Price Scraping: How Does it Work and Who is at Risk?
Published: 29/01/2021

Price Scraping: How Does it Work and Who is at Risk?

  • Netacea, Agentless Bot Management

8 minutes read

Scraper bots are commonly used for price scraping and to scrape content from websites for competitive advantage. Aggressive scraper bot activity slows down websites for customers, resulting in a bad user experience that costs the retailer revenue as frustrated customers are driven to competitors, while exposing vital pricing data.

What is price scraping

Price scraping is a technique used to extract pricing data from websites where bots search, find and copy the price data. Many websites use tools to prevent it

Price scraping is an illegal competitive price monitoring tool used to track other valuable information mainly used for e-commerce and travel sites. Competitors use this strategy to attract price-sensitive buyers by setting their prices lower than standard prices in the marketplace.

How does price scraping work

The attackers can use a price scraping bot to maintain a real-time repository of the entire product catalog whilst regularly tracking the price changes to keep their database updated with the latest pricing information of their competitors. Therefore, companies can use this  to raise their margins, cut expenses and ultimately display prices that increase their overall revenue.

The impact of price scraping in retail

Price scraping is one of the costliest bad bot threats to online retailers. They can jeopardize the overall security of e-commerce websites, customer loyalty and brand reputation. The more successful the retailer, the more likely they become a target of scraping.

Price scraping is a significant threat for e-commerce websites as their pricing strategies are exposed to competitors. Retailers can automate their scraping activity in large amounts, so their website automatically reflects the best price once analyzing prices from competing sites.

While pricing information is generally available to customers, price scrapers illegally undercut competitors’ pricing and growth strategies. Price scraping can also result in skewed analytics, cart abandonment, and website slowdowns.

The rise of price monitoring services

A rise in the availability of price monitoring services online has increased the risk of scraping for eCommerce businesses. Retailers need to drive traffic to their own site rather than a competitor, and this is where price scraping comes into play. Using price monitoring services automates what would otherwise be an arduous process of adjusting prices to compete. Instead, this data, which is readily available on the site, is scraped quickly and at high volumes making it a simple task to collect data and gain advantages over the competition.

These price monitoring services have grown in popularity and are readily available online, offering to track and get ahead of your competition easily and quickly. These services can collect huge amounts of data extremely quickly and this is where issues can begin to arise, with site infrastructures bowing to pressure caused by scraper bots.

The impact of scraping on eCommerce

Large eCommerce sites, popular retailers and those that stock a variety of products and brands are likely to be a target of scrapers from competitor price monitors. Multiple bots collecting large amounts of data will have an inevitable effect on a site.

What impact does scraping have on retailers?

  • Lost sales: Price scraping is a significant threat to retailers as their pricing strategies are exposed to competitors, while slowdowns leave shopping carts abandoned for a cheaper deal elsewhere.
  • Slow site: Serving requests to these bots uses up server resources, which can slow down or even crash a website, as well as pushing up infrastructure costs significantly for no commercial benefit.
  • Skewed analytics: Unless you have visibility over how much of your traffic is automated, scraper bots causing high volumes and velocity of traffic will lead to skewed analytics, whilst also affecting SEO and web authority rankings.
  • Brand damage: Losing sales and suffering a slow site – or worse, downtime – can lead to poor customer experience and potential brand damage. This is costly in fines from data protection organizations, and rectifying PR expenses.

How to prevent price scraping

Retailers should choose to implement a dedicated bot management solution to block bots that carry out price scraping and other more serious attacks.

Scraper bots are becoming more sophisticated and increasingly difficult to detect as they imitate human interactions. Basic detection tools are unable to keep up with changes as bad bots find new ways to scrape websites, easily bypassing traditional methods such as WAF solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions about price scraping

No, it is against the law to scrape content from a website for competitive advantage. Most companies have adopted tools to prevent this.

How does a business protect itself against scraper bots and price scraping software?

Businesses should seek the best, most effective security solution for preventing scrapers from accessing their website in order to scrape content and/or prices, such as Netacea Bot Management.

What happens if a business has its price data scraped by competitors?

If a competitor gets hold of your pricing data, they may be able to undercut what you are charging, leading to lost sales and customer dissatisfaction. At the very least, a competitor will have an unfair advantage by gaining insight into your pricing strategies. Collecting data about prices and/or sales volume from your website is likely to result in customers shopping around for better deals, which can lead to lost sales and reduced business. Businesses that are concerned about competitors accessing their pricing data need to take steps to prevent it.

If prices are scraped from a website, does the customer then see this?

Most scrapers will scrape prices once they have identified a customer (when the customer is ready to buy) and hide it from that consumer.

How does scraping affect sales conversion rates?

For a business that is concerned about scraping, if prices are scraped then customers may be unable to compare your prices with those of competitors in the same way. This will obviously have an impact on sales conversion rates and lead to lost sales and lower profits for the business.

Is price scraping only used by large organisations?

No, price scraping is commonly used by all types of businesses.

What happens if i report a scraper for breaking terms and conditions?

Businesses have what they call T&Cs which will sometimes state that competitors are not allowed to access their website or data in some way. If you suspect somebody is scraping your website then it is important to investigate further and find out. If you discover that your T&Cs have been breached then it is imperative you report this activity for the safety of your business.

How does getting hold of competitor pricing data affect sales?

Price scraping has a significant impact on a business’s ability to compete with other businesses in terms of pricing, as well as leading to lost website sales by frustrated customers who abandon their order due to the slow performance of your business’s website.

What is the best way for a company to protect itself against price scraping?

This depends on a number of factors, but in general there are two options available: seek legal advice or employ a specialist technology solution.

Who are the typical victims of price scraping?

Price scraping is used by many different types of businesses for a range of reasons, so it could be a competitor, a customer or simply someone with an interest in price monitoring.

How does the technology work to prevent scraper bots from accessing websites and price scrapers?

Businesses can already use sophisticated tools to prevent scrape attacks in their network architecture, however these require an experienced IT team to establish best practices and implement ways of reducing risk within a company’s network. Netacea Bot Management allows you to easily create website rules which are then deployed via the cloud across your entire estate. This solution is designed specifically for business owners who want to be proactive about protecting themselves against threats such as price scraping but do not have the time or resources required to implement manual solutions.

Who are the perpetrators of price scraping?

Price scraping is used by many different types of businesses for a range of reasons, so it could be a competitor, a customer or simply someone with an interest in price monitoring.

What is an example of price scraping?

Price scraping is commonly used to target competitor pricing data and may be carried out by competitors, customers or even third parties.

What is the impact of price scraping?

Aggressive scraper bot activity slows down websites for customers, resulting in a bad user experience that costs the retailer revenue as frustrated customers are driven to competitors, while exposing vital pricing data.

Schedule Your Demo

Tired of your website being exploited by malicious malware and bots?

We can help

Subscribe and stay updated

Insightful articles, data-driven research, and more cyber security focussed content to your inbox every week.


By registering, you confirm that you agree to Netacea's privacy policy.