Web scraping has a good number of applications in our lives today ranging from police, social, and business, among others. This article would be discussing how web scraping helps in data-driven marketing.
Marketing has changed for the last couple of years and what worked in the past has become obsolete and might put you at a disadvantage especially if your competitors are becoming modern in their approach to marketing. Data have become one of the most integral parts of marketing and companies no longer assume – they need data to back up any claim and assumption.
Interestingly, data is now readily available online and you can get started with your marketing campaigns in no time if you can find out a way to extract the data of interest to your marketing on the Internet.
In this article, we would be showing you how collecting and using data available on the Internet relevant to your business would help you in making better marketing decisions that would help your business.
The aim is to be efficient, help save you time and money while giving you maximum results. Web scraping when done right will provide you with all of these and that is why modern businesses have integrated it into their marketing plan.
What is Data-Driven Marketing?
To put it in simple terms, data-driven marketing is a method of marketing that relies on data to determine who your ideal customers are, their behavior, preference, and motivation, giving you a better understanding which ultimately helps you to optimize your marketing performance. The data mentioned in the definition could be from direct interaction with the customers or gotten from sources in an indirect manner.
Whether the source is direct or via a third party, does not matter, what matters is the integrity of the data and whether it can give you insight on how to better understand your customers or not. In this regard, there are many sources of data you can use.
The modern web and the increasing use of the Internet by consumers have made it possible for marketers to get data about customers’ preferences and behaviors easily. Data-driven marketing takes away the guesswork and helps you make an informed marketing decision.
You will not have to waste money targeting the wrong audience or making the wrong product that the customers would not like. Instead, you can get data that suggest the best demography to target and the right product to sell.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is the process of using computer bots known as web scrapers to access web pages on the Internet and extract data available on them. The process involves mimicking regular web browsers in other to be allowed to access the websites you want to scrape from.
The bot would then send an HTTP request for the page and the content of the whole page would be provided, then using a parser, it traverses the downloaded content, extracting only the required data and then saving it for your future use or used directly in your program.
Currently, it is the best method of collecting data from websites that do not provide a data API and you do not have admin rights to collect the data from the database yourself.
With web scraping, you can collect profile information of users following your competitors in other to target them for your ads. You can also use it to get review data as a business selling a product or service to know what needs improvement and areas you need to completely overhaul.
Unfortunately, web services frown on the idea even those that strive on it. Take, for instance, Google is the number one web scraper but wouldn’t allow you to access its SERPs using a web scraper.
Fortunately, by doing so, you are not breaking any rule as web scraping is considered legal provided the data you collect is publicly available and not hidden behind a paywall or password.
In the past, web scraping is left for those with coding skills and as such, not many marketers would want to touch it. Things have changed now and even without writing a single line of code, you can now extract data from web pages. This has been made possible by visual web scrapers such as Octoparse, ScrapeStorm, and ParseHub, among others. Bright Data offers an easier-to-use web scraper that is web-based and affordable known as Data Collector.
Web Scraping for Marketing Data: The Place of Big Data
Except you are just a small business that collects data from some thousands or a few million pages would reveal to you, the data you need to carry out your business marketing and optimization. If not regular data might not be sufficient to reveal the pattern and make things clearer to you about your customers and how to better serve them.
Instead, you will need big data. What then is big data and how does it differ from regular data? Big data is basically an extremely large data set that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. Most big businesses are now embracing big data including investment firms – you can tap from it too.
Big data is not a must for data-driven marketing. You can carry out data-driven marketing without big data if you are a small business and the data you need isn’t complex and big enough that would be called big data. However, there are situations where big data is a must especially when you have a complex large audience.
One thing you need to know about big data is that traditional data processing software cannot handle them because of its large and complex nature. Likewise, not all web scrapers can be used to collect big data because of the time that would be required. You will need to use distributed architecture both for the web scrapers as well as the storage system.
How to Use Web Scraping for Data-Driven Marketing
Data-driven marketing isn’t tied to web scraping. In fact, depending on the kind of business you have and your target audience, using web scraping can make sense, or just you trying to waste your time on a venture that wouldn’t just work for you. What you will need to look out for is if there is any website that you can get user-generated data that could serve your business better or a place where your target audience hangs out so you can get their details from there.
Take, for instance, if you are a product seller or manufacturer and the product is listed on Amazon, Walmart, Aliexpress, or any other e-commerce platform, then web scraping becomes very important to you if you want to understand what your customers think about the product, scraping review of buyers and running sentimental analysis would reveal to you such.
This would help you better fine-tune the product which would aid in your marketing campaign. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be used as a source of data for customer preference and perception about a product or service. Using web scraping, you would not only extract what users feel about the product but also details of users that would potentially use the product and then target them with ads.
Another use of web scraping is in the area of SEO. SEO has proven to be one of the methods that when done right, would provide you traffic without you necessarily paying for it as in the case of running ads. There is no doubt that SEO is a data-driven exercise and without the right data you will be lost in the crowd. You will need to constantly monitor how your products and pages rank compared to that of your competitor over time.
In other do this, you will need to web scrape ranking and keyword-based data from the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). This could be a general SERPs like that of Google and Bing, or in the case of e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Aliexpress.
Benefits of Data-Driven Marketing
If you have not thought about the importance of data-driven marketing, then you need to know that there are many reasons why you will need to take it seriously. Some of these include the ability to reach the right people, knowing what would work and what wouldn’t before you even start, and taking the guesswork out of your workflow. Data-driven marketing is the future of marketing and below are some of the benefits you will derive from data-driven marketing.
Know and Understand Your Customers Beforehand
There is no better way of understanding your customers than having data at your disposal that reveal their interest and preferences. This will help you know them beforehand even before they come knocking and requesting for your product or service. Because you already know them, you can have developed a highly targeted and personalized marketing campaign that converts excellently well compared to generalized campaigns.
Improve your Product and Service
In the end, the role of marketing is selling what you have to offer which could be a product, service, or an idea you want to be popularised. What data-driven marketing does for you in this regard is that it provides you data on what your prospective customers would want which would help you better improve what you have to offer. Take, for instance, if most existing users of your product prefer a particular color of your product, then you will do better producing more of such than the others.
Reveals Untapped Opportunities
How about you provide your customers with other products and services aside from the main one they are interested in? Well, with the help of data-driven marketing, that can be achieved. You can discover the opportunity for cross-selling and upselling which would not only make you money but also save you money on marketing as a whole which is the goal of every business. Data-driven marketing also makes it possible for you to be able to provide post-sale services to your customers.
Challenges Associated with Web Scraping for Data-driven Marketing
There is no doubt that data-driven marketing could rely on web scraping if the data of interest is available on the Internet for you to scrape from. However, it does not come all rosy, there are some challenges that come with taking the route. Let take a look at some of the challenges below.
Web Scraping is Not supported by Most websites
While the concept of web scraping is exciting, you need to know that engaging in it is like a battle, and only when you win the battle will you succeed at it. This is because websites do not like being scraped using web scrapers because of the too many requests they send within a short period of time and the data they collect.
Web Scrapers Require Constant Maintenance
To be frank with you, except you are using an already-made web scraper, this would be a big problem for you. Data-driven marketing as done by many businesses is not a one-off thing but a continuous process.
This would mean the same web scraper you used yesterday might break today either because the website structure changed or its anti-spam system became more effective. In any case, if the web scraper breaks which is common for web scrapers that target popular websites, you will need to maintain it constantly and that is another task on its own.
Data Integrity and Reliability is a thing
Data-driven marketing is only useful if the integrity of the data is not questionable and you are using the right data. Whether scraped or gotten directly from the users of a product, if the data is not up to date and reliable, you will only be wasting your time. When carrying out web scraping, the integrity of the data can be tempered without you knowing.
This could be as a result of the geo-targeting error, outliers, missing data, or even wrong data among others. For this reason, before using any data you collect via web scraping, you need to make sure the data is correct and up to date to avoid using the wrong or obsolete data to make your marketing decision.
There is no doubt that web scraping is one of the major sources of data for marketing in today’s Internet that data is readily available. And while collecting data for your marketing campaign, just know that you are not alone. All of the big businesses and corporations you know of are actively using data-driven marketing to optimize their marketing campaigns and get the most out of it.