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How to scale up your web scraping project during the holiday season, especially Black Friday and Christmas

The dynamic data of the holiday season

As we transition away from the Halloween holiday, the approaching winter holiday season – American Thanksgiving and the many December holidays for example – presents new web scraping opportunities. The holiday season can be one of the most crucial times of the year, especially for the retail industry, and that also means that web scraping projects need to change or adjust to the changing data.

Adobe’s 2023 US Holiday Shopping Forecast has some pretty interesting insights for the upcoming holiday season. In their survey from September 2023, a whopping 71% of participants said they were planning to hit the online sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This info comes from a survey of over 1,000 US shoppers. Adobe Digital Insights also analyzed over 1 trillion visits to retail sites and check out more than 100 million SKUs in the US. And here’s a standout prediction: they’re expecting online spending to hit around $221.8 billion during the November to December holiday rush.

The retail industry sees some of the biggest changes to customer bases and shopping trends during the holiday season. To stay competitive and ahead of other businesses, e-commerce brands tune their web scraping as an increasingly valuable tool for data collection and market analysis.

Web scraping can enable retailers to track competitors’ product listings, pricing and any special promotions, if you become aware of a purchasing trend or what competitors are doing ahead of time, you will be able to adjust your own strategies accordingly.

It’s important to consult with a professional web scraper or business on how to best approach a holiday season web scraping project, to ensure the best results. This way you can avoid overspending, or under-tuning a scraping project to the data you would gather during the holiday season.

Why scaling up web scraping for the holidays

Here are a few reasons why it’s recommended to scale up your web scraping project as we move into the holiday season.

Broader range of data: The importance of having a broader range of sources and data sets will help improve data analysis and make your expansive data coverage more robust. This information will be crucial for making crucial holiday project decisions, and will likely involve an increase in scraping frequency, or a wider internet coverage than it would during the rest of the year.

Stay ahead of trends: During the busy months of the holiday season, market trends and fads change at a much faster pace, and the day-to-day spending and prices can drastically change. This would contribute to a need to increase scraping frequency, but also to improve a project’s holistic market view – to better understand the holiday market as a whole.

Adaptability: Web scraping should be scaled up to allow businesses to better adapt to the volatile season, and allow for stronger marketing campaigns. A stronger and thorough web scraping would be even more valuable to tailor to the markets for the maximum impact.

For example, let’s say one-year certain clothes were popular with young adults ages 18 to 25. The following year, retail businesses adjusted to sell more of these clothes, but that year a trend on social media made it popular to purchase “ugly sweaters” as gifts and clothes. A scaled-up web scraping could be able to jump in front of that trend and capitalize on making and selling the sweaters.

Knowing how useful it would be to scale up a scraping, let’s look at how you or a business can add to the scraping to improve the project.

What to add to the scope of a scaled-up web scraping project for the holidays

While a web scraping is one of the strongest tools in establishing an e-commerce presence – or putting your business online – there are a few things you can do to increase the scope of the project for the holiday season and get a stronger competitive edge. This involves broadening many aspects in the scraping that you wouldn’t normally do outside the holiday season.

New competitors: For instance, the holiday season provides the opportunity to look into more websites outside a business’s regular competitors. With more companies focused on capitalizing on the holiday retail rush, you can scrape new, additional competitors and compile fresh data that can help you strategize more effectively, as well as prepare for future seasons with this data.

Increase frequency: For projects that normally scrape at a lower frequency, consider increasing how often your project gathers data. During the holidays, retail data can become outdated at a much quicker speed than during the rest of the year. This means that a once-a-month scraping won’t necessarily be enough to develop a holistic holiday approach, but an increase to a bi-monthly or even weekly scraping could help get ahead of competitor strategies.

More categories: During the holidays, certain keywords will become popular across many websites, meaning that more websites will overlap during a scrape. “Sales”, “holiday”, “gifts” or “present” will pop up more often, and you can track more holiday strategies being deployed on additional websites.

This means more data sets to analyze and competitors to get in front of. These changes in the categories from the competition can also teach new businesses about typical Search Engine Optimization methods for their own websites.

Explore reviews: Businesses should also take time and care into looking into customer reviews of both competitors and their own businesses. Listening to the feedback customers provide can help retailers understand how their products and services are received. With an increased frequency web scraping, this can allow retailers a fast turnaround to change their approach in time for the holiday season.

More robust reports: Part of what businesses can add to a web scraping project to broaden its scope, is to develop an advanced analytic report based on gathered data. With all the data gathered, we can analyze trends, and predict product price raises or drops when we compare that to historical data. We can also see if there are any other market factors unique to the holiday season after compiling and reviewing this data.

What are the additional costs involved in scaling up a web scraping project for the holidays?

Knowing how valuable an up-scaled web scraping project is, we need to step back and reconsider the costs of broadening the project. Consulting with a professional would be the ideal first step in a web scraping project or in a change of scale, to build a plan that best outlines the project’s expectations and relevant budget.

Increasing the scope of a web scraping project, even if temporarily – for only the holiday season for example – could involve scraping more websites, or with an increased frequency can result in the project costing more. Before allowing the costs to get out of control, define the project’s goals first and align what is planned to be done with the gathered data. The extra volume of data needs to benefit the company’s strategy and decision-making, and match the costs.

Finally, setting the time-frame the scaled-up scraping is essential to keeping costs down. Some retail businesses can plan for a scraping up to Christmas Day, others can plan for the shopping days after that up to New Years. During the planning phase, decide when to start and stop the larger scope web scraping and you can prevent excess spending.

Navigating Time-Sensitive Challenges Before the Holidays: Case study

When large-scale web scraping initiatives are designed to capture and compare product prices across multiple online stores, with a focus on a specific roster of vendors, timely and accurate data is king! Especially during the high-stakes holiday season.

At Ficstar we experienced a typical Holiday scale-up project where, unlike typical weekly updates delivered every Thursday, the client needed comprehensive pricing data by Monday morning. The reason? The brand’s sale was already in full swing due to the holiday season, and our client aimed to stay competitive through price matching, a critical strategy when customers are constantly comparing prices for the best deals.

The expanded scope involved an ad-hoc deliverable that centered around a specific brand. This was not just a mere addition of tasks; it entailed a specialized approach to scraping, focusing on capturing intricate brand-specific pricing details from various vendors. This addition posed a significant challenge due to the level of customization and accuracy required in a short timeframe.

The primary challenge was twofold: ensuring the validity of this additional data set and meeting the tight deadline. The project demanded a perfect balance between speed and accuracy, a tough ask considering the vast amount of data and the complexity of its sources.

Facing the Challenges Head-On

To address these hurdles, we adopted a proactive approach, initiating discussions about potential holiday-period demands at the start of the month. This early engagement allowed us to foresee and plan for ad-hoc requests or increased data crawling needs. Crucially, it also provided a window for preliminary testing. By identifying and rectifying potential issues in advance, we could ensure that any new requirements or changes in data formatting were seamlessly integrated into our existing processes.

Not limited to retail

Broadening a web scraping scope for the holiday season doesn’t have to be limited to the retail industry. Other industries, such as the travel, hotel the food and restaurant industries can make use of broader web scraping. A scaled-up web scraping in these industries can see where people are traveling for vacation, what foods are trending, or holiday sales competing businesses are promoting on their websites.

The dynamic data extracted from these web scrapings can help many competitive industries get ahead during one of the busiest times of the year. Web scraping by itself can allow businesses of any size to adapt and adjust to trends to gain an edge in advertising, or product pricing against competitors.

Consult a professional web scraping business or personnel to find out how to begin or increase a web scraping project in time for the holiday season, and get to improve your social media and online presence.

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