The rise of aggregators is evident, with the change being most significant in the e-commerce and travel industries. Gone are the days when people used to call a hotel to book a room. Now, they visit an ecommerce and travel aggregators site like Booking.com and book their favourite hotel. The same goes for e-commerce shopping.
But what are aggregators, and how do they get all the price, product, and customer data? Let’s find out.
What are Aggregators?
Aggregator refers to a website or program that displays products and services that it doesn’t own or manufacture. E-commerce and travel aggregators are some of the common examples.
Ecommerce and travel aggregators are websites that sell products and services which they don’t produce or store. Instead, they create an environment where sellers can list and sell their products. The consumers can also access the same platform to purchase the products directly from the sellers.
Simply put, an aggregator website is a common platform where sellers and consumers can interact independently without any interference. Some popular e-commerce aggregators are Shipkaro, Pickrr, and Lalamove.
Similarly, a travel aggregator is a website or platform that displays multiple deals. Some common examples include Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia.com. These sites show various deals on flights and hotels, but they don’t operate any of them.
How do Aggregators get Data?
Back in the day, aggregators increasingly relied on traditional data sources like financial statements, sales figures, SEC filings, and more. These sources were a good way to extract valuable data without intruding on consumers’ privacy. But despite being valuable, this data didn’t provide a complete picture that could help aggregators make informed decisions.
To overcome this hurdle, aggregators began investing in non-traditional, alternative sources. These include web traffic, mobile devices, news sites, sensor inputs, and financial transactions.
Alternative data has several benefits, the most prominent of which is the ease of access. Most of the alternative data is available on the web. So, aggregators can extract it without impacting the privacy of the customers. Besides, this data is clean and easy to collect and analyse, offering aggregators useful, actionable data in less time.
What is Web Scraping?
There are a few ways of extracting alternative data from the web. The most popular is web scraping.
Web scraping, also referred to as web data extraction, is the process of scraping or extracting meaningful data from the web. It enables you to harvest an enormous amount of data in a short time with the use of automated tools and dedicated software.
However, most websites nowadays have anti-scraping detectors in place. Not that web scraping is illegal, but it puts a significant load on the website being scraped. To avoid this, website owners install anti-scraping tools. But with the use of proxies and headless browsers, aggregators can successfully scrape websites without being detected.
What Proxies do Ecommerce And Travel Aggregators Use When Scraping the Web?
Proxies are of the essential tools in web scraping. A proxy server, or simply a proxy, is a server that functions as a junction between the internet and you.
Every device used to access the internet has a unique IP address, which is visible to the website. Once detected, this IP address can be easily blocked or even tracked to identify your location.
When using a proxy server, your requests are routed through a separate server, thereby hiding your original IP address. Proxy servers also allow you to distribute your requests, which help you to bypass anti-scraping tools. Thus, aggregators readily use proxies to scrape the web.
Some common proxies used by ecommerce and travel aggregators are:
- Datacenter Proxy: Datacenter proxies are private proxies associated with third-party providers. They provide excellent speed with a high level of anonymity.
- Residential Proxy: Residential proxies are affiliated with internet service providers (IP). They are, therefore, associated with real, physical devices and look similar to regular IP addresses.
- Static Residential Proxy: Static residential proxies are a fusion of datacenter and residential proxies. Secondary companies provide them, but they use a real IP address.
What Are Headless Browsers?
Headless browsers also play a pivotal role in web scraping. They don’t have any identifiable graphic user interface (GUI), and thus, they allow aggregators to scrape the web without getting detected. These browsers can also be programmed to scrape the web automatically.
Some common headless browsers aggregators use are:
- Selenium: Selenium is a browser simulation program that enables you to run headless browser tests. It operates like any other browser, but it doesn’t display any UI, making it difficult to detect.
- Puppeteer: So, what is Puppeteer? Puppeteer comes with a high-level API and runs headless by default. A proxy with Puppeteer allows you to control headless Chrome with the DevTools Protocol.
High-quality data is essential for the survival of ecommerce and travel aggregators. But with traditional data losing its relevance, aggregators have switched to alternate data. And to extract alternate data, aggregators use proven web scraping techniques using proxies and headless browsers.