquity, and influence. However, even with such potential, many companies have still not begun to realize the opportunities it provides and are not tapping into its full potential, leaving lots of value on the table.

In order to access the true value of the internet at scale, you need to make use of web scraping – a technology that crawls the internet and pulls key data for you to aggregate into valuable insights. A good web scraper can collect both structured data (which is already organized and categorized in a usable way) and unstructured data (which is more freeform, qualitative, or disparate). With this information, you can then make smarter and more nuanced decisions in a wide variety of contexts.

Let’s look at some of these use cases to illustrate just how powerful web scraping can be.

Price Optimization

Web scraping can be a great way to understand how your pricing stacks up against all your competitors. By continually collecting price data from any company in your industry, you have a good sense of what the market is charging, and you can position yourself accordingly on a very granular level. In addition, you can set alerts so that you are always aware when competitors change their prices – in case you want to respond in kind.

Product Cataloguing

Similar to the pricing discussion above, you might also want to track the sorts of products that your competitors are selling. Web scraping is the perfect way to ingest this sort of information so that you can compare your own product catalog and continually work towards a unique and meaningful position in your industry.

Social Media Data

Modern social media platforms represent the town square of digital life, and there is an immense amount of data from your customers that you can learn from. Data from social media web scraping can be aggregated and analyzed to identify trends, sentiment, and a variety of other things. This is invaluable for reputation management and general customer research.

Contact Information

If you’re looking to generate leads or find the right contact people for your sales team to target, you can scrape a lot of really valuable public information that is available online and condense that into something practical and usable. This helps to provide a starting point for your sales team so that they can spend their time on what really matters – building relationships with potential customers – rather than filling out contact databases.

Tracking Announcements

With so much happening in the global ecosystem, it can be a full-time job to keep up to date with recent developments that are relevant to you. With web scraping though, you can monitor all announcements and news items that might be pertinent for your purposes and bring them to attention in real-time so you can act upon them if needed. This can be very helpful both for understanding market dynamics as well as wider macroeconomic conditions that have an impact on your bottom line.

Collecting Feedback

No matter how many channels you have for customer feedback, the truth is that most of it will still not come to you directly through your pre-determined channels. However, web scraping comes to the rescue here by searching for qualitative reviews of your brand or your competitors from the web and bringing them to you even if you weren’t tagged or mentioned directly. By gathering all these and analyzing the patterns, you can capitalize on all the indirect, unsolicited feedback that is some of the most honest and candid out there.

Inventory Management

One of the biggest pain points for many companies is understanding how much inventory they should be stocking at any one point in time. By tracking consumer demand data and other signals with web scraping, you can gain real quantitative data points that point towards the real-time demand for any particular product or offering. This can then help you manage your inventory efficiently, optimizing your order sizing and storage considerations to make the most of what you have on hand.

Market Research

Imagine you had a full-time research team watching your competitors, both present and future, full-time with unlimited capacity. That’s exactly what web scraping can do for you, allowing your team to spend their time on higher-value research tasks rather than merely collecting information. This research can also sidestep particular biases and concentration risk – instead of pulling a variety of views from different perspectives so that you can understand your market in a holistic fashion.

Customer Analysis

The more you can know about your customers, the better chance you have of delivering an offering that is ideally suited to what they are looking for. Scraping this sort of information from the web is a great way to build up nuanced buyer personas that can be invaluable as you plan future projects and adapt your strategies in the present. This can then feed both your product development and your marketing campaigns so that you have a fully integrated customer journey that matches what people are looking for out in the marketplace.

Machine Learning Datasets

For most machine learning projects, a large training dataset is required to achieve the level of accuracy and precision that is desired. For many of these endeavors, web scraping is a great way to create these datasets – because of the sheer scale of the data pool and the uniformity that can be found in many types of data. These sorts of training sets go a long way toward ensuring the success of these models, and it’s becoming more and more important in today’s AI-focused marketplace.

These are just a few of the use cases for web scraping, and, as you can see, the potential here is immense. This is an incredibly exciting time for the technology, and as more companies realize the potential here, we’ll see more interesting and nuanced use cases emerge.

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