Author: Julius Cerniauskas, CEO at Oxylabs

It's not a secret that there is less money to go around this year. Tens of millions are unemployed due to a global economic shutdown, and many are strictly budgeting for the most essential items. This has drastically altered the e-commerce landscape, and many businesses are anticipating the impending shortfall.

While I'm not an economist, my position at Oxylabs has given me a unique view of the e-commerce activity this season so far. It appears that some e-commerce giants have already gotten the message, commencing sales as early as October. With physical stores constantly under the threat of closure, the online world is where most of the business is appearing to go, making this season more competitive than ever before. 

Web scraping can provide the insights needed to survive

A strategy rooted in data intelligence via web scraping may represent the difference between a dismal quarter and a stellar performance. Considering the current economic climate, this is not an exaggeration.

Many people equate data scraping with pricing and product intelligence. It has many more uses, however, that can include brand monitoring, inventory management, search engine optimisation, competition monitoring, gauging consumer sentiment, providing counterfeiting protection, and so much more.

Like most technological innovations, web scraping in its infancy was mostly confined to larger businesses that could afford large teams of developers (and budgets) to match. The end result was -  and continues to be  - the pricing out of smaller competitors and continued market domination.

Can the small players survive?

It depends. Not all businesses are alike and all need to capitalise on their strengths. For example, if business size was the prime factor in success we would not see small intimate restaurants. 

Everyone instead would go to facilities the size of stadiums and eat the same thing while washing their own dishes. Some people may laugh at this suggestion but consider how some furniture businesses have offloaded assembly and delivery costs to consumers. A pared-down business model may work for some industries, but definitely not all.

The truth is that people are rapidly diversifying and demanding increasingly niche products of higher quality. With less money to go around, these elements will increase in importance as time goes on. 

There are always opportunities for profit, no matter where we are in the business cycle. Web scraping helps a business uncover them, and it's more accessible than ever before.

Data extraction is the key to small business success

Web scraping is the weapon of choice that can help small businesses survive this Golden Quarter and beyond. It's the proverbial slingshot that can be used by the average human to slay a giant. 

As mentioned earlier, web scraping used to be exclusive to large-scale organisations with budgets that enabled the hiring of expensive developers. This afforded them the luxury of having dedicated staff that could write customised scripts to extract data while providing precise control over the process. 

Since web scraping is a complex endeavour, in-house teams provided an advantage by being able to address any issues associated with the process in real time. The resulting capital outlays for technological investment and staff kept web scraping out of reach for the average business. 

Fortunately, times have changed.

It's never been easier to save on data acquisition costs

World-class web scraping technology is more accessible and affordable than ever before. Small businesses can finally experience the benefits of unlocking data for unique insights available previously only to the major players.

Rather than be burdened by the intricacies of the data extraction process, smaller businesses can leverage the latest in web scraping technology for a moderate investment. This allows them to save time and money while shifting resources to analysis and marketing efforts. 

Data extraction is constantly evolving and innovating, allowing smaller players to have access to the most innovative technology. 

Web scraping is an investment 

An investment in data extraction can pay dividends that extend throughout the Golden Quarter and beyond. Use web scraping to discover the latest products and categories, gain valuable insights on the competition, and engage in dynamic pricing strategies to maximise sales. 

Web scraping can also help a small business zero in on providing customer experiences of the highest quality. This is achieved through brand monitoring via publicly-available data on social media platforms and forums. After-sales service and customer support are primary reasons for why consumers choose niche businesses time and time again. Web scraping can help a small business uncover gaps in the market that are waiting to be filled.

As mentioned already, the data extraction process requires expertise and experience. Thankfully, smaller businesses today can leverage current technological advances through state-of-the-art tools at a fraction of the cost. There has never been a better time to start web scraping. It can help a small business survive this Golden Quarter, innovate in the present, and thrive in the future.