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Why do you need real-time scraping systems?
Web crawling has become a necessity for many businesses in the travel and e-commerce sector who need to monitor prices across hundreds of websites and thousands of subcategories constantly, so as to make sure that the prices on their own website are attractive enough. The problem with these two sectors is that prices change too frequently. In fact, it has even been seen that if you buy an item or book a flight ticket online, immediately the price of the same goes up by a small percentage. The price shown to you might also differ depending on the number of bookings you’re making or the number of items you’re buying. Now for affiliate websites, aggregators, or re-commerce websites, that basically capture data from many sources so as to show you all the options available, it might be very difficult to save the prices of millions of products, flight tickets, hotel rent and also keep updating them every second. Hence it is better if you do a real-time scraping or live scraping, based on your needs. Here are some of the advantages of live crawling solutions.
The advantages of Live Crawls
1. No need for costly storage options
Had you been downloading and storing all the data in cloud storage or on-site, you would have needed either expensive storage hardware or cloud-based service provider. This is averted since you will be scraping and displaying the data in real time, and there’s no need to store data for millions of listings. At most, you could store data for recent searches, so as to make the process faster.
2. No need to keep updating every data field.
With real-time search based web scraping, there is no more need to run the scraper engine after frequent intervals to update all pre-existing data. This will reduce your costs considerably since you only need to crawl whatever is searched.
3. No delay in data updation
If you crawl and update your data after fixed intervals, there’s a chance that some updates in data might not happen on time and people might be seeing stale data. This would lead to an unfavourable experience and they might not return to your website a second time. This is averted with real time search based web scraping.
4. Adding new items to websites won’t be an extra headache.
Adding new items won’t take any extra work since as long as the sources (the websites where you are grabbing data from) are updated, your search based scraping algorithm should work fine for any new items. As for adding a new website to your arsenal, all you need to do is specify how the scraping mechanism would work for one product and the same will be replicated for any product that is searched.
The challenges associated with live crawls
1. Network connectivity has to be up at all times
Since you will be web-scraping in real time, network lapses can prove fatal to your business model. Your network connectivity has to be at its best at all times.
2. The processing has to be fast enough.
Today’s customers are impatient and would not like to wait even for a few seconds for prices to load. Hence the scraping has to be fast enough so that there is little time gap between the search and the display of results. Even if there is a second or two-time gap, it has to be made up with some sort of transition or animation, so that the customer doesn’t think that the prices are loading or that he or she is waiting for the website to load some data.
3. Search has to occur even when the person is typing for better results.
If you want to do even better than what is suggested in the previous point, you should be doing the search based real time scraping even while the customer is typing. This can be handled in several ways, such as time gap – if he stops while typing you send a crawl request, or space gap – when he presses his spacebar you send whatever is typed till then, to be scraped. This way, you will be loading the scraped data faster but incurring more processing costs.
4. Website changes will affect all data for that website.
In case the structure of a website changes, or if its server is down, you will have no access to its data since you have not been storing any data, and hence you will be coming up only with blanks for any product/ service for that particular website.
How it works
Every website has a specific structure of the HTML page in which its product is displayed (called the product page). Once you can ascertain the structure, you can write a program that will send a request with a browser as a header, get back the HTML page, and then go through the HTML page automatically so as to capture data fields. Once you have this hard-coded algorithm in place, the rest is taken care of. No matter which item is searched for, the website will be requested to return the HTML page for that specific product and the HTML page again will be scraped for data.
Affiliate websites, as well as aggregators, have seen huge traction in modern times due to the need for customers to find all their options on the same web page. Price comparison happens best when all the data is real time, and that is what customers want most. Most hotel or flight booking websites currently show a hotel and then the prices and offers for it from different portals beside it. This is done through real-time web-scraping aka live crawls. With faster scraping techniques in programming languages such as R and Python, real-time web-scraping is taking over other sectors as well, such as news aggregators and advertisements. In case you want to leverage this state-of-the-art tech in your business, you should definitely take the help of a leading web-scraping team such as PromptCloud who can help you cross the ocean of data using their expertise in this field.