What Is Price Scraping And How To Prevent It

April 24, 2014 Courtney Brady

For ecommerce stores, there are few online threats more damaging than price scraping. Price scraping grants your competitors easy access to your product listings, SKUs and pricing, which can give them the upper hand in your marketplace. This can be pretty game-changing for your business. Luckily, there are ways to prevent price scraping, and Distil Networks can help you do it.

What Is Price Scraping?

The first part to understanding the threat of price scraping is to admit that the problem is happening. Almost every website that has proprietary content or prices is the victim of bad bots. Scraping prices is a subset of content scraping and is systematically carried out by bad bots around the clock. Traditionally, price scrapers are simpler than other bad bots but increasingly they are becoming more sophisticated with the ability to perform multiple steps like adding products to the shopping carts before accessing the final discounted price which is subsequently scraped.

Benefits Of Scraping Prices

The question that is simple to answer is why do bot operators send bots all over the web scraping prices? The most logical explanation is that competitors are scraping prices to make sure they understand the market and to prevent losing sales to a competitor undercutting their listed price. Consider brick and mortar retailers in the mall, they could walk across the mall and compare prices for the same product and alter their prices if a competitor was charging less. On the web, this same process happens but there are many more competitors vying to win the SEO battle for the cheapest price of a product. So how do online competitors make sure they stay ahead in the pricing war? They use bad bots to constantly scrape the prices of their competitors to gain the intelligence they need to price their own product offerings. Bad bots are doing this for thousands of products, around the world, all day. If you are trying to be the low-cost leader your benefit is that you appear in search engines as the lowest priced offering, so you gain market share and increased sales.

How to Prevent Price Scraping

Distil Networks offers a comprehensive theft bot protection tool, which prevents price scraping, data scraping, data aggregation and more on your website. Ultimately, this allows you to maintain your spot on the web as the single-source of information for your products and services, and it improves the quality of your traffic.

Here are a few of its benefits:

  • Protects your prices and product listings from being scraped, tracked or monitored by your competitors.
  • Allows you to keep your competitive advantage in the marketplace by ensuring your brand secrets and pricing schedules are kept safe.
  • Lets you post your content and prices in confidence, without fear of unauthorized access or theft.
  • Increases your sales leads by ensuring your traffic is from legitimate sources, not malicious theft bots or data scrapers.
  • Protects your brand image, reputation and SEO rankings by ensuring no other retailers on the market can copy your prices, product names and other important data.

If you own an ecommerce store, working to prevent price scraping should be one of your biggest priorities. If competitors get access to your prices and product listings, you could get outbid and outmaneuvered in your own marketplace. Your traffic, the amount of customers and leads you get, and your overall sales could also suffer.

Web Scraping Prices With Commercial Tools

Bots are available for rent from botnet operators to achieve any nefarious goal that is required. Some companies run their own bot to scrape their competitors as a part of the business.  But there are also other tools designed specifically to scrape content, including prices from any website. These tools like Import.io, Extracty, and Portia scraper are free tools that allow a user to scrape all the content that they require. Because these tools are so easy to use, the barrier to entry to scrape any website is minimal.

Furthermore, it is easy to hire someone with the skills to create a customized scraping bot for your business. By searching any freelancing job board you can find ‘web scrapers’ and can hire them to create any bot you require. There is an industry associated with scraping prices.

Is Price Scraping Legal?

The legality of scraping is an issue where definitive statements are difficult to make. Legal recourse is fraught with problems. First, it is a fledgling area of the law where outcomes are not clearly understood. Second, does all content have the same value and require legal protection? Proprietary content might have more legal value than a publicly available price. Scraped prices might not be deemed proprietary content. Third, taking the legal route to protect from bots will take a significant amount of time and expense with no guaranteed outcome in the end. An alternative to tackling bot operators using the law is to implement a bot mitigation solution like the one offered by Distil Networks to prevent price scraping bots.

Want to prevent price scraping? Start your test drive today.


About the Author

Courtney Brady

Courtney Brady is the Director of Marketing at Distil Networks. She comes to Distil Networks from a variety of start-up companies, routed in SaaS and DaaS solutions. Formerly the global communications manager at multiple companies, Courtney is responsible for developing the company’s marketing strategy and branding campaign.

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