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91% of SMEs now use outsourced web scraping

The cost of in-store theft is higher than of online fraud. Image: Adobe Stock

Research from a recent Oxylabs white paper, ‘The Growing Importance of External Data in the Retail and ECommerce Industry’, reveals that 91% of smaller (10-49 employees) retail and ecommerce organisations and 82% of large (500+ employees) organisations are outsourcing a web scraping team or partner to help inform business needs.

Data is necessary to implement strategies that are based on market trends, competitor actions, and consumer demand. Having access to external data enables businesses to predict markets with much greater accuracy – affording commercial opportunities allowing them to stay ahead of the competition.

Current data management issues in the e-commerce sector revolve primarily around the automation and optimisation of data acquisition. As such, a high proportion of businesses still utilise manual efforts, Oxylabs’ research indicates that there are significant opportunities for those who can implement automated data management processes.

Findings highlight that organisations are using a combination of methods to collect their data, with 52% using integrations with third-party databases or via data vendors (48%). Additionally, nearly half (48%) are reliant on automated Extract, Transform Load (ETL) processes, used in web scraping.

Conversely, nearly half (47%) are still looking into manual data collection and cleaning as it’s a more cost-efficient method. However, it seems that many businesses still find such implementations challenging.

There are two primary methods of obtaining external data – running in-house scraping teams or outsourcing the process. Research results reveal an almost equal split between those businesses who are outsourcing these processes (63%) and those that are running their web scraping activities in-house (57%).

Juras Juršėnas Chief Operating Officer at comments: “It’s somewhat surprising that such a large proportion of businesses in the retail and e-commerce sectors are still engaged in manual data collection and cleaning. In most cases, third-party web scraping solutions providers, including Oxylabs, provide both extraction and parsing services, reducing the attractiveness of manual data collection, mitigating most implementation costs associated with in-house acquisition, and improving the speed and scope of analysis.”

The split between in-house scraping and outsourcing comes down to budget constraints and technical skill limitations. Creating an in-house external data acquisition pipeline requires resolute developers and a significant number of resources. However, it also brings numerous benefits such as adaptability, flexibility, and greater quality control.

A sizable number of businesses still tend to outsource their web scraping activities if they want to focus on analysis or do not already have extensive development teams. Additionally, the upfront costs are generally lower. Finally, the time it takes to develop and integrate data processes through third-party providers is significantly shorter.

Gediminas Rickevičius Director of Strategic Partnerships at comments: “Cost efficiency is of utmost importance to any business. It’s twice as important in fields where margins are thin. Therefore, it’s not particularly surprising to see a large proportion of our respondents outsourcing data acquisition. Data flexibility doesn’t play as large a role in e-commerce and retail as in other sectors, reducing the effectiveness of in-house teams. For most businesses in this sector, it simply is a lot more cost efficient to outsource data acquisition so they can focus on data analysis.”

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