Has Data Gathering Become a Necessity?
Businesses’ ability to adapt to changes in their operating environment is paramount to their survival over the long run. And with the existence of myriad factors that may instigate the said changes, preparation and foresight are important.
In the present-day data-driven environment, information offers the foundation against which companies can make decisions that positively impact their here and now as well as their future. For this reason, data collection has moved from being a source of competitive advantages to becoming a necessity. Here’s more on this.
What is Data Gathering?
Data gathering, also known as data collection, is a crucial part of research that entails retrieving relevant information that aligns with a given predefined objective or theme. This process aims to identify and extract variables from the data that are then measured. The main motivation behind data gathering is to acquire insights or answers to emerging issues.
In the context of business, data gathering aims to collect data on consumers, prices, products in a given market, emerging trends, and competitors.
Data Gathering Methods
This data can be collected in many ways. The methods of data gathering include:
- Social media monitoring
- Tracking, i.e., monitoring transactions or online browsing behavior through cookies
- Web scraping
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is a form of data gathering that mainly involves gathering data from websites. It also entails cleaning the mostly unstructured data to eliminate unwanted information, in a process known as parsing, before the data is converted into a structured format for download.
How to Extract Data from a Website
To extract data from a website, you can take three main approaches:
- Create a custom web scraper
- Purchase an off-the-shelf web scraper
- Manual web scraping
- Utilizing data-as-a-service (DaaS) platforms that extract data using their web scrapers and avail it for purchase
The first two approaches are regarded as automated forms of web data harvesting. Automated web scraping, which is conducted using bots known as scrapers, is fast, convenient, and offers high accuracy. To complete the process, the scrapers, who are trained on how to extract data from websites, collect, parse, convert the data into a structured format, and store it in a downloadable format such as JSON or CSV. Check out these blog articles for more information on data extraction.
In contrast, manual web scraping is slow. In addition to the two types of web scraping, companies can use a DaaS platform. Such a platform offers access to readily available data that has already been collected and processed by service providers. It eliminates the need to manually or automatically extract data from websites.
Benefits of Web Scraping
As stated, data gathering, of which web scraping is part, is instrumental if businesses are to survive the present and the future. This is because both web scraping and data gathering:
- Enable companies to improve their products/services: by collecting customer feedback from review sites and social media platforms, businesses can identify the aspects of their services or products that they can improve on
- Influence pricing strategies: companies can collect pricing information from e-commerce sites, which enables them to develop competitive pricing strategies
- Provide information on emerging trends: companies can scrape news websites and search engines to unearth new trends and recently published news that may impact their operations
- Promote competitor monitoring: companies can use web scraping to establish who their competitors are, their products, planned product rollouts, and updates
- Facilitate market research: web scraping and data collection provides insights into consumer preferences and needs
- Offer data for predictive analysis: web scraping can be used to collect data that, when fed into big data systems and data analysis software, can enable them to predict the future.
Why Data Gathering Has Become a Necessity
The increasing popularity of online businesses and internet penetration has created enhanced competition. As such, companies operating in competitive sectors that have grown as a result of these two factors, e.g., e-commerce, use data gathering as a way to gain proven competitive advantages. But because of the increased ubiquity of web scraping solutions and the rapid growth in computing power, as defined by Moore’s law, any company can gain access to and use the solutions to gain these very competitive advantages.
To stand out, therefore, there is a need to take a different approach. The main differentiator is anchored in planning. Planning enables companies to create mechanisms that cushion them against future shocks. In this way, they are able to survive over the long term. Web scraping offers data that, when analyzed, can enable big data analytics systems to predict the future.
At the same time, web scraping provides insights into market opportunities that, when exploited, could offer success and longevity. The ability to plan ahead and identify openings that can be exploited demonstrates the increased necessity of data gathering beyond its ability to offer competitive advantages.
Data gathering and web scraping offer numerous benefits that give companies competitive advantages besides enabling them to predict the future and identify opportunities. The ability to undertake predictive analysis and identify emerging opportunities has made data gathering a necessity.