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Common Challenges During Amazon Data Collection

Over the last twenty years, Amazon has established itself as the world’s largest ecommerce platform having started out as a humble online bookstore. With its presence and influence increasing in more countries, there’s huge demands for its inventory data from various industry verticals. Almost all of the time, this data is acquired via web scraping and similar techniques.

As a data-as-a-service (DaaS) platform, we collect, transform, and deliver data for millions of ASINs and search terms at a very high frequency for many brands, manufacturers, sellers and agencies. Our clients use this data to monitor the constant changes occurring on Amazon that can have a significant sales impact.

Since web data extraction is a specialized segment within the technology industry, we often replace existing scraping companies or internal processes that do not have the necessary technologies, people, and processes in place to scrape data from Amazon at scale. Contact us today with your Amazon-specific data requirements.

Our Amazon scrape data is used in a variety of ways, including:

  • Competitive intelligence
  • M&A analysis
  • B2B lead generation
  • Stock availability
  • Pricing, content, images, search results (Share of Search — including organic and paid placements)
  • Advertising spend analysis/decision-making
  • Consumer sentiment via ratings, reviews, and Q&A, etc.

Scraped data from Amazon is pulled from the lens of the consumer which is often substantially different from data provided by various Amazon APIs. One analogy of ecommerce related scrape data is that it is the online equivalent of a brick-and-mortar mystery shopper.

Overview of the challenges

We exceed our customer’s expectations in terms of data quality despite the many challenges associated with scraping data from a site like Amazon. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Many different formats of product page listings/templates that are constantly being tweaked/updated along with UX A/B testing of new layouts, ad placements, etc. that Amazon is always testing
  2. Different product variations (one product page but multiple colors, sizes, flavors, etc. available), different layouts for product variations, and consistent changes in the approach to displaying variations
  3. Collecting data at scale while avoiding web Captchas and IP blacklisting 
  4. Inconsistent versions and features of Amazon across the growing list of countries in which Amazon has a presence
  5. A significant investment in technical infrastructure to accurately collect Amazon data at scale
Data to make or break your business
Get high-priority web data for your business, when you want it.

But first, what is web scraping?

Web scraping is the process of extracting publicly available data from a website and putting the collected data into a structured format such as Excel, JSON, or CSV for the purposes of analysis and decision-making. 

Web scraping is like web indexing or crawling, the process used by search engines like Google or Bing to help make information on the web easier to find. However, the key difference between web scraping and web indexing is the structured format of web scraped data compared to the unstructured format of web indexing.

From a legal standpoint, laws and terms of use that govern web indexing are also applicable to web scraping.


Product pages and search results have varying page structures

A lot of products on Amazon have different layouts, attributes and HTML tags due to the many templates in use on the site to add and update product content. This is often done to cater to different types of products that may have different key attributes and features that need to be highlighted. 

In addition, since Amazon has been around for over 20 years now, the site has gone through many different redesigns but not all products have been migrated to newer template layouts. Templates also vary significantly during the item setup process on Amazon based on the category or product group of newly added ASINs.

In addition, Amazon sites vary significantly by geography, with the US market typically being the first to roll out and test new features and functionality, and other markets getting upgraded at later times. A screenshot of a sample template is shown below.

Product specifications
Product specifications like flavor, package type and weight are displayed above the fold (ATF) instead of below the fold (BTF) on this ASIN. Some ASINs even display feature bullets BTF instead of ATF, but these ASINs are using a very old template that should be migrated to a newer version.

Different product variations

Variant product detail pages are single product pages which allow consumers to easily browse and purchase multiple products. Some good examples are:

  • Diapers/nappies available in multiple sizes
  • Lipsticks available in a variety of colors
  • Pasta available in a variety of types

Amazon was one of the first online retailers to provide this functionality and continue to evolve it. From a scraping standpoint, these variations are similar to the templates mentioned above but again are displayed on the site in many different ways. In addition, ratings & reviews are often rolled up and counted towards all available variations instead of against one version of the product. 

Although when we scrape review content for our clients, we display review totals and review content at the ASIN level in our data to better discern product feedback at the individual product level. Related to variations, Best Seller Rank information used to be displayed for all ASIN variations but now the same information is shown for each variation, and there have been lots of recent updates related to the format and count of the Best Seller Rank assignments displayed on product pages.

Tiled variation showing quantity size, pack size, and price information on each tile. Pushes feature bullets below the fold in many cases.
Tiled variation showing product image thumbnails and pricing information on each tile.

Web Captchas, blocking and blacklisting

captcha-268x369

Amazon is very good at distinguishing between scrapers and human actions. When scrapers are detected on Amazon and/or a user makes 400+ similar page requests in a single session, steps are taken to verify if the traffic is coming from a human or from a machine. The first step in the process is to show a Captcha screen, like the one on the left, requiring unique codes to be entered before displaying additional products or search results. If an IP address continues to make Amazon page requests without verifying the Captcha, the IP address will be blocked or blacklisted from accessing Amazon.

To avoid these blockages, we try to make our crawlers’ browsing behavior seem more human than robotic as much as possible. Some of the workarounds that we employ are:

  • Avoid repetitive and predictable actions
  • Constantly rotate IP addresses
  • Send page requests at random intervals
  • Spoof the User Agent on the crawler headers to avoid Amazon’s generic anti-crawl response

This approach makes it harder to identify a scraper by accessing a small number of pages from one IP address before switching to another. From our customers’ perspective, the end result is an unbroken stream of quality data.

Amazon features across geographies

When browsing an Amazon country variant from a different location, there’s significant disparity in the product listings, search results and product detail pages. For example, when browsing amazon.com — the US platform — from Germany, Amazon only lists items that ship to Germany. Also, attributes like price and availability are only displayed when a US zip code is entered as the delivery address.

The same pasta product page as before when accessed from Germany.
1 – Pricing information not disclosed. Item is shown as unavailable.
2 – Amazon prompting the visitor to enter a US delivery address.

Amazon does prompt users to change their location during the first browsing session, but coding this into a crawler isn’t always feasible. To overcome this, we use the IP addresses of the country whose Amazon platform we’re collecting data from.

Significant investment in technical infrastructure

In order to handle large volumes of datasets of Amazon products from their worldwide variants, we’ve invested in the highest end cloud storage platforms with high capacity memory resources and high efficiency network pipes and cores. This also helps us avoid memory issues and over-burden our local resources, so we can speed up our clients’ access to their datasets.

In addition, we’ve recently added more specialists to cater to the ever-increasing demands, while also implementing various advanced machine learning algorithms to make Amazon data sourcing as efficient and quick as possible.


Summary

Web data acquisition is a specialized area of expertise in itself. Some businesses may get by with an in-house team of just a few people when dealing with lower scale data requirements. But when your datasets are huge, like Amazon product information that ranges in millions of records every day to billions every month, you’ll need a specialized solution to take care of the data collection. Add to that the complexities discussed earlier, and your in-house team will almost certainly run into memory losses, IP blocking and empty dataset issues without adequate measures and resources in place.

This is where Grepsr can be your perfect asset. With over a decade of experience, we’ve extracted product data from not just Amazon and all of its geographic variants, but also numerous other ecommerce platforms. Our team of experts have handled and overcome all sorts of obstacles and challenges during the acquisition process to deliver the highest quality service to our customers.

Get in touch today with your requirements. We’re sure we can work out a solution for you!

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Tell us what you need. Let us ease your data sourcing pains!
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FIVE Essential Questions for Assessing your Big Data Deployment Readiness

Big Data isn’t just a big buzzword. Nor is it merely a business ritual. Ask yourself these 5 essential questions to know if you business is ready for data-driven transformation in the Big Data era

Seven Key Areas Where Big Data has Brought Big Transformations

As the volume, variety, and velocity of Big Data increases, so does its value and application. Today, there is a widespread use of Big Data, and the whole fabric of life has become increasingly data driven. Here is a brief review of 7 major areas which have gone through massive transformations driven by data: Business Business enterprises […]

Data Mining for Developing Business Intelligence

The growing use of digital technologies in every sphere of life has resulted in the rapid escalation of digital data. While digitization of the facilities of everyday use has given rise to datafication, the process of datafication has produced a byproduct known as big data, which is regarded as a new oil of the digital […]

How Grepsr Works: A Brief Introduction

Web crawling and data extraction services at Grepsr are simple, quick, hassle free and intuitive. We focus on providing top–quality services to our customers in the highly competitive rates. Our strong base–with cutting-edge technologies and advanced infrastructure–in Kathmandu and our maturing technical expertise in the area have helped us to compete with the top tire […]

11 Interesting Quotes about Data

These days, almost everybody—be it a casual technophile or a trailblazing technocrat—has something to say about the usefulness of data. Apparently, there is no area of human interest where you cannot achieve agility, efficiency, and better outcome by deploying data science. Business, astronomy, neuroscience and you name it. Data had never been generated with such […]

Big Data & the Power of Personalization

According to Wikipedia, Big data is a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else […]

Big Data is Redefining News & Journalism

If digital data were something physical, it would have massively altered the shape of our world, probably, with new data mountains rising every hour. Whether you browse the web or flip pages of print media, you are sure to stumble upon some news about big data, all the while feeding the web with your digital […]

Data Mining: How Can Businesses Capitalize on Big Data?

In the recent years, data mining has become a prickly issue. The big controversies and clamors it has gathered in the political and business arenas suggest its importance in our time. No wonder, it is used as a household name in the business world. Data mining, in fact, is an inevitable consequence of all the technological innovations […]

Web Scraping vs API

Every system you come across today has an API already developed for their customers or it is at least in their bucket list. While APIs are great if you really need to interact with the system but if you are only looking to extract data from the website, web scraping is a much better option. […]

Web Crawling Software or Web Crawling Service

Some people ask us if we are a “service” or a “software”. We simply tell them – we are a service, with killer software that runs behind the scenes! 🙂 Also, lot of our customers ask us, why go for a Web Crawling Service over a Web Crawling Software? The answer is pretty straight forward. […]

Sychronizing data extracted with Grepsr

One of Grepsr’s most powerful feature is the ability to synchronize data in a variety of different ways when a new data is available. The whole idea behind this feature is to automate our data delivery process. It would really be tedious if you have to login to your grepsr account everyday to check if […]

Managed Data Extraction Service

Grepsr is what we like to call, “Managed Data Extraction Service”. Here are some of the reasons why we call it “managed”: We let you focus on your business and use the data — worrying about technical details of extraction is our job, and we will do it for you. We let you describe your […]

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