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Scraping large e-commerce websites: A guide for large scale web scraping

Web scraping e-commerce websites is a valuable way to collect data from competitors to keep up to date on their activities, market trends, in-demand products, and even to obtain user-generated content from customer reviews and Q&A’s to see what the end-user thinks.

E-commerce web scraping is not illegal, and when done right, it's not unethical. Zyte's e-commerce scraping tools put the power of ethical data extraction at your fingertips to ensure you get comprehensive data in a complete, usable format, without triggering the target website to block your connection.

In this guide we'll look in more detail at e-commerce web scraping and how to carry it out, as well as the benefits and challenges of scraping e-commerce sites on a large scale. 

How to carry out large e-commerce web scraping

Manually scraping e-commerce data on a large scale is just not realistic. Even disregarding the time it takes to copy and paste the content, you would then face the huge task of optimizing that data into a usable format. 

Automated e-commerce website scraping is the faster, more efficient and ultimately more reliable alternative. Zyte provides scraping tools and managed data extraction services that enable you to do this. 

Large-scale e-commerce site scraping requires a small amount of initial setup, in order to define the scope of your campaign and to decide exactly what data you want to scrape. 

This ensures you get a comprehensive dataset that contains all the fields you need, and can also help to ensure you are conducting the campaign in an ethical way.

What data should I scrape from e-commerce sites? 

E-commerce sites offer vast amounts of data, especially on the very largest retailers and online auction sites. Some examples of data you might want to scrape include: 

  • Product details (name, description, manufacturer, size/quantity etc.)
  • Price (including details of any discounts, coupons, special offers and promotions)
  • Related products (e.g. accessories, 'people also buy' and like-for-like comparisons)
  • Stock (useful on websites that show their real-time stock or number of items sold)
  • UGC (User-Generated Content, e.g. ratings, reviews, Q&As – so long as you ensure compliance with applicable data protection laws and/or descope personal data) 

You'll also want to include details of where the data came from, including the retailer name, page URL, and details of whether the target market is US-specific, another single country or jurisdiction, or international. 

In practice, this list of data points often creates itself during the initial planning stage, as you define your project goals and consider what types of data to scrape in order to meet those goals, rather than creating the list in isolation. 

Benefits of web scraping e-commerce websites

When we talk about e-commerce website scraping, we're referring to the process of obtaining data from publicly available web pages, rather than directly from back-end databases via an API. You can learn more about this in our guide, What is Web Scraping? 

The difference between the two processes is one of the big benefits of scraping e-commerce websites. You can retrieve data that is in the public domain, ethically and reliably, to give yourself a powerful dataset of content from your own direct competitors. You can combine this with related data, such as scraping supplier or manufacturer websites, to build an end-to-end picture of what people are buying in the real world, and how much they are prepared to pay. 

It's not just about ticket price either. Identifying in-demand accessories and popular related items allows you to upsell on your own e-commerce site, increasing order size and boosting your bottom line. 

Challenges of web scraping e-commerce websites 

There are some challenges to scraping e-commerce sites. One of the most common is finding your connection blocked due to being falsely identified as an attempted denial of service attack. 

By using proxies, you can avoid making repeated connections from the same IP address or geographical location, which is crucial to carrying out large-scale website scraping without getting blocked. 

Read more in our blog post, The Challenges E-commerce Retailers Face Managing Their Web Scraping Proxies

It's not always possible to avoid a connection being blocked — more and more e-commerce sites use authentication tests — and a professional proxy platform will watch out for this so you can diagnose the problem and maximize your successful connection rate for a more efficient large-scale scraping campaign overall.

How to scrape e-commerce websites ethically and responsibly 

At Zyte, we believe strongly that web scraping campaigns should uphold standards of ethics and responsibility. We all share the internet, and even large corporations deserve fair treatment. Here are some best practices you can follow to scrape respectfully.

Why is Zyte the best solution for scraping e-commerce websites? 

We are proud of our high standards and strong results for our clients. Every campaign is approached as a fresh challenge, bringing all of our experience and expertise into the planning and execution of your e-commerce website scraping program to yield the best outcomes. 

This includes: 

  • Initial consultation to understand what you need, which websites to target, and define the scraped data scope.
  • Identifying any legal compliance requirements associated with the project..
  • Generating a clean, comprehensive dataset with no empty fields and no extraneous data - just the information you need to analyze your industry. 

We can also provide data extraction tools if you want to conduct your campaign yourself, although we would suggest choosing a professionally managed campaign wherever possible. 

To find out more, fill in our online form to book a call today. Our team will be in touch to organize an initial consultation and help you understand how Zyte can help your e-commerce business compete with the big corporations — no matter your size.